Bob Burns won the Disney Classic thanks to mental toughness and a pressure-proof swing. During the third round the par-5 14th hole clearly messed with Burns's mind when he hit an overly aggressive second shot into the water and made bogey. But on Sunday, with Tiger Woods in hot pursuit, Burns laid up smartly with a precisely played mid-iron—"Most improved," he joked loudly enough for TV microphones to hear—and then hit another solid approach into the green (left), setting up a pivotal birdie. On both shots Burns made controlled, confident swings, and he clinched the victory at 18 with another beautifully executed approach shot. Burns's strong fundamentals, particularly a sweet downswing, allowed him to overcome the mental challenge of winning his first tournament.
A REAL SMOOTHIE?: In winning the World Match Play Championship, Ernie Els capped a fantastic year, which included a British Open title and a win at Doral. But how close is he, really, to Woods? Els is just two spots behind his rival in the World Ranking but 127 places back in the PGA Tour's greens-in-regulation stat. After having worked with Els for most of the '90s, I know how well his silky action disguises his flaws, but the numbers don't lie. Despite this year's successes, Els's swing is still a work in progress.
FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE: I've just returned from a visit to Russia, which has only two golf courses—Nick Faldo is currently building a third—and about 200 homegrown golfers. Trust me, the one million barrels of oil a day the country has agreed to sell to the U.S. will hit American shores long before any Russian golfers reach the PGA Tour.
INFORMATION AGE: One of the most significant changes in golf over the last decade is the depth of talent among instructors. You can now get a good lesson at almost any course in America, thanks to improvements in video and computer technology and the pervasive influence of the Golf Channel. This filtering down of information has had as much impact as new ball and club technology in contributing to the record low scores we're seeing at all levels of the game.