Woods puts odds of making Kemper at `50-50'

Golf

May 23, 2002|By Don Markus | Don Markus,SUN STAFF

Contrary to recently published reports that suggested Tiger Woods would likely make his first appearance at the Kemper Insurance Open next week, Woods said yesterday that he is still undecided.

"It's 50-50," Woods said during a news conference at the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. "I must see how it goes. Luckily I've got a great tee time in order to see how I feel. So I will have some time on Friday afternoon to see how my body feels."

Woods has until 5:30 p.m. tomorrow to commit for next week's PGA Tour event at the Tournament Players Club at Avenel in Potomac. If he decides to play in the Kemper, it would mark his fourth straight week of tournament play.

The world's No. 1 player returned to the United States from Germany late Monday night after winning the Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Heidelberg, beating Colin Montgomerie on the third extra hole of sudden death.

The biggest question in Woods' mind is whether playing next week will affect his preparation for the U.S. Open next month at the Bethpage Black Course on Long Island. Woods won the first leg of this year's Grand Slam last month at the Masters.

"Am I going to be able to give enough energy next week and still be ready to play the U.S. Open?" Woods said.

The news that Woods was still unsure about his plans for next week did not surprise Kemper general chairman Pete Cleaves.

"It isn't any more or less than we thought before," Cleaves said. "Everything we've heard has been very positive."

Woods committed to playing in the Kemper four years ago, but then had to announce he wasn't coming because of an injury. Woods typically plays two weeks before the Open and then practices at home the week leading into the Open. This year's Open is June 13-16.

Woods said yesterday that his decision to play in the Kemper would impact when he goes to Long Island to play a course he has never played before, a course with the reputation of being the longest and one of the most difficult in Open history.

If Woods opts to skip the Kemper, he would likely play Bethpage a couple of times next week and then go home to practice in Florida.

Kemper officials have received commitments from two former No. 1 players and former Kemper champions, Greg Norman and Fred Couples

Two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazabal of Spain and former British Open and Kemper champion Justin Leonard also are scheduled to play next week, as are Chris DiMarco, Charles Howell III and local favorites Fred Funk and Donnie Hammond.

Ticket sales, pushed by the speculation of Woods' presence, have been going well.

"They've been strong in a down economy," Cleaves said.

NOTE: Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player have committed to play in the 2002 U.S. Senior Open to be held June 27-30 at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills. It will be the first time the three have played in the Baltimore-Washington area since 1995.

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