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PODS Championship

PODS Championship

Bo Jackson knew baseball, Bo knew basketball, but Bo, you don’t know Weekley. Boo Weekley, that is.

Maybe Bo does know Boo, or can speak to the shared experience of growing up in the rural south. We’ve been refreshed by other professional athletes from rural backgrounds who tend to speak their minds and shun the memorized sound bite, people like Charles Barkley and another golfer, John Daly. Never did I see Barkley or Daly plying his trade with dip spittle on his lower lip, though, which is what I’m pretty sure I saw on Weekley during last Sunday’s final round of the Honda Classic.

Daly and Barkley have their own peccadilloes, to be sure, and I’m not about to go trumpeting chew, but there was Weekley in one moment on camera checking golf’s image as a sport for the rich played by whiners who sometimes hurt themselves with their swings, like Daly, who apparently wrenched himself in the first round last week when a camera went off during his swing. He had to withdraw from the tournament.

Can you imagine if Weekley makes it into the top-10 on the money list and qualifies for The Masters? Picture him getting caught spitting on camera. Nantz wouldn’t know what to say. The cameraman would be fired.

A quick comment to counter any previous suggestion that golf could use a little dip on its lip every now and then: I watched several long chunks of the European Tour’s coverage last weekend (I don’t remember the name of the tournament, but it was in Thailand and the prize for a hole-in-one on one of the par-3s was a bottle of Johnnie Walker Blue) and was refreshed by the commentary, which is to say there was hardly any. It wasn’t the first time I’ve checked in on European Tour coverage. But this one was more sedating than others for some reason. Let me put it to you like this: I’ve been to the opera once in my life and had a deeper sleep in those three hours than any other chunk of sleep I’d ever had. In chunks of twenty minutes all weekend the European Tour got me there. I say this as a high compliment. I wanted to mention it now because I plan on checking in with their coverage for the rest of the year, and of course reporting my findings.

Anyway, for all you do, this Boo’s for you.

Last week: Allenby seems to be having problems on Sunday, particularly on the back nine on Sunday. I felt good with him in the outright all week, especially going into the final round. He blew it with back-to-back bogeys on 15 and 16 and ended up T5. If he makes par on those two late holes he wins at -6. Allenby’s still a good head-to-head pick, though, and I’m glad I picked him over Luke Donald. That win, at 9-10, 1 unit, yielded $900.

In this week’s PODS Championship, take Joe Durant (40-1), 1/6 unit: Durant loves the Copperhead Course, which makes sense as this is considered a ball-striker's course. Durant is always one of the best hitters of greens on Tour. It’s when he gets on the greens that there’s a problem. His game is like K.J. Choi’s---nothing flashy but consistently good---and Choi has won on this course twice.

Take Arron Oberholser (50-1), 1/6 unit: Oberholser withdrew from the season-opening Mercedes because of a bad back. He came back two weeks ago at the Match Play and last week surprised (me, anyway) with a T10 at the Honda Classic. Oberholser is another good ball striker. We might be seeing him in start-of-the-season form given the layoff. Meaning, a quick start last year ended in his first win, at Pebble, just four tournaments into the season. In fact, he’s been good out of the gate for the last several years. The question mark is the injury. Who can say on that front? We’re talking golfers here. Daly's bow out was not exactly like a hockey player having his face sewn up between periods then coming out for more. All I can say is I like Oberholser’s chances if he’s OK.

Take Daniel Chopra (66-1), 1/6 unit: Chopra had an outside chance to get into a playoff last week but a birdie on the last hole wouldn’t have mattered anyway as the playoff number was -5. He finished -3 for a T8, but I thought back to consecutive top-10s toward the end of last year, particularly a T2 at the Frys.com, and his comments that he likes playing for contention on Sundays. He likes the pressure. It showed in Vegas and it showed, albeit to a lesser degree, last Sunday as he carded two birdies and no bogeys on the back nine. He can be streaky and his temper might still be a lingering issue, but he’s certainly got the talent.

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Re: PODS Championship

Fingers reattached, Jobe to make '07 debut
Associated Press

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) - Brandt Jobe had another injury to his left hand, this one from pushing a broom, not swinging a club.

This time, he had reason to believe his career might be over.

With both hands counting five fulls digits again, Brandt Jobe will make his 2007 Tour debut this week. (Scott Halleran / Getty Images)

Jobe was sweeping his garage late last year when the handle broke, exposing a thin piece of metal that sliced through his fingers. He felt pain, then a little fear when he looked down and saw the top of his thumb and index finger on the floor.

He calmly placed the tips in a bag and said to his 6-year-old daughter, "Daddy has to go to the hospital."

Jobe said three doctors at the emergency room near Dallas told him there was nothing they could do, but he found another one Dr. David Zehr — who specializes in attaching fingers. He went to work on it right away, and it was a success.

"Emotionally, this was the hardest of the injuries," Jobe said. "I was lucky."

