Wednesday, March 21, 2012
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Last week to get into Masters through ranking

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[March 21, 2012]  ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- Ben Crane won the McGladrey Classic last fall to secure a spot at Kapalua for the Tournament of Champions.

But that didn't count for the Masters, and that now weighs heavily on him.

Crane is at No. 48 in the world, and after this week the top 50 get into the Masters. The only other player currently in the top 50 who has not yet received an invitation is Paul Lawrie, who should be safe at No. 45.

Geoff Ogilvy (49) is in from his tie for fourth at Augusta. Ryo Ishikawa (50) received a special invitational. The next two are Miguel Angel Jimenez and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, both of whom already are in from being in the top 50 at the end of last year.

Among those with a shot to move into the top 50 are Ernie Els, who might need only second-place alone. Robert Allenby is at No. 64 and playing Bay Hill. If he were to win, he would automatically be eligible, though he also could move past Crane.

Robert Rock is at No. 57 and playing the Hassan II Trophy in Morocco. He would need to win to have a chance, as would Matteo Manassero.

It's a lot to sort out.

Crane already knows that if he didn't play Bay Hill, or he missed the cut, he would at least fall to No. 49.

"Different players can do different things," he said. "I can only help myself this week. We'll know at the end of the week."

As for it weighing on his mind?

"I never thought about it. I've never put it in my mind ... just kidding," he said, breaking into a grin. "I LOVE that tournament."

Crane knows from experience what it's like to have more than winning on his mind. He was close to getting onto a Ryder Cup team, and he's always trying to work his way through the FedEx Cup playoffs.

"It can do one of two things," he said. "It can help you, or you can think about it too much and forget to execute and play your shots."


TAMPA FUTURE: Sheila Johnson, who owns Innisbrook and recently added Reunion Resort in Orlando and Hammock Beach in Palm Coast as part of her "Grand Golf Resorts" in Florida, said it was "extraordinarily important" that the PGA Tour stay at Innisbrook.

This was the final year of sponsorship for Transitions.

Officials in several corners are optimistic that a title sponsor can be found, and that it would remain part of the Florida Swing in March. The Copperhead Course is considered by players among the best on tour, and some believe it to be the best tournament course in Florida.

"We've been told a lot of interest has been expressed the last two days," Prem Devadas, president of her Salamander Hotels & Resorts, said Sunday. "The tour wants the tournament to stay here. In the last four or five days, there's been a ramp up of discussions. That's as much as we know."

PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem would only say he's optimistic.

"It's too good of a tournament," Finchem said Tuesday. "I wouldn't say we're close, but we're not yet. We had a good finish, it's a good field, a good golf course that showed well. It all helps."


TIGER AND VARDON: Tiger Woods is an eight-time winner of the Vardon Trophy, which the PGA of America awards to the player with the lowest-adjusted scoring average on the PGA Tour.

He last won the award in 2009. That won't change this year.

Woods, who currently is second behind Rory McIlroy in adjusted scoring average, became ineligible to win the award when he withdrew in the middle of the final round at the Cadillac Championship.

According to the PGA of America, the award is based on a minimum of 60 rounds, with no incomplete rounds.


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YANI'S MARK: By winning the Founders Cup in Phoenix, Yani Tseng went over the $8 million mark in career earnings.

The No. 1 player in women's golf became the fastest to get there.

Tseng, a 23-year-old from Taiwan, crossed the $8 million mark in 99 tournaments over four years, one month and two days. That broke the previous record held by Lorena Ochoa, who did it in 115 tournaments over four years and four months.

Tseng still has a long way, though plenty of time, to catch the career mark of $22.5 million by Annika Sorenstam.


DALY DOINGS: John Daly tied for 51st at the Transitions Championship, notable because it ended a streak of 11 consecutive tournaments played outside of the United States.

Daly, who moved up 15 spots to No. 285 in the world ranking, doesn't get as many exemptions as when he first lost his full PGA Tour card after the 2006 season. He still gets ample exemptions in Europe, Asia and Australia, although he might have burned some bridges by hitting seven shots into the water at the Australian Open until he ran out of golf balls.

For a guy who doesn't like to fly, Daly makes do in Europe.

"I still hate it," he said. "But once I get over there, you can play eight or nine events in Europe and not have an hour flight."

Surprisingly, he doesn't long for the days when commercial jets once had a smoking section in the back of the plane.


"I was never a guy who liked to smoke on the plane," Daly said. "I hated it. I don't mind not smoking in airports."

Daly played for the first time since he withdrew from the Avantha Masters in India with a tendon injury in his elbow. He said his long irons are what's suffering.

As for that trip to India?

"I felt at home in India because there's a lot of pigs in the street," Daly said, referring to his Arkansas roots. "The only thing I don't like is you can't get a steak, can't get a burger because of religious reason. But I did get a Diet Coke."


DIVOTS: TaylorMade-Adidas has agreed to acquire Adams Golf for $70 million. ... Tony Navarro has switched bags again and now works for Bud Cauley. There was a chance of him working for Angel Cabrera at the Masters, but Navarro wants a week at home with his family. He'll be back to Augusta National again. As a caddie, he has had four runner-up finishes at the Masters -- Raymond Floyd (1985), Greg Norman (1996, 1999) and Adam Scott (2011). ... Luke Donald has 23 finishes in the top 10 since the start of the 2010 season, the most of anyone on the PGA Tour and a 54 percent rate.


STAT OF THE WEEK: Adam Scott was the only PGA Tour member at the Tavistock Cup who did not play the Transitions Championship or the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill.


FINAL WORD: "If I was playing in Europe, it would probably be good enough to win." -- Jeff Overton, who finished one shot out of a playoff at the Transitions Championship. Overton has never won on the PGA Tour or Nationwide Tour.

[Associated Press; By DOUG FERGUSON]

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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