Notes From World of Golf
The boom year that golf had in 1997 was reflected in story of the year and athlete of the year voting by print and broadcast members of The Associated Press.
Not only was Tiger Woods voted Male Athlete of the Year and his victory in the Masters voted the top sports story of the year, but several other golf personalities and events were represented as well.
Annika Sorenstam was second to tennis player Martina Hingis in voting for Female Athlete of the Year and Karrie Webb finished 11th.
Four golfers beside Woods received votes in the male voting. Hale Irwin finished 17th, Justin Leonard was No. 20, Ernie Els was 23rd and Davis Love III was 26th.
In story of the year balloting, Fuzzy Zoeller’s post-Masters remarks finished 20th, Europe’s victory in the Ryder Cup was 21st, Ben Hogan’s death was No. 29 and Davis Love III victory in the PGA Championship was 31st.
MERCEDES MINUTIAE: It looks like as many as three winners of 1997 PGA Tour events eligible for next week’s Mercedes Championships will skip the tournament at the La Costa Resort and Spa.
Bill Glasson will be on hand, but can’t play because of surgery. As of Tuesday, Greg Norman and Scott Hoch had not confirmed rooms for the tournament.
Norman does tend to play in Australia early in the year, but his absence also raises the question as to whether he bears some bad feeling about the aggressive way PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem took the World Tour idea Norman was criticized for a few years ago, modified it and turned it into a much-praised reality.
Beginning in 1999, the season-opening event will move from here to Hawaii on prime time TV and La Costa will be the site of the Andersen Consulting World Match Play Championship in February for the top 64 players in the world.
Woods, the defending champion, is expected to make his PGA Tour debut with his new Titleist irons at the Mercedes. Woods, who kept his Mizuno irons in his bags while Titleist was making a set for him, began playing the new irons in November. He also uses a Titleist driver, the Titleist Scotty Cameron putter and the Titleist Professional 90 ball.
MERCHANDISE SHOW: The PGA of America Merchandise Show to be held Jan. 30-Feb. 1 at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., will once again show the remarkable growth in golf _ at least on the business side.
An estimated 1,500 exhibitors will occupy about 1.1 million square feet of space, more than double of the square footage from as recently as 1995 with nearly twice as many exhibitors.
The best guess is that the show will result in more than $1.3 billion in golf industry sales.
More than 200 companies will be making their first appearance at the Merchandise Show, including Hugo Boss, Chaps, Ralph Lauren, Alfred Dunhill and Chiliwear LLC.
Spalding Sports Worldwide will have the largest booth space at 12,100 square feet, followed by Nike (9,900) and Titleist (8,000).
DIVOTS: The Golf Channel premiers a one-hour special ``The Road: Life on the Nike Tour″ on Jan. 5 at 10 p.m. EST. The all-golf network followed Chris DiMarco, Michael Clark and Daron Stiles through the 1997 season as they tried to earn their PGA Tour playing privileges. ... Michael Bradley had the longest measured drive on the PGA Tour in 1997 at 381 yards. ... Colin Montgomerie (No. 7) and Jumbo Ozaki (No. 8) are the only non-members of the PGA Tour among the top 20 in the World Golf Rankings. ... John Daly, who finished the year swinging the Biggest Big Bertha, won the driving distance title for the sixth time in seven years, averaging 302 yards and shattering his previous high of 289 yards in 1995.