The golf equipment trailers representing my favorite charities -- Mizuno, Pure, Callaway, Titleist, MacGregor, Ping among others -- are parked right behind the driving range at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, almost giving the feel that a circus is in town. Only this isn't a circus. With eight of the top 10 men's players in the world on hand, this week's Booz Allen Classic provided one of the best fields since the PGA Tour began stopping here in 1980.
Be still my heart.
Vijay Singh, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen, Sergio Garcia, Chris DiMarco, Adam Scott, Fred Funk, Jim Furyk and Fred Couples all here, except, of course, Tiger Woods, who will only come to the Washington area for either the U.S. Open or the Presidents Cup and, of course, in the likely event he is some day elected president.
In most years, old friend Ben Brundred, who has been closely involved with the event since its Kemper days when it moved from Charlotte 25 years ago, has had to scratch and hustle together a field, particularly when the tournament moved from Congressional to Avenel 18 years ago. This year, a $5 million purse, a one-year return to Congressional and a date the week before the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, N.C., ensured Brundred, now the tournament's chairman, and Booz Allen of a "major" event.
"The players like the course and the date," Brundred explained.
Next year, however, Brundred and Steven Lesnik, chairman of KemperSports, the management company that runs the tournament, must return to scratching for the better players as the tournament returns to Avenel and a date the week after the U.S. Open. That concerns Booz Allen executives, who would like a commitment from the PGA for a more attractive date on the schedule.
"Back in 1980 our purse was $400,000 that put us in the top 10 percent of PGA tournaments," Brundred said the other day. "Now our $5 million purse has us in the middle of the pack. Back then, all you did was close the course for two weeks. Nowadays the money and hospitality demands have grown so much. In 1980, the 125th player on tour earned $22,000; today No. 125 on tour probably will earn $750,000."
"You've got to work it year-round," Lesnik added. "Congressional is a magnet for the players."
That said, I have a suggestion: Alternate the event among Congressional, Robert Trent Jones in Gainesville, and maybe Avenel, if they can renovate the layout to the satisfaction of the finicky players. If Avenel won't fly, you can borrow my Patriot Club card at Stonewall and have a blast.
So savor the week and watch the big names duel with the Matt Gogels of the Tour.
Defending Coach K
The American Express TV commercial running during the NBA playoffs -- and previously during the NCAA tournament -- featuring Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski has been both compelling and controversial.
Krzyzewski, one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time with 3 national titles, 9 ACC tournament championships and 10 regular season ACC titles, is interesting and introspective explaining his role as a college basketball coach and teacher, as well as assessing the importance of teamwork.
But some college coaches have wondered if the commercials give Krzyzewski a "recruiting" advantage.
"The criticism goes with the territory," Krzyzewski responded in a telephone interview. "There has been some negative reaction in the basketball community. I'm surprised by it and sorry some people are offended. I thought it was tasteful -- and done for a great company.
"I felt I was doing something worthwhile. Why not have people involved in college athletics doing something that shows we teach values? It allows people to see another side of us. I hope what I did opens the market for other coaches."
Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen got nice play last fall for his "We must protect this house" commercial for Under Armour athletic clothing company and U-Md. basketball coach Gary Williams gets his share of local commercials.
"Coaches are visible," Williams said.
Former Georgetown coach John Thompson, now a commentator for WTEM and TNT, said: "Mike earned that commercial; why should you have to apologize for making money? I'm not jealous of him, only envious."
Sitting in traffic on the Beltway, trying to get to RFK Stadium, I wondered:
* Why does the Nats' public address announcer wait until an inning is nearly over before sharing lineup changes with fans? Can we fix that? Please.
* I know Washington hasn't had baseball for 34 years, but some fans need to learn how to be fans, starting with staying in one's seat during an inning.
* Can we get WWZZ's fine radio team to improve its postgame shows, adding live interviews with players and Manager Frank Robinson?
* TV commentator Ron Darling, who has his critics, has shown improvement but still could do a better job of connecting his statements and interacting with ace play-by-play man Mel Proctor. Memo to MASN producers: Enough of the artsy shots from field level.
* The Nationals also need to upgrade the selling of the team in Washington, such as opening a ticket and merchandise store to compete with the Orioles store in Farragut Square, as well as in other parts of D.C. Attendance last week at RFK during the win streak (about 26,000 a game) could have been better.
Touching the Bases
* Bad week for the Redskins. The NFL penalized the bumbling local football team three workout days for violating league rules governing the intensity of offseason training. This on top of safety Sean Taylor being arrested last week on felony aggravated assault charges in Miami. It was nice Coach Joe Gibbs had a conversation with Taylor and excused him from minicamp, when Taylor had no intention of showing up anyway. I know, he's only 22, starting his second year in the league. But he's an embarrassment.
* Up close and personal: After years of planning, the Capitals and Arlington County were to hold a ceremonial "ice-breaking" Saturday to begin construction of the team's training facility and community ice rink on the roof of my neighborhood's Ballston Mall. What's needed now, before I learn to skate, is a hockey team playing in a hockey league.
At the same mall, in the health club on the third floor, overheard this conversation:
Jim: "Tony Stewart was out of line bumping Jeff Gordon."
Jen: "Get over it; that's racing."
Me: "Oh, geeeez."
Off to Zola to meet Feinstein and Russell Crowe, who are teaming on a new book, "Cinderella Men" -- then to the fights at MCI. If you need me I can be reached at Talkback@washpost.com.