Originally created 09/18/02

Hoch already bemoaning Ryder Cup weather



THOMASTOWN, Ireland -- U.S. captain Curtis Strange has promised that everyone on his Ryder Cup team will play at least one match before the Sunday singles.

Scott Hoch isn't so sure - especially if the weather is cold and nasty.

After a cool, breezy afternoon at Mount Juliet, site of the American Express Championship, Hoch suggested he might not be of much use to the U.S. team next week in England.

"If the weather is bad, I'll tell Curtis to sit me down because the weather is not going to help me any," Hoch said. "He can sit me out until singles, like the European team does. And if the weather is bad then, he can put me in the envelope. I'll come up lame."

Hoch said he was being serious, but it's hard to tell with him.

He later conceded that everyone has to play in the same conditions, and that he has had some success in cold conditions.

But if he's playing poorly and the weather is bad, "I don't think I can be a help."

"Next week is a team deal," Hoch said. "You need to get the guys who are playing the best out there."

Hoch has hope.

He had planned to play in the Pennsylvania Classic last week until he felt a twinge in the muscle under his shoulder blade and had to get it worked out. He didn't start practicing again until Thursday.

"That gave me plenty of time to think about why I'm playing poorly," Hoch said. "I'm hitting it good. If today was any indication, I'm headed in the right direction."

Now if he can just get the weather to cooperate.

BJORN IN THE USA: Thomas Bjorn has an eye on America while playing in Ireland this week, and it has nothing to do with the Ryder Cup.

The Danish star wants to play the PGA Tour next year, and he'll probably have to finish in the top 20 at the American Express Championship to earn his card. Bjorn has made $421,000 in PGA Tour events this year and needs to finish no worse than the 125th player on the money list at the end of the year.

"I want to try something new," said Bjorn, best known for going head-to-head with Tiger Woods for four rounds at Dubai last year and beating him on the 72nd hole. "I want to see if I can compete week in and week out against the best."

Bjorn also wants to improve in the majors, and he believes spending more time in the United States - site of three of the Grand Slam events - can only help.

"I think the reason Europeans play better in the Masters than the other majors is because we're there for three weeks," he said. "That gives you more of a chance."

Bjorn said he will remain a European tour member, and play most of his summer golf on this side of the Atlantic.

"When you play the PGA Tour early in the season, it's confined to one area of the country," he said, alluding to tournaments in California and Arizona. "In Europe, you find yourself flying all over the world."

Bjorn also said he was weary of inconsistent conditions in Europe, saying only two out of every 10 tournaments were played on good courses that were in good shape.

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ROSE RECOVERY: Justin Rose's father died of leukemia last week. The funeral was Friday in England, but the 21-year-old star has decided to play this week in the American Express Championship.

Rose qualified for the World Golf Championship by getting into the top 50 in the world ranking. He started the year at No. 162, but has won four times this year and finished fifth at the NEC Invitational last month at Sahalee.

"Dad would have wanted me to keep playing and finish the year the best I can," Rose said. "When we sat down together at the beginning of the year, qualifying for the Amex was one of the goals we set. He was so pleased that I made it into the field, and I am now keen to follow it through."

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LPGA ROOKIE: Beth Bauer hasn't wasted any time living up to her potential.

By tying for 18th in the Safeway Classic last week, the 22-year-old Bauer clinched the points-based LPGA rookie of the year award over Natalie Gulbis.

Bauer, who earned her card by winning the Futures Tour money title last year, has made 20 out of 23 cuts this year and has finished in the top 10 six times. She is 17th on the money list with $429,353.

"I feel my golf game improved so much over the course of the year," Bauer said. "It was so exciting to battle it out with Natalie for top honors."

Bauer, who grew up in Florida and was an NCAA All-American at Duke, becomes only the fourth American-born player since 1988 to win LPGA rookie of the year.

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PAPER WORK: Curtis Strange won twice and was third on the PGA Tour money list in 1980, and was ninth on the money list with 12 top-10 finishes the following year.

So why wasn't he on the 1981 Ryder Cup team?

"Back then, you had to wait a certain amount of time before you were eligible for the team," Strange said. "Then, you have to get three letters of recommendation from PGA professionals. I left those letters in my briefcase, so I didn't get points for six months.

"I should have been on that team. I felt bad about that."

The Americans did OK without Strange that year, winning 18 1/2 -9 1/2 in England.

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DIVOTS: Colin Montgomerie and Nick Price have been given two of the four exemptions into Tiger Woods' tournament in December, the Target World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, Calif. ... An annual scholarship in honor of Bruce Borland has been established at the University of Illinois for third-year Landscape Architecture students. Borland, a senior associate at Nicklaus Design, was on the plane with U.S. Open champion Payne Stewart when it crashed in a South Dakota field in 1999, killing all six aboard. ... David Feherty of CBS Sports will be working for USA Network during the first round of the Ryder Cup. Nick Faldo will provide guest commentary for NBC Sports on the weekend. ....Kinko's will be the title sponsor of a new Senior PGA Tour event in Austin, Texas, next year.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Only three players of the 12 players on each Ryder Cup team have won tournaments this year.

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FINAL WORD: "He says that all the time. He'll be there." - Ian Woosnam, on Colin Montgomerie claiming his back might not allow him to play in the Ryder Cup.