Originally created 03/16/05

Get into my car: wins equal wheels

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. - When a PGA Tour player makes a putt on the 18th hole on Sunday to lock up a victory, two things usually run through his mind.

He's just won a lot of money. And depending on the tournament, he's bought himself an extra two, three or five years of exempt status on the Tour.

Within minutes of signing his scorecard, he's also handed a trophy. At the Bay Hill Invitational, it's a sword. At the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, he dons a Conquistador's helmet. The Players Championship brings a piece of expensive Waterford Crystal.

At the Augusta National Golf Club, there's the green jacket.

Frequently, there's more, and most of the time, they're decent spoils for a winner, ranging from cars to free air travel and in the case of one winner, a child's room full of toy trucks.

The extra perks are getting better on the PGA Tour, with the best involving four wheels and a hot engine at events title-sponsored by car companies.

The past two winners of the Ford Championship at Doral - Craig Parry and Tiger Woods - have received a Ford GT car valued at about $150,000. The car is prominently displayed at the Doral Resort and Spa for all to ogle.

"A beautiful car," Parry said.

Woods didn't deny that, but being a spokesman for Buick, he gave the car to his caddie, Steve Williams, who also races in his native New Zealand.

At this week's Honda Classic, the winner will get their choice of a new Acura or a Pathfinder. Tournament director Cliff Danley said a car has been part of the package since 1993.

Buick is especially generous in rewarding winners of tournaments it sponsors. Even the smallest Buick event, the old Buick Challenge at Callaway Gardens, Ga., resulted in a vehicle for the winner.

"It was a pretty nice car," said David Toms, who win the Buick Challenge in 1999. "But most of us already have nice cars. I gave mine to my housekeeper."

The winners of the Mercedes Championship, the opening event of the season for the previous year's champions, get, naturally, a Mercedes.

Then there's the John Deere Classic in Silvia, Ill. Last year, winner Mark Hensby got - you guessed it - a riding lawnmower from John Deere. However, since Hensby's U.S. home in Mesa, Ariz., doesn't have grass, he was allowed to trade the mower in for toy John Deere trucks and tractors for his 5-year-old son Chase.

How many toy trucks does a riding lawnmower bring?

"A bunch," Hensby said. "They're all over the place."

Some winners get gifts that don't move. Such as the 108-piece set of Waterford Crystal for the winner of The Players Championship.

Some players yearn for the gifts of title sponsors in the past. When United Airlines sponsored the Hawaiian Open from 1991-1998, the winner flew free for a year.

Davis Love III said he earned a year's worth of long-distance calls for winning each of his five MCI Heritage tournaments.

Ultimately, players appreciate the practical spoils of their victories.

"When you've got a tournament wrapped up and you're walking down the 18th fairway, you're not thinking of what kind of car you're going to get," Tim Herron said. "With the money we make for winning, we can pretty much afford a new car anyway."


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