- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 22, 2008

Humility is a whiff in front of two tour pros.

That’s the shot Inside Write authored during a nine-hole practice round he had the privilege of playing Tuesday as a precursor to this week’s Nationwide Tour Prince George’s County Open at the Country Club at Woodmore.

While former PGA Tour veterans and current Nationwide Tour members Chris Smith and Bob Burns eyed birdie putts on Woodmore’s second green, Inside Write attempted to channel some Phil Mickelson on a greenside flop shot from the heavy rough just behind the green. The attempt certainly qualified as a flop; IW’s futile flail failed to disturb anything but the grass under his Titleist.

To their credit, neither Smith nor Burns snickered.

In fact, the two-hour experience might have cost IW his dignity, but it also confirmed what he has long suspected: Golfers are by far the most mellow professional athletes on the planet. Their stories alone, while almost universally unprintable, would justify the cost of playing in a pro-am.

Smith and Burns are among the many PGA Tour winners in the 144-man field at Woodmore. And both hope to begin a midlife renaissance with a victory among the game’s young lions this week.

“I would never say it’s harder to succeed on the Nationwide Tour, because the guys on the PGA Tour are the best golfers in the world,” said the 39-year-old Smith, who leads the Nationwide Tour in greens in regulation (75.28 percent) this season and boasts five Nationwide Tour victories and one PGA Tour win (2002 Buick Classic) in his 18-year pro career.

“The mentality is very different between the tours. On the Nationwide Tour, you’re dealing with all these hungry, young kids, and you have to be more aggressive. You shoot 2 or 3 under [in a round] out here, and you’re going to get lapped. That’s not usually true on the PGA Tour because of the way courses are set up. That different mentality definitely takes some getting used to.”

Split squad

Golf’s two major tours are sharing the world’s top-50 players this week as the game’s brightest stars are evenly split between the PGA Tour’s Colonial and the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship. The latter is the European Tour’s flagship event. And this week’s headliner at Wentworth is former resident and club member Ernie Els.

The three-time major champion hopes to snap one of the game’s strangest streaks this week; Els has won seven World Match Play titles at Wentworth but has never captured a stroke-play victory on his former home course.

In spite of his drought-breaking victory at the Honda Classic earlier this season, Els is still adjusting to new swing coach Butch Harmon and purging some of the bad habits he developed in the final couple of seasons of his long-term relationship with former instructor David Leadbetter.

“My ball position went out. My alignment went out. My swing got very loose and very long,” Els said Tuesday of the issues that prompted him to dump Leadbetter following a pair of poor performances just before the Masters. “I played like a 7-handicapper for a good two or three weeks, and I needed a change.”

The 38-year-old saw his best result since the switch to Harmon in his last start, recording a tie for sixth at the Players Championship.


Lorena Ochoa collected her sixth victory in just nine starts at last week’s Sybase Classic. Though perhaps it’s still too early to start comparing Ochoa’s 2008 to the greatest season’s in LPGA history, it’s impossible to overlook her pace, which trumps both the best winning percentage and lowest scoring average in LPGA history.

Assuming the 26-year-old makes 15 more starts (of a possible 22) this season, she could challenge Mickey Wright’s LPGA record of 13 victories in one season (1963). Her winning percentage is well ahead of Wright’s for that season (.464), and her scoring average (68.559) is ahead of Annika Sorenstam’s record mark from 2004 (68.697).



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