MIKE AND THE SMALL BALL
Basketball's loss is golf's gain. Michael Jordan hits the Tour
this week at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. In two weeks he'll
partner Tiger Woods in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am,
testing every one of that tournament's 297 marshals. The Hope is
Tigerless, but not toothless, as David Duval and '98 champ Fred
Couples are expected to join celeb jocks such as Jordan, Charles
Barkley, Jerry Rice and Pete Sampras. "There's an advantage to
[playing with celebrities]," says Couples. "With so many
spectators, some get in the way of balls that miss the fairway."
Fans, be advised: Gerald Ford is supposed to play, too.
PGA Jeff Sluman won the Sony Open, in Honolulu, but the big
winner was the revamped Waialae Country Club, where 87 fewer
players broke par than in '98, when John Huston set the
four-round Tour scoring record of 28 under. Sluman was nine
under.... Tom Lehman got a glowing progress report from his
doctor last week in Los Angeles but says his original plan to
return from shoulder surgery in late January was "wishful
thinking." He now hopes to be back for the Feb. 24-28 Andersen
Consulting World Match Play.
LPGA In a tournament overshadowed by the announcement of new
criteria for induction into the tour's Hall of Fame, Kelly
Robbins shot a course-record 64 on Sunday to defend her title at
the Inaugural. While Robbins has been victorious by her third
start in each of the last three years, she has never won more
than twice in a season.... The Futures tour is now the official
minor league of the LPGA and will send its top three finishers
onto the big tour, with the next seven on the money list
advancing to the final stage of Q school.
SENIOR Jack Nicklaus finally scheduled hip replacement surgery
for Jan. 27, ending his streak of playing in consecutive Masters
at 40. With Doug Ford opting not to participate this year, the
next longest streak after Arnold Palmer's 44-and-running belongs
to Raymond Floyd, who has played at Augusta every year since
ALSO Breaking a 10-month winless streak, Ernie Els won his third
South Africa PGA, at Houghton Golf Club in Johannesburg. After
the victory he received a congratulatory phone call from Nelson
Mandela.... Defending champ Casey Martin shot 74-71 to miss the
cut at the Nike Lakeland (Fla.) Classic, which was won by Ryan
Howison, who also won the Lakeland in '97.... The
Palmer-designed K Club, a seven-year-old course in Ireland's
County Kildare, has been awarded the 2005 Ryder Cup.
COLOR PHOTO: PHOTOGRAPH BY ROBERT BECK PAID VACATION Though he didn't win either event in Hawaii, '98 player of the year Mark O'Meara left the islands third on the money list, with $281,450 in earnings.
UP and Down
Tom Lehman's shoulder Jack Nicklaus's hip
Michael Jordan Kevin Costner
Amy Alcott, Beth Daniel Donna Caponi, Judy Rankin
K Club Portmarnock
Futures tour European LPGA