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Original Issue

This Week

Feb. 25-March 3

Nissan Open, Valencia Country Club, Santa Clarita, Calif.
Woods, Couples, Faldo, Lehman, Leonard and Mickelson duel
outside L.A.

Australian Ladies Masters, Royal Pines Resort, Ashmore, Queensland
Aussie Karrie Webb has yet to win either this event or the
Australian Ladies Open

Dubai Desert Classic, Emirates Golf Club, Dubai, United Arab
The threat of war, plus the $2.1 million Nissan purse, have
depleted the field

PGA Tour
The Big V Gets a Shot at the Big Time

The Nissan has a new parking spot, but only for one year.
Valencia Country Club hosts the 1998 Nissan Open this week
because storied Riviera, the tournament's regular home, is being
groomed for the U.S. Senior Open in July. The skinny on Valencia
is that it's great for kids--Magic Mountain is across the
street--but will drive grown-up golfers mad with some of the
toughest par-3s Tour players will see all year. Built in 1965,
the course lacks the historic heft of Riviera, where Ben Hogan
won the 1948 U.S. Open and Tiger Woods made his Tour debut in
'92. Yet Valencia has its virtues.There's more water here than
at Riviera, and the greens are better. The Nissan's $2.1 million
purse is also 50% more than it was a year ago. Woods committed
on Friday to return to L.A., further stoking the anticipation of
local fans. With nearby hotels booked solid since last spring
and local kids vying to clean trash off the course in exchange
for the privilege of caddying in the pro-am, Valencia is juiced
about its week in the spotlight.

Turning Australia Into a Webb Site

Last year's Australian Ladies Masters featured a heart attack, a
shark attack and an anxiety attack. It was typical Down Under
overkill of the sort that surrounds Queensland's 23-year-old
Karrie Webb. At the Royal Pines Resort, Webb gazes down from a
huge portrait in the snack bar. A similar likeness graces a golf
shop in the Sydney airport. In Australian golf, only Greg Norman
can steal Webb's headlines. During the second round of last
year's tournament, she was playing with Betsy King and Marnie
McGuire when a man in the gallery had a heart attack. A woman
swimming in the river between the 7th and 8th fairways was
nipped by a shark, but because the critter was only a small
common shark, not Norman the Great White, Webb-heads in the
gallery paid little attention. They had eyes only for their
heroine. Some of those eyes would soon be blinking back tears,
however. In the final round Webb ebbed, thus losing a W in more
ways than one. She blew a five-shot lead over the last 11 holes,
handing the title to Gail Graham and evoking memories of
Norman's Masters disaster the previous year. If the antics of
Webb & Co. at last year's Australian are a preview of this
week's action, you might want to tune in. Seldom has prime-time
programming been so unpredictable.

European Tour
Cashin' 'n' Crashin' In the Emirates

At Dubai (pronounced do-BUY), showing up is more than half the
battle. In 1995 six players divvied up a reported $1.3 million
in appearance fees, which was almost twice as much as the
tournament's $675,000 in prize money. Norman's fee alone was
equal to 44% of the purse, raising the ire of European tour
executive director Ken Schofield, who believes sponsors should
never pay more than 25% of the purse to any one player. Of
course, showing up at Dubai isn't always a snap. In '96 Sam
Torrance strained his ankle at the airport and withdrew. In '97
David Carter passed out on the eve of the tournament and had to
undergo cranial surgery. And in '98, with a new Persian Gulf war
a possibility, just making the trip took guts.