IRVING, Texas -- The new Masters policy for past champions won't affect Tiger Woods for the next 39 years, but he said Tuesday he wishes Augusta National Golf Club had shown a little more flexibility.
After sending letters to Doug Ford, Gay Brewer and Billy Casper recommending they no longer play, Augusta National set an age limit of 65, provided past champions play at least 15 tournaments a year. That was amended a week later to 10 official events.
"I didn't mind the age, but I don't like the fact they have to play 10 tournaments. I don't think that's right," Woods said after a practice round for the Byron Nelson Classic, his first tournament since winning his third green jacket. "The reason winning the Masters was so special is you could come back as long as you like.
"Did some guys abuse it? Yeah. But you shouldn't penalize all past champions."
Woods said he liked the idea kicked around by Mark O'Meara and J.P. McManus, a friend from Ireland, suggesting perks for aging champions.
"At age 61, if you make the cut, you get a five-year exemption," Woods said. "When Gary Player made the cut in '98 (at age 62), he would get five more years, and then he could play past 65. That would be a nice reward."
BEST FOOT FORWARD: Vijay Singh is coming off the longest layoff of his career at the Byron Nelson Classic, although not by choice.
"I didn't touch a club for two weeks," he said. "I've NEVER done that before."
His practice round Tuesday was the first time he had walked a golf course since Sunday at the Masters. Singh has been suffering from an injury in his left foot that he called "one of the most painful things you can have."
It began hurting about six months ago, and he had to stretch his calf in bed before he could walk around.
"It wasn't that bad once you warmed it up," he said. "But when it started moving from the bottom to the outside of my foot, then it started affecting my swing."
He tried sleeping in a boot cast to stabilize his foot, but that caused cramps in his thigh. Singh learned to stack his left foot on top of his right foot while he slept. During his three-week break from the Masters, he worked out the problems by stretching often.
"It feels pretty good now," he said.
Singh plans to play the next three tournaments through the Memorial.
NO SHOW: Acushnet Co. had a booth at the first PGA Merchandise Show nearly 50 years ago, a time when northern golf professionals vacationing in Florida during the winter could check out new products and place orders.
Times have changed, and the parent company of Titleist, FootJoy, Cobra and Pinnacle has decided its money - $2.5 million to attend the show four months in Orlando, Fla. - could be better spent taking its products to its customers.
"We've never written any business at the show," chairman Wally Uihlein said. "You'd like to contribute goodwill and public relations to the industry, but at the same time, we've got a business to run."
Acushnet joins Ping as major equipment companies who have pulled out of the show.
Uihlein said the decision follows three months of debating whether Acushnet was properly serving its 16,000 accounts. Acushnet brought together key accounts and asked them to list what the company was doing right, and what it could be doing better.
"We were caught off guard by the number of things we were not doing," Uihlein said. "You never know until you ask."
He said Acushnet will apply money previously spent on the show to point-of-sale initiatives, such as increasing the number of driver demonstration bags at various clubs and launch monitors for custom-fit clubs.
Chris McCabe, who manages the Merchandise Show for Reed Exhibition, said he was disappointed that Acushnet was pulling out.
"While we acknowledge the company's decision to explore alternative sales options, especially in the economic climate we face today, we believe it has chosen to overlook the innumerable benefits of the PGA Merchandise Show," he said.
McCabe said more than $229 million in sales are attributed to orders placed during or immediately after the 2002 show.
For Acushnet, that wasn't the case. Uihlein said Acushnet has the largest sales force, with 200 representatives, and doesn't need the show to make a sale.
"If you have someone calling on you, why would go to the mall?" Uihlein said.
The show also reached a point where it dictated the launch of new products. Titleist introduced the highly successful Pro V1 golf ball in October of 2000.
"If we've got a product that's shelf-ready, we've got to go to market," he said. "It doesn't make good business sense to wait when you have 200 sales reps who are ready to march into battle."
FOOTBALL AND GOLF: Callaway Golf's next line of equipment won't be about Hawkeye or Big Bertha. Instead, it has to do with the Patriots, Rams, Redskins and Dolphins.
Callaway has signed a multiyear agreement with the NFL to create a new line of equipment with team logos. The new products will be available in NFL team stores and golf shops in the fall.
DIVOTS: PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem is this year's recipient of the PGA of America Distinguished Service Award. He is the first PGA Tour executive to win the award since it began in 1988. ... A record 8,468 entries have been received for the U.S. Open next month at Bethpage State Park, breaking by 13 the record set two years ago when the Open was at Pebble Beach. ... Adam Scott of Australia, who tied for ninth in the Masters, has been given special temporary membership on the PGA Tour. ... Harry Toscano lost another appeal in his lawsuit against the Senior PGA Tour over its eligibility standards.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Scott Verplank was last in driving accuracy in 1991, hitting an average of 42.1 percent of the fairways. Heading into the Byron Nelson Classic, he leads the PGA Tour in driving accuracy at 81.4 percent.
FINAL WORD: "If I was playing today with the swing I had then, I wouldn't go broke out there." - Byron Nelson.
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