- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2002

With his adversaries mostly sporting the standard collared golf shirt with sleeves reaching their elbows, Bryce Molder, sleeves of his Nike golf shirt rolled nearly to his shoulders, was easy to spot on the practice range at TPC at Avenel yesterday. The sunny and humid weather partly necessitated Molder's fashion tack, but he also wanted to get some sun on his upper arms maybe an indication of the contrast of the 23-year-old's priorities to his older peers.
Still, Molder spent plenty of time focusing on his game he followed a practice round yesterday morning by hitting woods and irons for more than three hours, tinkering with a new grip that he will try out this week at the Kemper Open. Molder, one year out of Georgia Tech and a pro for just 10 months, is attempting to become a full-time PGA Tour player by using the seven sponsor exemptions allowed to a non-Tour player.
It is difficult for players to earn a Tour card solely through exemptions because they must finish in the top 125 of the money list which in 2001 was about $400,000. That's why occasionally between shots yesterday, Molder consulted with Charles Howell III, who accomplished the feat last season.
"If I play well and compete, then my goal is to compete to win more often," Molder said. "[This week] I want to give myself a chance to win on the last nine holes. That's what's fun."
Molder's confidence is a product of his strong play of late: In consecutive tournaments this month, he finished tied for ninth at the Compaq Classic and shot an opening-round 63 at the Byron Nelson Classic before finishing 22nd.
Molder's first taste of big-time golf came last June, when he made the cut and tied for 30th in the U.S. Open at Southern Hills while still an amateur. He retained his amateur status until after the Walker Cup before turning pro last August. He signed an endorsement deal with Nike and now is looked upon as one of the top young American golfers.
Molder has three exemptions left with which to work and needs to make about $120,000 more to earn extra tournament starts this season. He can make some headway toward his goal this week, when he'll be a part of a solid but not overwhelming Kemper Open field.
Next week, Molder will attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open in a Monday sectional at Woodmont Country Club in Rockville before heading to New York for the Buick Classic.
"That's as far ahead as I'm looking," said Molder, disclosing the short-sighted mentality of a young golfer trying to establish himself on Tour. "Everything changes with a good week."

Olazabal working out kinks
Two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal, one of the top names at the Kemper, is entered in the tournament for the first time since 1997, but he arrives playing less than his best.
"The last couple weeks have been pretty tough I'm struggling with my game at the moment," he said. "My driver and my short game are not working well. My two most important clubs are failing me."
Olazabal said yesterday's practice round resulted in better golf than he had produced in recent weeks. He said he likes the test that the TPC course presents, especially its protected greens.

Hoch withdraws
Kemper officials late yesterday said Scott Hoch has withdrawn because of a wrist injury. The injury had forced Hoch out of the last five tournaments he entered.


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