The field for the Booz Allen Classic at Congressional Country Club keeps improving. Ernie Els, the third-ranked player in the world, has committed to play in the June 6-12 event, and several other top players have asked tournament officials to make room reservations for them that week.
Tiger Woods is not among them, but the Masters champion has not ruled out playing in Washington's longtime PGA Tour event. Woods rarely commits to a regular tour event until the last possible moment, but sources familiar with his thinking say he is intrigued about playing at Congressional, the venue for the 1997 U.S. Open and one of the nation's most demanding courses.
Ernie Els, above, will play at Congressional the week before the U.S. Open and No. 2 Vijay Singh and No. 4 Phil Mickelson might not be far behind.
(Elise Amendola -- AP)
_____On the Next Tee_____
Event: Houston Open.
Course: Redstone Golf Club (7,508 yards, par 72), Humble, Tex.
Purse: $5 million (winner's share $900,000).
TV: USA (Today-Friday, 4), WUSA-9 (Saturday-Sunday, 3).
Defending champion: Vijay Singh.
Event: Morelia Championship.
Course: Tres Marias Residential Golf Club, Morelia, Mexico.
Purse: $1 million (winner's share $150,000).
European PGA: Johnnie Walker Classic, Pine Valley Golf Resort and Country Club, Beijing.
Woods normally does not play the week before a major championship, and the Booz Allen is scheduled the week before the U.S. Open in Pinehurst, N.C.
Tournament officials have been told he is considering whether to make his first appearance in the event since he turned professional in 1996.
No. 2 Vijay Singh and No. 4 Phil Mickelson are among the players who have asked the tournament for help in securing room reservations for the week, and both players prefer to play the week before a major. The list of players who have formally committed includes Masters runner-up Chris DiMarco, Maryland native Fred Funk, Luke Donald, who tied for third in the Masters, and Spain's Jose Maria Olazabal.
Ben Brundred, chairman of the tournament's board of governors, said the course will be in the same configuration as it was for the '97 Open, including the 190-yard par-3 18th hole. When the Open returns to Congressional in 2012, that hole will be No. 10, and the current 17th, a tough par 4 with water left and behind the green, will be the 18th.
"We'll try to set the course up to give them what they'll get at Pinehurst the next week," Brundred said. That will mean quick greens and relatively modest rough "on a very long and difficult golf course."
'The Immortal Bobby'
There's a fabulous new biography out on Bobby Jones, "The Immortal Bobby," by Chicago Sun-Times sports columnist Ron Rapoport. The author conducted scores of interviews and had access to previously undiscovered correspondence between Jones and some of his friends and acquaintances, including Jim Murray, the late Los Angeles Times sports columnist.
Their illuminating exchange of letters in the 1960s on the Masters not inviting Charlie Sifford, enshrined last fall as the first black in the World Golf Hall of Fame, to the tournament was quite revealing.
Murray was a longtime advocate for Sifford, who won several PGA Tour events but never received an invitation to a tournament that was known as The Masters Invitational.
"Charlie could get in if he were the Chinese or Turko-Roman champion, or runner-up in the Formosa Open, or the All-Madrid City Championship," Murray once wrote. Jones wrote him back saying he hoped Sifford would qualify "so that we may have the question disposed of on the basis of performance." He also wrote to Murray and said the tournament could not "invite a man simply because he is black."
Sifford, who won the Los Angeles Open and the Hartford Open on the PGA Tour, has maintained that Augusta National kept changing its qualification rules in order to bar him from playing.
Rapoport's description of Jones's volatile temper early in his playing career -- complete with blistering profanity and club throwing -- belies the image of Jones as the consummate Southern gentleman. Actually, Jones did learn to control his temper as he went on to become the dominant player in the game in the late 1920s, but the pressure of competition also frequently left him in tears after many of his victories and physically ill before he had to tee off in important events.
Singh Elected to Hall
Vijay Singh's arduous journey from Fiji reached another unimaginable destination yesterday when he was elected to the World Golf Hall of Fame with the lowest percentage of votes and help from a clause in criteria.
Singh was the only player elected from the PGA Tour ballot, receiving 56 percent of the vote.
"Coming from where I am, trying to make a living and never thinking about player of the year or the Hall of Fame, this was never in my wildest dreams," Singh said from the Houston Open, where he is the defending champion. "This is what hard work does. It pays off."
Few have worked harder than Singh, 42, a self-taught player from tiny Fiji who toiled on tours around the world until his career took off in America. He has 25 victories on the PGA Tour, won three major championships and late last year reached No. 1 in the world ranking.
But his election to the Hall of Fame was a close call.
Players from the PGA Tour and International ballot require 65 percent of the vote for election. Hall of Fame officials two years ago added a stipulation that if no one gets 65 percent, the player with the most votes will be elected provided he is on at least 50 percent of the ballots.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.