Shark gambles on struggling Scott

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Adam Scott virtually rolled off the gurney on his way into surgery when he got the 11th-hour phone call from Greg Norman that even he did not expect. Given a chance by his fellow Aussie to salvage a miserable season next week with the International Team in the Presidents Cup, Scott will play a warmup beginning Thursday in the Turning Stone Resort Championship, the first event of the Fall Series on the PGA Tour. Based on the reaction of the media to Scott's selection, you can change Norman's nickname from the Great White Shark to Captain Outrageous. Players on the International Team, however, have closed ranks. "It's not what I expected to hear, but the more I thought about it ... I think it's a pretty good pick," said Geoff Ogilvy, who had urged Norman to select another Aussie, Michael Sim, a three-time winner this season on the Nationwide Tour. "I was shocked like everybody else, but the more I thought about it, it makes quite a lot of sense. I wouldn't say it's a massive gamble. He's showed a bit of form recently." The 29-year-old Scott, once considered one of the most promising young players in the game and a veteran of three Presidents Cups, has slid from No. 3 in the World Golf Rankings last year to 57th last week. After missing the cut six times in a row at one point and 10 times in 18 events on the PGA Tour this season, beating only five of the 20 club pros in the PGA Championship and bowing out of the playoffs after the first round, Scott probably was relieved that his season was over. He said he was heading back to Australia to have a bothersome cyst removed from his right knee and did not plan to play again until November. Scott finished 14th in the International team point standings — the top 10 make the team automatically — and figured he had no chance to be one of the two captain's picks. However, Norman had other ideas, especially when he apparently believed the pickings were slim after making 17-year-old Ryo Ishikawa of Japan the first of his extra selections. Some have suggested that Rory Sabbatini of South Africa, No. 11 on the points list, was not selected for the sake of team chemistry because he is not very popular with the other players. And other candidates such as Jeev Milka Singh of India and Matthew Goggin of Australia have not been in form of late. "If anyone else — Jeev or Goggi or Sabbo — had put their hand up the last few weeks and played really well, they would have got in for sure," said Ogilvy, a close friend of Scott. " ... I feel bad for Sabbo and Jeev. I don't think it's fair they missed, but for the team I think (Scott's) a pretty good choice." Added Camilo Villegas of Colombia, another member of the International team: "Scotty hasn't played great this year, and we all know it. But the Presidents Cup is a little different format, and he's got one of his good buddies (Ogilvy) right next to him." Said Robert Allenby, another Aussie and International team member: "(Scott) has struggled with a few things with his swing, but everything I've seen the last month, it looks like he's getting better." Scott has been questioned for decisions he has made on and off the course, including parting ways with longtime instructor Butch Harmon and purchasing a $40 million jet. Considered something of a heartthrob, the Aussie has been spotted by the paparazzi frolicking on the beach with tennis star Ana Ivanovic in Australia and actress Kate Hudson in Hawaii, the latter incident coming in January when Scott tied for second in the Sony Open. He hasn't finished in the top 30 since, but Norman looked past all that. "Well, I think there's more than one thing you look at in selecting a player, and obviously a lot of it has got to do with past experiences," said Norman, who never has been considered conventional. "When you look back a year ago, Adam was the No. 3 player in the world. So everybody goes through a slump. Everybody goes through slumps for different reasons. Maybe it's not your game, but maybe something else is just a little bit out of sync in his life to put him in that situation. I know I've been there. ... He was really a logical choice." Norman has been something of a mentor to Scott, so the pick really is not much different than Captain Gary Player picking Trevor Immelman, who met the South African icon at the age of five for the International team in 2005. Or Captain Nick Faldo choosing his protege, Ian Poulter, to the European team for the Ryder Cup last year. Poulter and Immelman more than justified the picks with their performance, and there is no question that Scott has the talent to do the same. "Maybe somewhat unexpected," Scott said when he got the news. "Obviously, it's been a tough year, but I really am humbled by Greg and (assistant captain) Frank (Nobilo) picking me. "I really feel like it will be great for my game. I feel like I can contribute points and contribute in the team room as well. I'm looking forward to meeting up with all the guys in San Francisco." And making his captain look good.