In 2003, Jobe broke a bone in his left wrist and broke it again a year later. He still has no feeling in his pinky finger from those injuries.

Jobe is making his 2007 debut at the PODS Championship, with 10 tournaments having already been played.

"It wouldn't be that big of a deal if this were a normal year," Jobe said. "But with the FedExCup and everything, you probably have to be 80th to have any chance of winning it. I'm already two months behind."

He is not eligible for three of the next four tournaments (Bay Hill, Doral and the Masters) but plans to play often. Assuming he stays healthy.

"If I keep this up, I'm going to be a bionic man," he said.

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Re: PODS Championship

Late birdie gives Leaney the lead
Fri, Mar 9, 2007
By Associated Press

PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- On a golf course where Stephen Leaney said there were no easy holes, he had a simple explanation for how he wound up atop the leaderboard Friday at the PODS Championship.

''I've probably holed more putts than anyone,'' Leaney said.

Staring into a bright sun that toyed with his depth perception, Leaney watched a 40-foot birdie putt on the last hole tumble in for birdie and a 4-under 67, giving him a one-shot lead over Heath Slocum on an Innisbrook course that won't let anyone get too far ahead.

Defending champion K.J. Choi and Chris DiMarco were among those another shot behind, but the true measure of this tournament was found further down the leaderboard. Only 37 players remained under par and 27 of them were within four shots of the lead.

Brad Faxon was only four shots behind until he struggled down the stretch and made the cut on the number. Even so, he and the others in last place were only eight shots behind.

''When you shoot under par on this golf course, you've got to feel pretty good,'' said Slocum, who felt great after a 69.

Putting is imperative at any tournament, but it has been key for Leaney. He can't remember the last time he made more than a few putts longer than 10 feet, he shouldn't have a problem now. The shortest of his six birdie putts was 12 feet, the 40-footer on the 18th hole gave him the lead and he even picked up what he called a miracle birdie along the way.

Leaney had 250 yards for his third shot on the par-5 fifth, hit it into the rough, then chipped in.

''This golf course just wears you out,'' said the 37-year-old Australian, who was at 6-under 136.

Even course officials were concerned when the tournament moved from late October to early March, causing a drastic change in the grass. Instead of the dry, crispy conditions in the fairway and prevalent Bermuda rough, the rye grass used in Florida over the winter to keep a green look to the course has made it play longer and at times softer.

Some thought it might be a little easier.

''Just look at the board,'' DiMarco said after his second straight 69.

Vaughn Taylor (68), rookie Doug LaBelle (71), Pat Perez (70), Daniel Chopra (71) and Jonathan Byrd (69) were in the group at 138. Another shot behind was a group that included Billy Andrade, Arron Oberholser and first-round Cliff Kresge, who was nine shots worse with a 74.

Vijay Singh, a past champion at the Copperhead course, was poised to join the leaders until dropping two shots down the stretch, winding up at 2-under 140 and very much in the picture.

It's the second straight week on the PGA Tour that players have had to work hard for their scores. The winning score at the Honda Classic was 5-under 275 and led to a four-man playoff. Next week is Bay Hill, which will play as a par 70.

Innisbrook has always been a par 71, and it has always been tough.

This week is no exception.

Leaney said he felt like he was back at Olympia Fields, where he was runner-up to Jim Furyk in the 2003 U.S. Open.

''I play my best golf where you really think yourself around a golf course properly, and I think that's why I've played well here the last couple of years,'' he said. ''A lot of weeks, it's not like that. It's just bombs away.''

DiMarco said he plays several approach shots the way he would at Augusta National, finding small targets on big greens and being extra careful not to wind up on the wrong side of the hole. One of his best shots came on the 13th, about 20 feet above the hole, and DiMarco had to make an 8-footer for par.

This is DiMarco's best chance at winning since the British Open last summer at Hoylake, where he was runner-up to Tiger Woods. Despite consecutive playoff losses in majors and a strong performance in the Presidents Cup, DiMarco has gone five years without a victory on the PGA Tour, and it's testing his patience.

Some of that he attributes to being in the right spot with the wrong guy - Woods. They were seven shots clear of the field when Woods beat him in a playoff at the Masters. No one was close to them at Hoylake. And at Firestone a few years ago, he was in the clubhouse with a share of the lead until Woods made a late birdie.

''The last three or four chances I had to win, he's been the one to beat me,'' DiMarco said.

So he must be thrilled that Woods is nowhere around this week.

''Yes,'' DiMarco said with a smile. ''I am.''

But there are too many others to count who could win this tournament, starting with Leaney and going all the way down to Faxon at the bottom of the leaderboard.

Divots: John Daly withdrew after nine holes because of his right shoulder, which he injured a week ago when he tried to stop his swing as a fan clicked her camera. ''He was fine the first two holes playing out of the fairway,'' Bubba Watson said. ''But it got him when he was in the rough, and he was hitting a lot of shots with one arm.'' ... Mark Calcavecchia finished up a 67 to finish at even par and looked slightly disappointed. ''Now I have to go unpack,'' he said. Calcavecchia figured he would miss the cut after opening with a 75. ''Told them to have my bags in the parking lot. But I guess this isn't so bad.'' ... Tim Herron finished with three birdies on the last four holes to make the cut on the number.

