Posted on: March 26, 2008 12:40 pm

What's $1 billion among friends?

WINDERMERE, Fla. -- This doesn't happen every day, trust me.

When I came home from work on Tuesday night, the little woman asked how my day went.

"Well, I shook hands and spoke with a billionaire today," I said.

And no, it wasn't Tiger Woods. Even Tee-Dub doesn't have that much cash -- yet.

The rich man in question was Joe Lewis, the host and creator of the Tavistock Cup matches between his two private Orlando clubs, Isleworth and Lake Nona. For those who thought Lewis might stage this Tavistock on the cheap given his recent financial setback, well, you were dead wrong.

For those who don't read the business section, Lewis lost a staggering $1 billion this month in the Bear Stearns fiasco,  which had some wondering if they would be serving cold cuts for lunch at the invitation-only Tavistock soiree on Monday and Tuesday at Isleworth. Not exactly.

Try lobster claws the size of Chris Di'Marco's grip.

"I guess he's not out of money," DiMarco mused.

That was doubly evident Monday, when Lewis dispatched a deputy to Doral, where most of the his Tavistock Cup roster was completing play in the rain-delayed CA Championship in Miami. Lewis had three separate jets standing by to fly the players to Orlando -- a 3 1/2-hour drive by car for us civilians -- in order to make their Tavistock tee times in the afternoon. The Tavistock aide was directing the caddies, wives and players like a traffic cop.

Then there was the T-Cup tea party on Monday night. Woods, who had his five-event PGA Tour winning streak snapped earlier in the day, turned out in decidedly casual attire to attend a Roman-themed party that might have set a new standard for excess. Caligula himself would have been proud, attendees reported.

The party featured scantily clad dancing girls and females giving sensual massages to other females. The attire for the women on stage ranged from not much to hardly any, some in attendance reported.

"It was better than a night at Rachel's," said one male who attended the private bash, a reference to a high-end Orlando strip joint. "It was way more exotic."

Along with a slew of big-name golfers and athletes who live at the club, former Florida governor Jeb Bush was in attendance.

Lewis, who habitually eschews the media limelight, was seated in the private grandstand situated behind the 18th green as play wound down on Tuesday night, watching his star-filled roster of players like Woods, Ernie Els, Retief Goosen and Justin Rose play Orlando's toughest track. Some media pundits have characterized the event as a monument to conspicuous consumption, and there's no question there are lots of rich graybeards and their trophy wives wandering around, but the tournament has also directed $4 million to charity in its five years, too.

As the players rolled in, then the sun began dropping below the trees.

"It was getting cold over there in the shade, so I thought I might come over here in the sun where it's nice and warm," Lewis said with a smile, after shaking my extended hand.

He was still standing there a few moments later, watching proudly as players like Ian Poulter and Rose hosed each other down with bottles of champagne. Even though he hit a cold spell financially, Lewis is still bringing the heat in the boutique event he formulated.

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 24, 2008 8:41 am
Edited on: March 24, 2008 8:47 am

Restocking the Tavistock

DORAL, Fla . -- The show must go on?

The Orlando area's annual monument to excess, the Tavistock Cup matches, will proceed as planned on Monday and Tuesday, despite weather issues that pushed the CA Championship into a fifth day.

The Tavistock Cup, a glitzy exhibition that is open only to invitees and members, pits layers from the islerowth and Lake Nona golf clubs, which are owned by the same company, the Tavistock Group. Most of the roster was still at the Doral Golf Resort & Spa on Monday, completing the final round of the CA Championship.

Monday tee times were pushed back a couple of hours at Isleworth, which will host the matches, and as always, Tavistock owner Joe Lewis, a British billionaire, spared no expense salvaging the $3.8 million exhibition.

Players on the two star-strewn rosters will be flown to Orlando after the CA final round is complete, on a private plane from a Miami airport. Miami International is a couple of miles away from the Doral grounds. By car, Orlando is at least a 3 1/2-hour drive.

"I know there's a guy in a Tavistock shirt we're supposed to see after the round today," Isleworth member Daniel Chopra said.

Other than they were leaving in a hurry and playing later in the day, which might be the first time top-tier players have ever appeared on TV in two distinct, live tournaments on the same day. Others weren't rearly as solid on the afternoon details.

"I guess I will find out what's happening when we get there," said Colin Byrne, retief Goosen's caddie.

Lewis rather famously lost $1 billion earlier this month in the Bear Stearms debacle. But he's proceeding with his backyard baby, undaunted. Looks like his bankroll wasn't entirely wiped out.

"I think he's got plenty," Chopra said.

Those set to play include Tiger Woods, Ernie Els, Annika Sorenstam, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose, Paula Creamer, Stuart Appleby, Robert Allenby, Henrik Stenson and plenty of other big boppers.

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 21, 2008 6:42 pm
Edited on: March 21, 2008 7:39 pm

Streak? That's a good career

DORAL, Fla. -- Geoff Ogilvy, opportunity knocks.

The affable Aussie will be paired with torrid Tiger Woods in the third round of the CA Championship on Saturday, and nobody need remind the former U.S. Open champion what's happened with Woods of late.

