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Contributing editor Walter Bingham, who once suggested that the
548-yard par-5 18th at Pebble Beach is one of the most overrated
holes in golf (SI, Feb. 12, 1996), wonders if the renovation of
the 18th that is under way will change how the hole is played.

My beef was that 18 can't be reached in two shots, so in Tour
events the hole produces nothing but boring pars because every
pro except Tiger Woods plays it the same way: Drive safely away
from the water, hit a long-iron second shot short of the green,
wedge on and two-putt. Several outstanding players called me
crazy but couldn't cite concrete reasons why the 18th is
considered a great hole. Only Jack Nicklaus agreed with me,
saying, "If you put that hole on Spyglass, it would be ordinary."

Imagine my surprise last week when I learned that as part of
alterations in preparation for the 2000 U.S. Open, the 18th
would be shortened so that players other than Woods, who got
home in two in the final round of this year's AT&T Pebble Beach
National Pro-Am, would also be able to reach the green. I was
told that Paul Spengler, the vice president for golf at the
Pebble Beach Company, would confirm the details.

"You have been misinformed," Spengler told me instead. "Any
changes to the 18th have nothing to do with shortening the hole.
The problem is erosion and coastal stabilization. The seawall
around the 18th tee, as well as the nearby 17th green, has been
damaged to the point where something had to be done. Besides,
the green is reachable as is. The Tour event is played in the
winter, when the fairways are heavy, but when we had the
California Amateur here recently, many players were getting home
in two."

Is it possible that the stabilization project could incidentally
shorten the hole and entice more players to aim their tee shots
left of the tree in the middle of the fairway?

Spengler doubted it. However, he went on to say that the tee is
being moved about 30 yards in the general direction of Yokohama.
In effect, that would make hitting a drive left of the fairway
tree less dangerous. Also, the tee is being enlarged to twice
the size of the old one. "It's up to Tour officials where they
put the tee markers," Spengler said. "I suppose if they moved
them forward, it would."

Shorten the hole.


Annika Sorenstam's brilliance has been the highlight of the LPGA
season, but for four days in Ohio last week, Kelly Robbins was
better than any player the tour has ever seen. Robbins won the
Jamie Farr Kroger Classic by eight shots over runner-up Tammie
Green, with a 19-under-par 265 (67-64-67-67) at the par-71
Highland Meadows Golf Course in Sylvania.

Robbins bettered by three strokes the previous 72-hole LPGA
scoring record of 268 set by Nancy Lopez at the Henredon Classic
in 1985 and tied by Beth Daniel at the '94 Oldsmobile Classic.
"To be recognized as someone who can shoot numbers like that is
great," said Robbins, who earned $105,000 for her second victory
of the season. "I put together four really good days of golf. It
was a very rewarding week."


On Monday, in the first stage of qualifying for next week's
British Open, Geoff Nicholas shot 75 at the South Herts Club
outside London and failed to advance. A 36-year-old from New
South Wales who last season earned $3,581 on the Australasian
tour, Nicholas was noteworthy because he is an amputee. A
thalidomide victim, Nicholas was born with three toes on his
right foot and two on his left, and at 13 his right leg had to
be amputated below the knee. Wearing a prosthesis, Nicholas
lowered his handicap to a three. In 1990 he won the inaugural
British amputee championship and has successfully defended his
title every year since. He has also won the U.S. amputee
tournament eight years running and in '96 won the world amputee
event by 28 strokes.

Nicholas has spent countless Mondays trying--most of the time
unsuccessfully--to qualify for Australasian tour events. "I only
drive 260 yards, but I hit it pretty straight," says the 5'7"
Nicholas. "Overall I feel I can swing as well as anyone."

The artificial limb has caused some hardships. Before the
qualifying tournament for last year's British Open, Nicholas was
on the practice tee when a bolt on his prosthesis snapped. By
the time he repaired it, he had missed his tee time and was
disqualified. "That was awfully disappointing," he says. "I'd
qualified for three events in a row and was 62nd at the
Australian Open, so I was having a good year."

Nicholas, who moonlights as a teaching pro at the Cronulla Club
outside Sydney, has earned the admiration of the other players.
"His story is simply amazing, and it's particularly inspiring to
people who know what a tough game golf can be," says fellow
Aussie Wayne Grady. "He has every right to sit back and be proud
of what he has accomplished, but he has goals and wants to keep
improving. You can't help pulling for the guy."


To many Tour players, the Reverend Larry Moody is as much a part
of the scene as pro-ams, free equipment and courtesy cars.
Moody, 49, is the Tour's unofficial chaplain, and his role took
on particular significance at last week's Western Open. On
Wednesday evening in the clubhouse at Cog Hill, Moody led a
well-attended memorial service for Jeff (Squeeky) Medlen, the
caddie who died on June 16 after a yearlong battle with
leukemia. "It was a very emotional, very special occasion," says
Scott Simpson. "Everybody loved Squeeky, and this was our chance
to come together as a group and show his wife and family how
much he meant to us."

