Jim Murray (above) may be tickling a typewriter in the great press room in the sky, but his presence was felt at the Nissan Open, played in his adopted hometown. On the day before the tournament Linda McCoy-Murray, the widow of the Los Angeles Times's Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist, delivered to Jeff Sluman a long-overdue signed copy of Jim Murray: An Autobiography. Linda had been picking through a stack of her husband's books when she discovered one with the inscription, "For Jeff Sluman—One of my favorite golfers ever! Fairways and greens." It was dated "L.A. Open '97," a year and a half before Murray died. "It's a wonderful surprise," says Sluman, who had asked for a copy of the book in 1994. "It was out of respect for an unbelievable writer."
?If Ty Tryon is the Justin Timberlake of the PGA Tour, than Natalie Gulbis is being positioned as the LPGA's Britney Spears. Like the omnipresent pop tart, Gulbis, 19, is trying to use her flaxen-haired beauty to cross over into the performing arts. For the past two months she has been taking twice-weekly acting lessons in Los Angeles, a considerable commitment for someone whose previous thespian experience was in a school production of Grease when she was 12. A cameo on a WB sitcom recently fell through, but even if Gulbis fails to dazzle Tinseltown, the acting experiment should help her golf. "I've learned to have a little more confidence and to get over some of my insecurities," she tells SI. "It's also made me more aware of where my concentration level is."
?In other LPGA teenybopper news: Catherine Cartwright, 18, has pledged to donate the first check of her rookie year to the Special Operations Warrior fund, which benefits children of Special Ops soldiers killed in the line of duty. Motivated to give something back by the events of Sept. 11, Cartwright chose the Warrior fund after consulting with her uncle Col. Charles Cartwright, who was in the Pentagon when it was attacked. Catherine, who finished ninth on the SBC Futures tour money list in 2001, will also donate $25 for every birdie she makes on either the LPGA or Futures tour, and she's asking potential sponsors to call her at 941-992-3338 to support the birdie drive. "I'm living my dream, and I want to help these children live theirs," she says.
?In December, Claude Harmon IV left his father's Butch Harmon School of Golf, in Las Vegas, to set up shop in London. The move will allow him to spend more time with his European tour clients, including Darren Clarke and Adam Scott. Harmon, who's married to a Scot, tells SI, "I'm trying to make my own name, do my own thing."