Notes and quotes

  • Commissioner Tim Finchem of the PGA Tour said last week at the Tour Championship that despite positive signs in the economy, shrinking marketing budgets of major companies could lead to the loss of title sponsors and perhaps even some tournaments. The 2010 schedule will not be finalized until the PGA Tour's board meeting in the first week of November, but other than some juggling of dates on the West Coast swing early in the year, it is expected to look similar to this year. Finchem said the real concern is 10 contracts with title sponsors that will expire in 2010. "I suspect it's possible that we could lose a couple more events," Finchem said. "I think it's likely that we will lose some title sponsors, and they'll need to be replaced. But thus far, we've been able to handle that." The PGA Tour managed to get contract extensions with title sponsors for the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championships and the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and the Travelers Championship this year despite the worldwide recession. In addition, SBS International of South Korea stepped up to become the title sponsor of the season-opening tournament at the Kapalua Resort through 2020, replacing Mercedes-Benz. However, Finchem expects the PGA Tour probably will lose some sponsors in the next year or so. "I just think there are too many companies that have issues, although they all want to stay with us now," he said. "But I think that it's highly unlikely we would go through '11 without some turnover. "Now, we don't have a problem with changing sponsors. We don't want to. We like the continuity. It's just that, especially in a downturn, it's hard to sell through to already reduced marketing budgets." So far, only one title sponsor has said it would not renew after 2010. FBR, title sponsor of the old Phoenix Open, said it will not have its name on the tournament at TPC Scottsdale after next year. Earlier this year, the PGA Tour lost the popular Buick Open in at Warwick Hills Country Club in Grand Blanc, Mich., but was able to replace it with the Greenbrier Classic at White Sulphur Springs next year. Buick also dropped sponsorship of its tournament at Torrey Pines Golf Club in La Jolla, Calif., but the Century Club in San Diego is confident it will have a replacement sponsor before it is played in the last week of January. "We will have a good, solid schedule for 2010 — we know that," Finchem said. "But I think it's also important to recognize that marketing budgets are still down, and with the underlying economic factors stable but not getting worse, that's good. "But it's certainly going to take awhile to improve. We can anticipate pressure on marketing budgets at many, many companies as we go into '10 and maybe even '11." So far, the PGA Tour has not had to cut its prize money, as the PGA European Tour did last week in announcing that the purse for the Race to Dubai has been reduced by 25 percent.
  • Stewart Cink, who captured the famed Claret Jug with his first major victory in the Open Championship at Turnberry in July, brought it with him to the Tour Championship so it could be displayed in the clubhouse at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where he is a member. For a brief time, it disappeared, although it never left the premises. Cink left the suitcase that carries the Claret Jug in front of his locker, and when he returned, the trophy was gone. "I met with PGA Tour to do an interview before I came down here, and I looked in my locker and saw that the jug was gone," Cink said. "I said, 'So you guys already have the Claret Jug?' And they said, 'No.'" Before Cink could become worried, a clubhouse attendant walked over and explained that someone had played a practical joke on him. The culprit was none other than Padraig Harrington, who won the Open Championship in 2007 and 2008. The Irishman recognized the case in front of Cink's locker, swiped the Claret Jug and hid it in his locker. "He only had it for two years, so he wanted to have it just a little bit longer," said Cink, who like Harrington has been keeping the Claret Jug on his kitchen table so he can see it every morning. "I've only had it for two months. ... But if he wants to borrow it, I'll allow him to borrow it."
  • Kenny Perry has been selected as the 2009 recipient of the 10th Payne Stewart Award for his excellence on the golf course and his work in the community. Perry was honored last week during the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, where he was unable to hold the 54-hole lead and finished in a tie for fourth by closing with a 4-over-par 74. "There is no greater honor for a professional golfer than to receive the Payne Stewart Award," said the 49-year-old Perry, who has won 14 times on the PGA Tour. "Payne personified all the virtues the game of golf can teach us, so being recognized as a person who is worthy of an award created in his memory is incredibly humbling. "This award is and will always be one of my greatest accomplishments." The Payne Stewart Award is presented annually to a player sharing Stewart's respect for the traditions of the game, his commitment to uphold the game's heritage of charitable support and his professional and meticulous presentation of himself and the sport through his dress and conduct. Stewart, a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame who won 11 times on the PGA Tour including three major titles, died in a plane crash en route to the Tour Championship at Champions Golf Club in Houston in 1999. Perry qualified for the PGA Tour in 1986 and claimed three titles in his first 14 seasons on the circuit. However, he has earned 11 more titles since turning 40 in August 2000 — including five in the last 16 months. He captured three victories in 2003, 2005 and 2008, and earlier this year, he won the FBR Open and the Travelers Championship. Recipient of the 2002 Charles Bartlett Award, given to a professional golfer for his unselfish contributions to the betterment of society by the Golf Writers Association of America, Perry donates five percent of his winnings to a scholarship fund at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn. A resident of Franklin, Ky., Perry was concerned in the mid-1990s that there was no public golf course in his community. So, in 1995, he bought 142 acres of land and borrowed more than $2.5 million to design and build Country Creek Golf Course, an affordable public facility that caters to mid-to-high handicappers. "In celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the Payne Stewart Award, we can't imagine a more deserving recipient than Kenny Perry," said Commissioner Tim Finchem of the PGA Tour. "Kenny embodies all of the qualities this award represents in his character, passion for growing the game of golf and commitment to charitable giving." Past winners of the Payne Stewart Award were Byron Nelson, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer (2000), Ben Crenshaw (2001), Nick Price (2002), Tom Watson (2003), Jay Haas (2004), Brad Faxon (2005), Gary Player (2006), Hal Sutton (2007) and Davis Love III (2009).