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Re: PODS Championship

Record round gives Calcavecchia share of lead
Associated Press

PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) - One round into the PODS Championship and Mark Calcavecchia already had his bags packed to go home.

He wasn't quitting. He was just being honest.

Calcavecchia had been in a major slump with his putter, so bad that he went through five clubs in five rounds. And when he took 36 putts in the opening round on his way to a 75, he figured this would be a short week.

"All I had sitting out was a pair of shorts and a T-shirt," he said. "I was ready for the fast exit."

Now he's poised for an incredible turnaround at Innisbrook.

Calcavecchia finally found a putter he could call his friend — and get this, he actually paid for it at a golf store. It carried him to 10 birdies Saturday to tie the Copperhead course record at Innisbrook with a 9-under 62, giving him a share of the lead with Heath Slocum.

Slocum birdied the last hole for a 67, joining Calcavecchia at 9-under 204.

Five players were within three shots of the lead, starting with defending champion K.J. Choi who finished with three tough par saves for a 67 to wind up one shot behind. A dozen more players were within five shots of the lead.

"It's so crammed at the top," Slocum said. "Calc proved today you can shoot a low number, although I didn't think anyone could shoot that low. Wow."

Calcavecchia usually is fun to watch for other reasons.

He rarely hides his feelings, especially when it comes to his putter. He walked off the course one year at Loch Lomond and handed his putter to a young English lad who only wanted an autograph. Last week at the Honda Classic, he tried a broom-handle putter that he snapped over his knee midway through the second round.

"The good thing was it gave me two pieces to throw into the lake," he said.

It got so bad at the Honda that after making a short birdie putt on his 12th hole, he stepped it off shoe-to-shoe to measure the distance (and found out later it was 4 feet, 2 inches).

"That was the longest of the week," he said.

So after missing the cut, he went to a golf retail store looking for a long-handled putter, didn't like the choices and settled on a conventional Ping model that suited his eye and cost him $256.18. It's probably a good thing that he paid for it, because that would be less incentive to break it. That goes into his decision on which putter to use.

"I just kind of look at it and see which one looks less ugly to me," he said. "Or which one I really wouldn't mind breaking some time during the course of the round."

He also made a slight change in his stroke, pulling more with his left hand.

Either way, he started pouring in putts from everywhere, climbing the leaderboard and getting everyone's attention.

"When everyone saw him get hot, they started to chase," Lucas Glover said after a 67 put him in the group at 207. "When I looked up at the board on 12, I said, 'Man, I've gotta go if I want to be there.' I think everyone got aggressive."

Slocum pecked away on the back nine, making birdie on the tough 16th and following that with a 10-footer on the 18th. He will be in the final group, with one eye over his shoulder.

It figures to change slight Sunday, with tougher hole locations and the pressure of the final round.

Calcavecchia surely will feel some of that.

He is a 12-time winner on the PGA Tour, including a British Open, but at age 46, these chances don't come along very often.

He is not the model of fitness in golf, and his body creaks so much that he started taking pills of glucose and other herbal extracts that have helped soothe his joints. Foremost is his putting.

"The older you get, the harder it gets," he said. "Chances aren't as readily available as they used to be for me. So I'm sure I'll be nervous tomorrow just like everybody was last week, and everybody was the week before. I'll give it my best shot."

It's also a big week for Eric Larson, his caddie. Calcavecchia already told him this would be there last week for a while because he likes to give several caddies a chance to work for him.

Larson, one of the most likable loopers on tour, spent 11 years in prison after he was convicted of being the middle man in a small-time drug ring. When he got out, Calcavecchia wanted to help him with his second chance.

"I paid him fairly well for our two top 10s," he said. "That really got him out of a bind. I felt good about that. I would like to write him an extra big check. This would be a nice way to enjoy next week and give Eric a month of two off."

He might be changing caddies, but the putter looks like it's safe - for now.

"It has earned bag time for a while, even it goes south," he said. "I know I like the putter. And I know I can putt with it. So that's about three-quarters of the battle."

Divots: Slocum played on the same high school golf team as Boo Weekley, who played in the final group last week at the Honda Classic and lost in a four-man playoff. ... Calcavecchia said the USGA's proposal to limit the amount of spin produced by grooves in the irons was "ridiculous." It was his 8-iron out of the rough in the '87 Honda Classic that spun back on the green that first got the USGA's attention, leading to lawsuits that were settled out of court. "It's not the grooves," he said. "It's the ball." ... Two of the more promising young players on tour - 24-year-old Ryan Moore and 21-year-old Anthony Kim - were paired Saturday. Both shot 68 and were at 5-under 208.

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