Originally created 03/17/04

Winning can still be worth a ticket to Augusta



ORLANDO, Fla. -- The first two stops on the Florida swing felt like that old road to the Masters - Craig Parry at Doral and Todd Hamilton at the Honda Classic both earned a trip to Augusta National by winning.

The difference now is that it requires a little math to figure out the world ranking, and both players have to wait two more weeks before it becomes official.

Before the criteria was changed five years ago, a PGA Tour victory was an automatic pass down Magnolia Lane.

But the last two weeks showed that March hasn't entirely lost its charm when it comes to the Masters.

Parry was No. 82 in the world when he holed a 6-iron from the 18th fairway to win the Ford Championship in a playoff, moving him up to No. 35.

Hamilton won four times in Japan last year and was No. 96. When he birdied the last two holes to win the Honda Classic, he shot up to No. 38 Monday.

The top 50 in the world after The Players Championship (March 29) are eligible for the Masters.

It means something to both of them.

Parry had a one-stroke lead going in the final round of the 1992 Masters, paired with Fred Couples, when he came unglued and shot 78.

"If I had probably a bit more experience, I might have been able to go on and do the job," Parry said.

Hamilton has been to Augusta National once - as a 17-year-old playing in a junior tournament at adjacent Augusta Country Club in late summer. Tournament organizers arranged a brief tour, which included a double-decker bus taking them down Magnolia Lane.

"We were out on the 13th green. They had straw down to keep it cool," Hamilton said. "The course was closed, but I've actually set foot on it. But I've never played it."

Six PGA Tour winners since the Masters are not yet eligible - Rory Sabbatini, Peter Jacobsen, Tommy Armour III, John Huston, John Daly and Heath Slocum.

Because the top four players are at Bay Hill and ranking points will be high, a victory at Bay Hill by someone not already eligible might be enough to get into the Masters. And anyone who wins The Players Championship next week gets a three-year exemption to the Masters.

Most eyes will be on Daly, who had to skip last week after getting his hand slammed in a car door.

Daly is No. 63 in the world ranking. He also held his ground at No. 8 on the money list - the top 10 after The Players Championship also get into the Masters.

WEDDING BLISS: Fred Couples did not make it to David Duval's wedding last week, but he has spent time with Duval and his bride, Susie, and says the former British Open champ has never been happier.

"My wife and I went to Sun Valley and met his wife and three kids, and they're adorable. She's a very, very great lady," Couples said. "The first thing my wife said, 'Can you believe David?' I mean, he was so different."

Couples said Duval plans to live in Colorado, where the children go to school, and they would travel with him.

No one is certain when Duval will return to the PGA Tour, where he last played in October.

"I don't know if it's going to help his golf game," Couples said. "It doesn't really matter. The only thing that will help his golf game is if she can tell him, 'Just get the club a little inside or outside. Looks good to me.'

"Everyone gets married. And people don't get married," he said. "It's not going to hurt him. He's extremely happy."

ALWAYS AT WORK: Just because Vijay Singh has taken two weeks off, don't get the idea he is slacking off.

Singh recently completed an addition to his home in Ponte Vedra Beach. It's a two-story workout facility, with a weight room downstairs and a cardiovascular area upstairs.

"Pretty much all the equipment to carry me through until I'm 50," he said.

Along with all the optional extras in exercise, Singh gives much of the credit to his trainer, Joey Diovisalvi, who is with him every step of the way - and then some.

"He the backbone. He's pushed me so hard the last two years," Singh said recently. "He's in the gym with me in the mornings and in the evenings, every day, two times a day, five or six days a week. When I go home, he's there at home doing the same thing."

Singh said Diovisalvi used to tour with Bruce Springsteen and work as his trainer. When he's not working with the No. 2 player in golf, Diovisalvi competes in half-marathons and triathlons.

MEMORY LANE: Davis Love III has fond memories of The Players Championship, and not just because he has won golf's richest tournament twice.

He was 17 when he took his wife, Robin, to the '82 tournament when it first moved to the TPC at Sawgrass. The winner was Jerry Pate, known for using an orange golf ball.

"I took her out of town, watched golf, showed her what I wanted to do," Love said. "It was the first time either of us had seen The Players Championship on that golf course. I was excited to be with her and to watch guys play this golf course, because I had heard so much about it."

Asked if his wife heckled anyone that day, Love laughed and said, "(She) should have for the orange ball."

DIVOTS: The latest trend on the PGA Tour is the success of 54-hole leaders, who have won nine of the 10 stroke-play events this year. The lone exception was Harrison Frazar, who gave up a one-shot lead at the Sony Open and lost to Ernie Els in a playoff. ... Tiger Woods (28) is the only player in his 20s to have won this year. ... This is a big week for Colin Montgomerie at the Singapore Masters. He is No. 51 in the world, and needs to crack the top 50 to qualify for The Players Championship. ... Woods picked up his sixth consecutive Mark McCormack Award for being No. 1 in the world the most weeks during the 2003 season. Woods has been No. 1 since winning the 1999 PGA Championship.

STAT OF THE WEEK: Todd Hamilton, 38, was the oldest PGA Tour rookie to win since the tour started keeping records in 1970.

FINAL WORD: "When me and Tiger putt, I say, 'How much we putting for?' He says, 'Whatever makes you nervous.' So that's usually like $5." - Chris Riley.