IT'S NO secret
that two of Tiger Woods's best friends in golf are fellow Isleworth residents
Mark O'Meara and John Cook, both of whom made their debuts on the Champions
tour this year ( O'Meara on Feb. 18 and Cook on Oct. 12). Two weeks ago O'Meara
led going into the final round of the Administaff Small Business Classic when,
he says, he got a late-Saturday-night text message from Woods telling him to
"go ahead and win the blankety-blank golf tournament." O'Meara tried,
but wound up second to Bernhard Langer. At last week's AT&T Championship in
San Antonio, O'Meara again shared the lead heading into the final round, but
this time no Woods pep talk came across his cellphone. "The gratitude of
that kid after all I did for him," O'Meara said, joking. Text or not,
O'Meara said he would still draw on Woods's friendship as he sought his first
Champions tour win. "I had won plenty of times before I ever met Tiger, but
I learned the value of self-belief and drive from him," says O'Meara, who
won his first major title, the 1998 Masters, when he was 41. "He always
believed in me, even when I didn't believe I could be a major champion." Of
course, Woods also believes in a little friendly harassment. "I know he
wonders why I haven't won before now, but it's like I tell him, it's not as if
I'm not trying," says O'Meara. He will have to keep trying, since he shot a
final-round 69 to finish second again. Who won? Cook, by closing with a
six-under 65, which raised another question: Did he receive a text from tiger?
The answer: no.
TIGER WOODS had a
great year, and Lorena Ochoa won seven times, but the unofficial award for best
season may go to the UNC Charlotte 49ers, who have won three times in three
tries this fall and are ranked No. 1. The team was a perennial Division I
also-ran until four years ago, when coach Jaime Green signed on. A prot�g� of
Dick Gordon, for whom he played at Ohio
had been an assistant at North Carolina, Auburn and Dartmouth and brought a
philosophy of success with him. "Every tournament is up in the air for
playing time," he says. "[Our players] have to qualify for every
tournament. That motivates guys to play hard and practice." It's working.
Since Green arrived, the 49ers have competed in 38 tournaments and have 29 top
fives, including 14 victories. That has helped recruiting too; witness
sophomore Corey Nagy, a Charlotte native who passed up several traditional
powers to play for his hometown team. This week the 49ers will be at the
Callaway Match Play in Greensboro, Ga., to go for their fourth straight W, a
possibility that stokes Green's inner Vince Lombardi. "Everybody wants to
win," he says, "but not everybody has the will to do what it takes. I
do, and I hold my guys accountable for accomplishing it."
TOUGH TIMES for
the Wies. Stanford is requiring Michelle to pay the student rate, $25 per
round, to play the school's course and charging her parents a cart fee every
time they tag along.
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