The total prize money on the PGA Tour in 1998 will be well in excess of $80 million, even by the most conservative math. And that's a year before the lucrative new TV deal kicks in and will push purses past $150 million by 2002.
That $150 million figure represents a tripling of prize money on the PGA Tour in a 10-year stretch beginning in 1992.
Five tournaments already have announced hefty purse increases for 1998 and more are sure to follow. The GTE Byron Nelson upped its prize money from $1.8 million to 2.5 million and the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic increased its purse to $2.3 million from $1.5 million.
The Phoenix Open boosted its purse to $2.2 million from $1.5 million; the MCI Classic went from $1.5 to $1.9 million; and the Buick Invitational went to $2.1 million from $1.5.
That's already an increase of $3.2 million to a total purse of more than $76 million in 1997. More tournaments, including the major championships, are certain to announce purse increases later.
SHEIK FIELD: The Dubai Desert Classic, which in the past has paid out more in appearance fees than it offered in prize money, is again assembling a strong field for 1998.
Committed so far are Tom Lehman, Ernie Els, Colin Montgomerie, Jose Maria Olazabal and Ian Woosnam.
The Dubai Desert Classic is Feb. 26-March 1, putting it up against the Nissan Open on the PGA Tour. The event comes the week after the Tucson Chrysler Classic and the week before the Doral-Ryder Open.
TIGER ON TV: After several revisions, the Tiger Woods made-for-TV special with a few of his celebrity friends is set to be taped Thursday at Isleworth Country Club near Orlando, Fla.
The originally planned field had Woods playing in a scramble against Ken Griffey Jr., Michael Jordan and Kevin Costner. Jordan and Costner never committed, however, and eventually dropped out.
Jordan was replaced by NASCAR star Jeff Gordon and Costner was to be pinch-hit for by Will Smith. That didn't work, either, and the now-complete field had Chris O'Donnell -- Robin in the last "Batman" movie -- taking part.
The show, called "Tiger and Friends," will be broadcast by CBS on Christmas Day from 2-4 p.m. EST with Jim Nantz, Gary McCord and David Feherty, who will handle the on-course work and certainly keep the laughs rolling.
WORLD OF GOLF: Five of the 13 USGA national championships this year were won by foreign-born players, the most ever. Since the USGA first started holding championships in 1895 there were never more than two winners from overseas in any year.
This year's winners were Ernie Els of South Africa in the U.S. Open, Graham Marsh of Australia in the U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Women's Open champion Alison Nicholas of England, Tim Clark of South Africa won the U.S. Amateur Public Links and Silvia Cavalleri of Italy won the U.S. Women's Amateur.
Two others -- Candie Kung of Taiwan and Trevor Immelman of South Africa -- advanced to the finals of the U.S. Girl's Junior and U.S. Junior Amateur, respectively, but lost.
DIVOTS: The State Farm Senior Classic became the first event added to the Senior PGA Tour schedule since 1996 when organizers announced a three-year deal to put the tournament at Hobbit's Glen Golf Club in Columbia, Md. Baltimore had been the largest market in the country without an official event on either the PGA Tour or the Senior PGA Tour. The $1.25 million event July 3-5 will be carried by ESPN. ... Beth Bauer of Valrico, Fla., and Eric Compton of Miami won their divisions at the 20th annual Rolex Junior Golf Classic at Walt Disney World's Magnolia Course. They join Tiger Woods, Stewart Cink, Michael Bradley, Emilee Klein and Vicki Goetz as past winners. ... Casey Martin, the disabled golfer who sued the PGA Tour to win the right to ride in a cart at tour qualifying school, missed earning his tour card by two strokes. Martin did earn a full Nike Tour card and will have to go back to court if he wants to use a riding cart on the Nike Tour.
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