Originally created 01/10/01

Golf notebook



MELBOURNE, Australia -- PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said he'd be willing to investigate the use of performance-enhancing drugs in golf if he had solid evidence.

He's not holding his breath, nor is he willing to authorize his own study.

"I don't feel a need at this juncture to launch a research plan myself," he said. "I don't think our organization takes the view that there's a problem with substances that are changing the level of the playing field."

Most drugs are used to help increase strength, size and aerobic capacity. Golf has too many champions who are anything but bodybuilders - Paul Runyan, Craig Stadler, even Mark O'Meara, who won two majors at age 41.

Finchem said a point could be made that ibuprofen could be classified as a performance-enhancing drug, especially on the Senior Tour. "If you take Advil ... whatever is hurting, doesn't hurt as much," he said.

The use of beta blockers to calm the nerves was an issue about five years ago, but never documented. The Royal & Ancient Golf Club, perhaps in a bid to make golf an Olympic sport, recently said it would look into the impact of drugs on golf.

"I think it's highly, highly unlikely that the R&A will find something that's conclusive," Finchem said. "If anybody gives us a scientific study that says 'X' substance somehow produces conditions that give an athlete an advantage, I'm sure we would take a look at it."

RYDER CUP YEAR:

The first tournament of 2001 made it clear that the race to make the Ryder Cup team is in full swing.

Steve Stricker had only one top-10 finish last year, a tie for fourth in New Orleans. By winning, he picked up 150 points and jumped from nowhere to 22nd.

U.S. captain Curtis Strange, working for ABC Sports during the Match Play, stuck his head into Stricker's press conference to congratulate him.

"This is the year to play good," Stricker said. "I hope I showed him a lot."

Strange said it's a long road between now and the end of the PGA Championship, when the team will be set.

"What he needs to do is continue his good play," Strange said. "Steve has a tendency to get comfortable. If he continues on and works hard, he could have a fantastic year."

WALRUS WEIGHT:

Craig Stadler has put on nearly half of the 60 pounds he lost a year ago, with mixed feelings.

He liked the slimmer look and the way he felt. He hated what it was doing to his game.

"I lost almost 6 inches on my waist and I was really getting quick inside," Stadler said. "I was playing horrible. Probably unfortunately, I decided to put back 10 or 12 pounds to see if it would help my game. I started playing well again, and then put on another 10 or 12."

Stadler is not about to join the fitness craze, but said things might have been different if the PGA Tour had a fitness trailer when he started 25 years ago.

When asked the last time he was in shape, the Walrus said, "I'm in shape right now. I might be in a little different shape in about three hours."

TECHNOLOGY ON TRIAL:

Pierre Fulke will be heard from again, at the very least because he has sewn up a spot on Europe's Ryder Cup team. The 29-year-old Swede also will play for the first time in America this year, at The Players Championship if not before.

But he'll have to leave his beloved Callaway ERC II driver because it does not conform to U.S. Golf Association standards.

Fulke already is testing Callaway VFT drivers, the ones approved by the USGA.

"I don't think it should be a problem," he said. "I just want to find a driver that feels as good to me as this one does. I have been using it since I got in June, and it's been working well for me."

No one will ever mistake Fulke for John Daly. Once a short hitter, the ERC II has helped to give him average length off the tee.

In fact, Steve Stricker at times was longer off the tee with his 3-wood. Stricker had about a 15-yard advantage when he used his driver.

That was also a Callaway model - the Big Bertha Warbird, which in these technological times is as old-fashioned as a Model T.

STEINBERG'S STABLE:

It was a big year for Mark Steinberg. The IMG agent negotiated Tiger Woods' $100 million deal with Nike, watched his top client win three straight majors and complete the Grand Slam, then celebrated with his wife at the birth of their first child.

The new year is off to a good start, too, considering Steinberg has only one other client on the PGA Tour - Steve Stricker.

Stricker and Steinberg were at the University of Illinois together, where Stricker was an All-American on the golf team and Steinberg was a reserve on the Illini basketball team that included Kendall Gill.

"I don't think he played all that much," Stricker said. "But that was a good team, so he had to be pretty good."

LOOKING BACK:

"Everyone seems to concede Tiger's going to do that all the time. I don't see that yet." - Steve Elkington last year at the Mercedes Championship, when Tiger Woods was coming off an eight-win season. He went on to win nine times in 2000, including three straight majors.

DIVOTS:

The Colonial became the latest PGA Tour event to join the $4 million purse club. The $700,000 increase is the largest in tournament history and puts it among the 10 biggest regular tour events. ... PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said he received a Christmas card from Tiger Woods. Was there a check inside? "It was a letter bomb," Finchem joked. ... With so many great championship courses in Melbourne, Finchem said the World Golf Championships definitely would return to Australia, but not match play. "I think the World Cup would work great," he said. "Some other World Golf Championships are possible."

STAT OF THE WEEK:

Thirteen matches went extra holes at Metropolitan Golf Club. Only eight matches went into overtime the first two years combined at La Costa.

FINAL WORD:

"I think it will take them longer to decide than the Bush-Gore case." - PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem, on when to expect a decision after the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments on the Casey Martin lawsuit.