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  Shapiro: Get Used to the Garcia-Woods Matchup

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Leonard Shapiro, The Post's golf beat writer, was on Sports Online to field questions about the PGA Championship and the Ryder Cup. The Ryder Cup begins on Sept. 24 at The Country Club in Brookline, Mass.

In addition to writing about pro golf, Shapiro also covers the NFL, general assignment and writes a weekly sports broadcasting column. He also regularly writes two columns for – Teeing Off, on golf, and Sideline View, on the NFL.

Rockville, Md.: Do you think the focus on a Tiger Woods-Sergio Garcia rivalry may take some of the pressure off David Duval who seems to fold in the majors?

Leonard Shapiro: No question that it will. Duval has been very uncomfortable in the spotlight as the world's No. 1 player but it is something that he will have to learn to cope with and live with. I think there are going to be a number of really riveting rivalries over the next 10 or 15 years with players like Ernie Els and Justin Leonard and Phil Mickelson among others with Tiger Woods.

Washington, D.C.: The PGA Championship is perhaps the "Red Haired Stepchild" of the Majors. What can be done to make this tournament more exciting? Match play like it was prior to 1957? Move it to another time period, like February or October?

Leonard Shapiro: I've suggested all of the above although I don't think match play would be very attractive to the networks considering what happened in the recent world match play when two journeymen players – Jeff Maggert and Andrew Magee – were in the finals. I don't really don't view the PGA as the "stepchild" considering it has produced two of the most compelling stories – Tiger and Garcia and John Daly in '92. I'd like to see it contested in May, a month without a major and use August for the Ryder Cup or President's Cup so they aren't being played during the NFL and college football season. The Ryder Cup would get major attention wherever it is played but the President's Cup gets lost in the fall.

Brooklyn, N.Y.: Leonard – I continue to be intriqued by John Daly. What's your prognosis for him ever returning to his former playing level? Are his personal demons simply too overwhelming?

Leonard Shapiro: Only John Daly can speak about his personal demons though his problems have been well documented. I think Daly has taken a hiatus just to learn how to live in the real world again. I hope he'll also come back to a tour that clearly needs his star power and fire power. I suspect you'll see him back early next year and he'll almost certainly defend his British Open championship at St. Andrews when the event returns there next July. He's a great player and I think he can win again.

Falls Church, Va.: I enjoyed the Tiger-Sergio matchup on Sunday at the PGA Championship. At age 23, Tiger had to take on a new role as maturing veteran – expected to won, but challenged by a young underdog. I've been a fan of pro golf for about 30 years. What is it about the new breed of golfers that makes the courses play a whole lot shorter for them? Equipment? Swing mechanics? Attitude?

Leonard Shapiro: All of the above. Equipment has a lot to do with how far these guys are hitting the ball. The golf ball is also a major factor. Jack Nicklaus has suggested taking some of the bite out of the ball to give golf courses a better chance of being played the way they were meant to. As for the youngsters, many of them have been playing golf in very intese junior programs and have gone on to play competitive college golf that allows them access to the game year-round. They're more into physical training, weightlifting and it shows in how far they're hitting the ball and will probably lengthen their careers.

Concord, Mass.: Is it true that all golf writers are atrocious golfers?

Leonard Shapiro: I think atrocious might be a little strong. We are ever improving golfers. I personally am thrilled to have broken 90 and have done so on several occasions. Several of my collegues are far better than that. And many writers across the country are low handicap players. In my own situation, I find it difficult to get to the golf course because I spend so much time answering questions on the internet, not to mention covering tournaments and pro football. I'm available for a match any time, any place. Have tee time, will travel. With strokes.

Bethesda, Md.: Do you know why TV analyst Johnny Miller isn't taking advantage of the money on the Senior Tour?

Leonard Shapiro: Johnny Miller is still a wonderful player but he's being paid a ton of money by NBC, he has a large family and prefers not to travel as much on the circuit. He also has a very bad knee that makes it difficult for him to play three straight days, even with a golf cart. He'll play in selected events but I don't expect him to be a full time competitor.