For Moody, leading the service was simply a part of his
ministry. Every Wednesday during the Tour season, Moody or a
representative from the organization he runs, Search Ministries
Inc., leads a nondenominational Bible study meeting for the
players, caddies and their families. Between 20 and 60 players
attend the hour-long sessions, which are held in hotel meeting
rooms or at tournament sites. Regulars, in addition to Simpson,
include Paul Azinger, Steve Jones, Tom Lehman, Corey Pavin and
Paul Stankowski. "Larry knows a lot about the Bible, and he
helps us understand how the Scriptures apply to life," says
Lehman. "It doesn't have anything to do with golf, but it
provides a sense of peace and calmness that can help you whether
you're on the golf course or at home with your family."

Moody, an ordained minister from Ellicott City, Md., got his
start in sports ministry working with the Baltimore Colts in the
late 1970s, then switched to the Tour in 1980 at the behest of
some of the pros. Moody's travel expenses are paid by the
players, and he personally attends about 25 tournaments a year,
arriving on Tuesday and leaving Thursday. Why meet on
Wednesdays? "Half the field is gone by Friday," says Moody, "and
on Sunday morning anybody left is out practicing."

Whether he's conducting a Bible study session, counseling a
player or leading a prayer service, Moody is always seeking ways
to help the pros manage their lives as well as they do their
golf games. "Golfers are perfectionists by nature," says Moody,
who plays to a 15 handicap. "They want to put all the pieces of
their lives together, to better understand their relationships
with their wives, their kids and the world in general. I try to
help them find answers."


Charles Barkley was listed as a 14 handicap for last week's
Isuzu Celebrity Championship in Lake Tahoe, Nev., but he played
like a 34. On Sunday he shot 102 after hitting four balls into
the water and making a 15 on the par-4 11th hole at the Edgewood
Tahoe Course. Still, Barkley didn't finish last. That dubious
distinction went to Adam Oates, a center on the Washington
Capitals, whose final-round 100 gave him a three-day total of
296, 80 over par and two shots worse than Barkley.... This
weekend, Ryder Cup captain Tom Kite is scheduled to take David
Duval, Brad Faxon, Tom Lehman, Davis Love III, Mark O'Meara,
Payne Stewart, Tommy Tolles and Tiger Woods on a 36-hole
scouting trip to Valderrama, site of September's match.... Jay
Sigel's winning score of 195, 18 under par, at the Kroger Senior
Classic in Mason, Ohio, was the Senior tour's lowest 54-hole
total of the year. Sigel, who won by seven shots over Isao Aoki,
had rounds of 66-63-66 at the Golf Center at Kings Island. The
best 54-hole score in the history of the Senior tour is 193, a
record held by Bob Charles, Charles Coody and Gibby Gilbert....
Beau Venturi, the wife of CBS analyst Ken Venturi, died on July
3 at home in Marco Island, Fla., of brain cancer. She was 63....
Arizona State freshman Grace Park beat Kellee Booth, a senior
who led the Sun Devils to the '97 NCAA title, 2 up in the final
of the Broadmoor Invitational in Colorado Springs. Park moved to
fourth in the national amateur rankings, while Booth took over
the top spot from Marisa Baena, a junior at Arizona.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID MADISON Will Pebble's new 18th tee make it easier for players to reach the green in two? [Aerial view of Pebble Beach golf course's 18th hole]

B/W PHOTO: PRESS ASSOCIATION [Peter Thomson holding trophy]


Fresh off his victory in Memphis on June 29, Greg Norman is in
top form heading into next week's British Open at Royal Troon,
where he'll be gunning for his third Open title. The Shark
hasn't won any of the other three majors (the Masters, the U.S.
Open and the PGA Championship), which puts him in exclusive
company. Since 1934, the year the Masters began, 13 other men
have won the same major at least twice without winning any of
the others. None of them was as splendid in a Grand Slam event
as Peter Thomson, who won five British Opens, including the '56
championship at Hoylake (above).

Horton Smith...........................'34, '36
Jimmy Demaret..........................'47, '50
Ben Crenshaw...........................'84, '95
Bernhard Langer........................'85, '93

Hale Irwin.............................'74, '79, '90
Andy North.............................'78, '85
Curtis Strange.........................'88, '89
Ernie Els..............................'94, '97

Henry Cotton...........................'34, '37, '48
Bobby Locke............................'49, '50, '52, '57
Peter Thomson..........................'54, '55, '56, '58, '65
Greg Norman............................'86, '93

Paul Runyan............................'34, '38
Dave Stockton..........................'70, '76


The strokes Colin Montgomerie took on Sunday at the par-71
Druids Glen club in Dublin to set the course record and win the
Irish Open.