Friday, October 26, 2001 Volume 67, Issue 47


Houston hosts pro golf at Cypress Creek

By Patrick Sullivan
Contributing Writer

The air might be turning cold and the leaves may be falling from the trees, but the Professional Golf Association Tour will be in full swing when the best players in the world arrive in Houston for the final tournament of the season, the Tour Championship presented by Dynegy.

The Cypress Creek Course at Champions Golf Club will play host to the top 30 players on the PGA Tour money list from Monday to Nov. 4.

A $5 million purse and a $900,000 check for the winner will be on the line. The money list has been accumulating since the Mercedes Championships on Jan. 14 in Hawaii.

This year marks the third time in five years the event has been hosted at Champions. The par-71, 7,220-yard layout, which was founded in 1958 by Jack Burke Jr. and the late
Jimmy Demaret, has also hosted the 1967 Ryder Cup, the 1969 United States Open, the 1993 U.S. Amateur and the 1998 U.S. Women's mid-amateur.

"Hosting the top 30 golfers in the world is a great thrill," said Tournament Director Marlene Livaudais. "We've been planning for this event for two years."

Playing host to golf's season finale is nothing new for Livaudais. The tournament was held here in 1997 when David Duval edged Jim Furyk by one shot and in 1999 when Tiger
Woods enjoyed a big payday after beating Davis Love III by four in a shortened 54-hole event.

"The only change this year will be the upgraded corporate hospitality," Livaudais said. "We're adding first-class amenities to the corporate suites. As far as the course goes, we're
not changing anything because it has always been perfect."

The tournament was shortened to three days in 1999 because of the tragic death of golfer Payne Stewart the week before the tournament.

Stewart and five others were flying a Lear jet from Florida to Texas when the oxygen system failed. The plane drifted 1,400 miles off course and eventually crashed in a field in
South Dakota. Livaudais had to maintain her composure and try to move on with the tournament.

"It was one of the most difficult things I've been through," she said. "Even though I was very grief-stricken, I had to go on. The tournament just wasn't the same at all."

On the final day of play the players wore the style of knickers Stewart trademarked.

"It was a great tribute to Payne," Livaudais said. "I'm sure he loved that."

This year's elite field will feature some new faces that have made their way into the top 30 on the money list, like No.12-ranked Joe Durant and No. 18-ranked Chris DiMarco.

Some well-known players who will not be making the trip to the Space City are No. 59-ranked Lee Janzen, No. 60-ranked John Daly and No. 126-ranked Fred Couples.

Don't feel too bad for Freddy "Boom-Boom" Couples. He still pocketed over $380,000 during the calendar year -- in which he worked only 19 weeks.

Obviously Tiger Woods is always a threat to win, but look for Scott Hoch and Vijay Singh to place their names on the top of the leader board.

Hoch can hit his long irons as good as anyone and he is in the top 10 in scoring average and putting. Singh leads the tour with 13 top-10 finishes and is second in putting

"This event put Houston on the sports map," Livaudais said. "It will get 17.5 hours of national coverage on ESPN and ABC. The city will make anywhere from $25 to $30 million
the week of the tournament."

Those numbers don't include charitable contributions.

"The event sponsors over 100 charities locally. In '97 and '99 we made $2.7 million in charity proceeds," Livaudais said.

The YMCA, Acres Home, and Make a Wish are just a few of these many charities.

The weekend of Nov. 3 is close to sold out for the tournament. However, small corporate packages are still available. For more information, call (281) 893-4653.

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