Arlington, Va.: Is it me, or do golf announcers need to take a peek at the real world from time to time? Gary McCord was an unpleasant distraction from a nice afternoon of golf Sunday. Prior to Garcia's tee shot, McCord literally seemed to think it could possible be the last shot of his career – that he would shatter his wrist. Any recall of a golfer destroying his career with one specific shot? Also, it's way too early to get fixated on a Tiger-Garcia rivalry, he should have just shut up about it, and let us appreciate the day for what it was.

Leonard Shapiro: Garcia could have been hurt on that shot under the tree on the 16th – that's one of the reasons he closed his eyes and backed up instinctively. The ball could have hit a root or the base of the tree and come back and hit him or he could have broken his club and the club head could have popped him in the face and finally, he could have seriously injured one or both of his wrists if he made more contact with wood than ball. There have been players who have missed tournaments because of such injuries. I can remember Tiger pulling out of a U.S. Open when he hurt his wrist trying to hit out of a deep rough. I don't think McCord was trying to overdramatize it nor was his talk about Tiger-Sergio premature. I suspect McCord was not the only one who wrote or talked about the incident on 13 when Sergio looked at the tee at Woods after making birdie and threw down the gauntlet. These two will be doing this for many years to come. Count on it.

Concord, Mass.: So I'll bet you are feeling pretty cocky about picking Tiger to win the PGA. How did you know? See you next month!!

Your loving brother Eric

Leonard Shapiro: I picked Tiger to win the U.S. Open and the British Open, so one out of three isn't bad. If I'd only made that bet with a bookmaker, I'd be retired by now. I suspect I'll keep picking Tiger and/or Garcia/Duval for the next 15 years. Can't wait until the Ryder Cup.

Arlington, Va.: For those of us who don't reguarly follow golf, can you explain the difference between the competition in the Ryder Cup and that of the normal tournaments that are held every week?

Leonard Shapiro: Regular tournaments like the PGA Championship are four holes of stroke play, meaning you add up the number of shots you took and that is your final score. The Ryder Cup is three days of match play in which you play to win every hole. In other words, my score against your score on the first hole, on the second hole, on the third hole, etc., etc. If I beat you on each hole through the first 10 holes, the match is over by a margin of 10 and eight – meaning I've won 10 holes, there are only eight holes left to play and you can't beat me so let's go have a beer in the clubhouse. The Ryder Cup consists of two man teams the first two days. The best score by either player on the American team is matched against the best score on the European twosome to determine who wins the best hole. On Sunday, they go to singles competition – one against one, also in match play.

Washington, D.C.: Have the demographics changed for televised golf? I've been curious whether, for the teenage crowd, golf is now competing with sports such as baseball, football, and basketball.

Leonard Shapiro: I think the demographics are pretty much the same, although Wood's presence the last few years have attracted a younger set of eyeballs to the set, but the core audience remains the over-35 generation, generally more middle to upper-middle class and affluent – one reason you see so many advertisers for cars, financial services, and golf equipment and attire, all at prices most teenagers and twentysomethings I know, save for Sergio Garcia, cannot afford.

Silver Spring, Md.: Is the D.C. area in line for any future major tournaments? Do you know of any plans from the local courses to bid for one?

Leonard Shapiro: The next significant event, save for the Kemper Open, will be the President's Cup in September 2000 at the Robert Trent Jones golf club near Mannassas, Va. Congressional Country club, following a hugely successful U.S. Open in 1997 tried and failed to get a future Ryder Cup but almost certainly will be considered for a future U.S. Open – likely in the latter part of the next decade. The LPGA is also looking to return to the Washington area at some point, but not for a major championship.

Potomac, Md.: I was fascinated by Mike Weir's performance in the PGA and wondered why we don't see more lefties on the tour?

Leonard Shapiro: Weir played well until they shot 80 in the final round and plummeted off the board. There is a good reason there aren't more left-handed players on the tour – many pros will tell youngsters that they are better off playing right-handed because the left arm their strong arm is so integral in the golf swing. Then again, Weir said that as a youngster he wrote Jack Nicklaus and Nicklaus wrote back telling him to stay with a swing that felt most natural to him and that it wasn't necessary to change if he felt more comfortable playing left handed. So he stayed the same. So So Steve Flesh is another talented left-hander now in his second year on the tour. By the way, only one left-hander has ever one a major championship – Bob Charles of New Zealand in the British Open. That's all the time we have with Len Shapiro. Join us again next week for another addition of Sports Online.

© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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