  • The LPGA Tour lost its seventh tournament because of a sponsorship withdrawal when Anheuser-Busch said it will no longer be the title sponsor of the Michelob Ultra Open at Kingsmill in Williamsburg, Va. Dan McHugh, vice president of Anheuser-Busch, said the company has decided to use its sponsorship dollars in a different way but would continue to work with the LPGA Tour in the hospitality areas at many tournaments. "We're looking to give sort of a little bit more national scope," McHugh said, adding that he hoped Michelob Ultra would continue to be the official beer of the LPGA Tour. Anheuser-Busch owns the Kingsmill Resort and Spa, which hosted a PGA Tour event for 22 years before the LPGA Tour first held its tournament there seven years ago. Eric Albrecht, vice-president of marketing for the LPGA Tour, would not paint a gloomy picture despite the setbacks. "I think it's a little bit the realities of the sports sponsorship landscape," Albrecht said. "As we move closer and closer to the 2010 schedule, we're feeling better and better about that schedule. "We feel good where we are in September. We're optimistic, but we're also realistic knowing that our 2010 schedule may not be what it was a couple of years ago." Albrecht said that 20 tournaments have been confirmed for 2010, and the LPGA was in discussions with nine other tournaments and was working with several potential event partners. The LPGA Tour calendar featured 34 tournaments in 2007 but was down to 27 this year. The tour lost all three of its events in Hawaii as well as longtime sponsor Corning. However, LPGA Tour officials said they have been in discussions with several prospective sponsors since enjoying a successful Solheim Cup in August.
  • Jim Thorpe of the Champions Tour last week pleaded guilty in Miami to two counts of failing to pay more than $2 million in income taxes from 2002 through 2004. The 60-year-old Thorpe, a resident of Heathrow, Fla., faces a maximum of two years in prison and must pay $4.1 million in fines and back taxes. A sentencing date was not set but is expected early next year. Thorpe's attorney, Mark Horowitz, said when Thorpe was charged with seven counts of tax evasion in February that his client did not willfully break the law, but Horowitz added that Thorpe now simply wants to move on with his life. Thorpe, who has won more than $13 million in his career, has captured 13 titles on the Champions Tour after winning three times during his career on the PGA Tour. He earned more than $5 million from 2002 to 2004, federal prosecutors said. Although he filed time extensions with the IRS for personal and corporate tax returns, he did not make any payments for personal income taxes with the extensions, his plea agreement said. The total tax loss is more than $2 million, Assistant U.S. Attorney Randy Gold said. In court, Thorpe said he pleaded guilty to the two misdemeanor charges because "I knew I had to pay the taxes and I chose not to." The maximum sentence for each count is a $25,000 fine and a year in prison. Thorpe, who was born in Roxboro, N.C., played last week in the SAS Championship at Prestonwood Country Club in Cary, N.C., where he finished in a tie for 14th.
  • Heath Slocum, who captured the Barclays last month to open the PGA Tour playoffs, made a $40,000 donation to the Tour Championship's Tickets Fore Charity program. Slocum, who rose from No. 124 to No. 5 in the FedEx Cup standings during the PGA Tour playoffs, played for the second time in the finale at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta, not far from his home in Alpharetta, Ga. Slocum's donation is earmarked for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and the Chron's and Colitis Foundation, which each will receive $10,000, and the East Lake Foundation, which will receive $20,000. "My wife, Victoria, and daughter Stella are very happy to be in the position to donate back to some causes that are near to our heart and community," Slocum said. "I have suffered from Ulcerative Colitis since the late 1990s and since moving here, have been working with the Georgia Chapter of the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation to help educate and find a cure for this debilitating disease. "We also know how involved Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has been in our community and the game of golf, and since our daughter was born, it has become very important to take care of other children and families in need." Net proceeds from tickets purchased through the Tickets Fore Charity program directly benefit participating charities, with 50 percent of net proceeds benefiting the charity selling the tickets and the remainder earmarked for the East Lake Foundation, one of the Tour Championship's primary charities.
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