IF YOU tuned into Golf Channel last week hoping to catch the much-hyped Ultimate Game, you hadthe ultimate wait instead, as the event was canceled a week before it wasscheduled to begin (April 29--May 4). The tournament had promised a field of 64two-man teams paying $50,000 each to compete for a $1 million first prize in afive-day, match-play event at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif. But as of April 22only 24 teams had paid in full, with another 24 partially paid up. The ownersof the event, Steve Bartkowski (yes, that one) and Joe Thomas (a lawyer),attempted to reduce the field to 48 teams, but their partners balked. What wentwrong? "In our communication with them, most teams said they were forced towithdraw largely due to an inability to secure funding in a strugglingeconomy," Bartkowski and Thomas said in a release, later adding that theyhope to bring the event back next year. Alas, this is the second time in theUltimate Game's four-year history that it has not reached the 1st tee. Perhapsthe owners should consider a biennial schedule.
• TWO-TIMEchampion Fred Couples was bummed last month when he learned that he hadn'tqualified for the Players, one of his favorite events and one that he hasplayed 24 times in the last 26 years, missing only in 1994 and 2007. By themiddle of last week, though, he had moved up to first alternate, and when WillMacKenzie was forced to withdraw to have knee surgery (it's an epidemic!),Couples had his ticket back to TPC Sawgrass.... A players' meeting was heldlast week at Wachovia, and conversation on two topics became animated and wenton for more than a half hour each: slow play, a perennial problem; andnear-unanimous criticism of Golf Channel commentator Kelly Tilghman. Said oneplayer in attendance who asked not to be identified, "I was prettysurprised." ... Player director Stewart Cink says the Tour policy board ismonitoring cut patterns as part of a plan it is considering to reduce weeklycuts to the top 65 players and ties (from 70). If such a system is enacted,expect the same type of uproar from the rank and file that followed thisseason's ill-fated MDF (made cut, did not finish) rule.
• CHAMPIONS TOURdabbler Mark O'Meara had dinner with Tiger Woods on April 30 and reports thatthe world No. 1 is coming along fine: "He is so tough mentally and works sohard, he will be ready [for the U.S. Open], you can be sure." ... Among themany calls Trevor Immelman received after winning the Masters was one fromlongtime family friend and three-time major champ Nick Price, who had someadvice about life as a Tour star. "I told him the bar was raised afterwinning a major," Price said. "Just look at what Tiger does. He givesthe media the time they need on Wednesday, and then he's down to business. Thehardest thing is learning how to say no. I told Trevor to call me when he hadany questions [on] anything [about] being a major winner."
Fresh news andviews from SI and GOLF MAGAZINE staffers at GOLF.com/presstent.
"Lorena's greatest challenge will be atInterlachen."
—PEPPER MILL, PAGE G22
KEY STAT 40
Putts inside five feet taken and made by Anthony Kim at the Wachovia.
HE SAID | HE SAID
The absence of Tiger Woods means different things todifferent people
"Without a doubt, there's a huge void when he'snot here."
"At least I won't have to deal with all hisfans."
U.S. ARMY/AP (ILLUSTRATION)
• TIGRIS WOODS? A U.S. military rendering of a proposed five-year, $5 billion development for the Green Zone in Baghdad that, according to the AP, will include hotels, a golf course, shopping malls and a soccer stadium.
JOHN BIEVER (IMMELMAN)
ROBERT BECK (SABBATINI)