Woods hasn’t lost since last fall, having won six official worldwide events in succession, including a record-tying 3-0 mark this year on the PGA Tour. Hot streak? It's bigger than that, really. 

"That's a good career," Ogilvy cracked.

He and countryman Adam Scott are the latest to audition for the role of Tiger Tamer, a position that remains largely theoretical. They each will play with Woods in the 10:10 a.m. slot at Doral Resort & Spa.

"Maybe we can put some Aussie voodoo on him," Ogilvy said.

He might not need it after finishing the first 36 holes without a bogey, which was good for a one-shot lead over Woods at 12-under par. Scott is three shots behind Ogilvy, a three-time tour winner who claimed his first victory, at Tucson in 2005, after taking the 36-hole lead.

Dating to the 10th hole last week at Bay Hill, Ogilvy has played 44 straight holes without a bogey and is 15-under in that span.

Ogilvy said if he were to pick a dream trio, Woods and Scott would be his picks. Although, it might not be for the reasons you suspect.

"It's an ideal group to play with -- the best golfer of all time and the best gallery-puller of all time," he cracked, a reference to the female throng that follows Scott whenever he plays.

Woods has shot 67 or better in seven of 10 stroke-play rounds this year on the U.S. tour. Online bookies continue to tweak the odds, upgrading Woods to a stunning 1-to-2 favorite as of Friday afternoon while listing Scott and Ogilvy at 5-to-1.

"This is a great opportunity," Ogilvy said. "Especially at the moment -- he's winning every week. It's a good opportunity to beat perhaps the guy who's becoming the best golfer of all time. 

"You've got nothing to lose. The bookmakers obviously believe he's going to win, and everybody else.  You guys probably all think he's going to win. So we've got nothing to lose, so why not just try to play as good as we can?  It's just going to be fun."

Ogilvy mulled the odds and added: "5-to-1? If I wasn't playing, maybe I'd have a go."
Though it's almost insane to take Woods against the field based purely on practical history and the fact that there are 78 other players on the grounds, everybody is apparently doing it.

"They've been getting burned, the bookies, and I read somewhere this week everyone kept loading up on Tiger and they keep taking the bets and they keep losing," Ogilvy said. "That's reality. He's won these last, however many, golf tournaments. 

"He hasn't lost too many when in contention after two rounds. He hasn't lost too many at Doral. There's a lot of things in his favor. It'll be pretty brave of a bookie to have any larger odds than that. That's almost conservative for them, you know?"

Yep, we know.

As for the good-career crack, a quick glance through the tour media guide proves him exactly right. Of the fully exempt and active players, only 19 have won seven or more times on the PGA Tour, not including Woods. 

Category: Golf
Posted on: March 19, 2008 4:51 pm

O'Hair doing the slow burn

DORAL, Fla. -- Note to Johnny Miller.

Stop it with the stopwatch.

Sean O'Hair, criticized the past two weeks for playing slowly by NBC's famous commentator, stuck up for himself on Wednesday and disputed the notion that he's unduly slow.

It began as O'Hair won two weeks ago in Tampa, his second victory on tour and first in two years. Last Sunday at Bay Hill, he was paired with Tiger Woods in the final group. O'Hair insists that he's no tortoise.

"One thing I don't understand is at Tampa, I deserved every single bit of the criticism that I got about my pace of play because I was holding the group up," O'Hair said. "Something people need to understand is that I wasn't in that situation for two years. I was a little bit nervous. There was a lot of things going on in my mind and I'm not going to step over a shot until I'm committed to the shot.

"As far as last week, I actually heard that I was criticized a little bit more than Tampa. The thing I don't understand is that we played the front nine in 1:42. We waited on every single shot on the back nine. So when you're watching the telecast, is he sitting there saying that? No.

"I mean, to me what does it matter if I take two practice swings or eight practice swings? I do what I have to do to play well. Obviously what I'm doing right now is right. But I think it's a little unfair to criticize somebody about their routine and talk about how slow they are when basically you're waiting on every single shot. 

"We waited for almost ten minutes on the 16th tee, and I took eight practice swings because obviously we were just standing there not doing anything. If I walked up to the 16th tee and the fairway was clear, I might have taken two or three practice swings. You know, he can say what he wants to say. I can't control that. But I have a little bit of a problem with criticizing somebody when you're on time."

OK, so it's more than a little bit of a problem.


Category: Golf
Posted on: March 17, 2008 6:55 pm
Edited on: March 17, 2008 7:26 pm

That's billion with a 'b'

ORLANDO, Fla. -- In keeping with the long-held tradition at both clubs, banners of congratulation were hung at the entrances of the city's two most exclusive golf enclaves on Monday, the country clubs at Isleworth and Lake Nona.

Tiger Woods, an Isleworth resident since 1996, won on Sunday on the PGA Tour, while Graeme McDowell, a Lake Nona homeowner, won on the European circuit. The clubs hang a sign whenever a resident or club member wins on one of the major world tours -- and it's already happened plenty of times this season.

Otherwise, it was hardly a banner day for the Tavistock Group, the private Orlando-based company that owns both clubs.

According to multiple published reports, British investor Joe Lewis, who founded the company and maintains a home at Isleworth, stands to lose somewhere in the vicinity of $1 billion in the Bear Stearns collapse, which was widely trumpeted in the major business dailies Monday.

The timing wasn't exactly ideal. The fifth Tavistock Cup matches will be held next Monday and Tuesday at Isleworth, pitting the likes of Woods, Ernie Els, Annika Sorenstam, Paula Creamer, J.B. Holmes, Daniel Chopra, Mark O'Meara and Sergio Garcia against each other in a Ryder Cup-styled team affair. 

Not to worry. Lewis, who rarely does interviews, is still good for the $3.88 million purse at his ultra-high-end, backdoor event, which is broadcast annually on the Golf Channel. His net worth has been estimated at $5 billion. Well, before Monday's financial bloodletting, anyway.

If needed, maybe he can borrow a few greenbacks from Woods, whose victory on Sunday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational pushed him close to $80 million in career tour earnings alone. Woods is an investor in one of the company's real-estate dealings in the Caribbean.


Category: Golf
Posted on: March 15, 2008 12:05 pm

The G.C. goes P.C.

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The Golf Channel is headed back to corrective class, en masse.

In the aftermath of the high-profile "lynch" affair in the season opener, which resulted in the suspension of anchor commentator Kelly Tilghman for flippantly using the racially charged term in a description of how players might stop Tiger Woods, network employees are undergoing a sort of re-programming.

Golf Channel staffers have been ordered to attend a sensitivity class, several Orlando-based employees confirmed. The courses have already begun and anybody from the lowliest cameraman to the loftiest administrator will be required to complete it.

According to one employee, the classes were ordered by Comcast, which own the network. Even the on-air "talent" has been required to attend, which only seems fitting, since that's how it all started, accidental faux pas or not. Nobody seemed to know whether Nick Faldo, who splits his time between the Golf Channel and CBS Sports, will be required to attend.

Faldo at sensitivity training? Write your own punchline, PGA Tour players and ex-wives.



Category: Golf
Posted on: March 14, 2008 6:23 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2008 6:26 pm

The worm turns for Tiger

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Once again, Tiger Woods didn't roar at the Bay Hill Club & Lodge on Friday.

But he did grumble.

For the second day in a row, the four-time past champion had trouble adjusting to the slower greens at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, failing to get a series of putts all the way to the hole. He shot 68 and is 2 under overall, seven shots off the lead of Vijay Singh.

Because of a winter assault from a subsurface worm called a nematode, the greens were replaced at the 11th hour four weeks ago. They look pretty decent from afar, but the grass is spotty in several areas and slower than usual. Guys like Woods who have played at Bay Hill for years have sometimes had trouble picking up the proper pace.

On the 18th, for instance, he left a 13-footer for birdie short.

"That was the whole day, right there," Woods said.

As for a common thread among his miscues on the greens, Woods laughed and cracked, "Yeah, they were all short."

There isn't much he can do to regain his touch, really. Practicing on the quick greens at his home track won't do much good and the practice putting green at Bay Hill apparently wasn't infested with the worms. It's smoother and faster.

"It's the best green on the property," Woods said.

On the 16th, Woods missed a 17-footer for a birdie and made a waving motion with his hand, signaling that the ball wasn't tracking properly to the hole. As he exited the green, he compared the surface to putting down a fairway.

Woods, who is seeking his sixth straight worldwide victory, has skipped the majority of the West Coast portion of the PGA Tour season because of bumpy and slow greens, and is starting to look like a guy who would have been better off doing likewise this week, too. But everybody is here rightly paying homoge to the tourney namesake, of course.

Woods was asked why he simply didn't simply whack the ball harder, like, say 2 1/2 feet beyond the hole, and had a pretty logical response.

"You don't want those coming back," he said.


Category: Golf
Posted on: March 14, 2008 4:29 pm
Edited on: March 14, 2008 6:35 pm

D'oh! Simpson has no pratfall

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Webb Simpson has a flair for the dramatic.

First, the senior at Wake Forest became the sixth amateur in the 30-year history of the Arnold Palmer Invitational to make the 36-hole cut. Secondly, the way he achieved was matched by only two of the field's professionals.

Simpson birdied Nos. 17 and 18 -- considered among the most brutal closing holes in golf -- to make the cut at 2 over. He joins John Cook, John Harris, Mitch Voges, Matt Kuchar and Bubba Dickerson as amateurs who played on the weekend at the Bay Hill event.

Better still, SImpson is a recipient of the Arnold Palmer scholarship at Wake Forest, the tournament namesake's alma mater. He earned an automatic berth in the tournament by winning the 2007 Southern Amateur, while the aforementioned five were all U.S. Amateur champions. Tiger Woods never made the cut as an amateur at Bay Hill.

Simpson, who won the Southern Am three years ago and played at Bay Hill in 2006, plans to turn pro this summer.

"I'm just trying to soak it in," he said. "This year is a lot more important than 2006 because I need to get used to being out here."



Category: Golf
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