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Best clubs, richest golfers, petty Seve and wild dogs

By Tim McDonald, Contributor

A great part of Golf Digest's February edition is taken up by its 47-page spread, titled "The Hot List," in which the magazine ranked top clubs, but perhaps a more interesting story is its listing of the top 50 money makers in golf.

The magazine expresses mild surprise that Arnold Palmer is no longer the king of cash. To those who don't follow such things, it might be surprising Arnie, No. 3 on the list, is there at all. After all, the guy hasn't played competitively in how many decades?

The fact Tiger Woods is the top money-maker is certainly no surprise, even though he is no longer the top-ranked player in the world. The magazine lists his income at $89.4 million, $83 million of which came from endorsements and other off-course earnings. Those come from such companies as Nike, American Express, General Motors and, yes, Golf Digest.

For comparisons sake, Mel Gibson and Oprah Winfrey raked in $210 million, according to the magazine.

Non-golf companies spending more

Another surprise is that non-golf companies' endorsement spending increased 200 percent from 1996 to 2001. Equipment companies still have the biggest deals, but more overall money comes from non-golf companies.

As for its "Hot List," the time and effort that went into the research was impressive. For the record, the Taylor Made r7 Quad was the "editors choice," followed by the Taylor Made Rescue Mid for wood-like hybrids; the Titleist 503.H for iron-like hybrids and, of course, the Titleist Pro VI was the choice for best ball.

The magazine also has an interesting interview with two-time U.S. Open winner Curtis Strange. Strange on Seve Ballesteros: "Some pros are harder to play with than others and the worst was Seve Ballesteros. To say he was difficult is an understatement."

Ballesteros, according to Strange, employed such adolescent gamesmanship as coughing during his opponent's backswing, and acting hurt when he was confronted.

On Tiger Woods, Strange said: "...what fascinates me is his stubbornness, his reluctance to take a step back and say "maybe this plan isn't working."

Ph.D of "Duh" University

The magazine has a comprehensive travel feature on golf cruises, but a worthless essay on "Five habits of highly effective practicers," by Gregg Steinberg, Ph.D. Some samples:

"Play at work. Imagine yourself playing a round of golf during down time at work."

Or "practice with a shag mentality ... Find a field, hit 20 to 30 balls and then go pick them up." Find a field?

Or "Adding meaning to your practice sessions will enhance your ability to remember key feelings of your swing and essential elements of your game"


Golf shorts for $600

Travel & Leisure Golf makes no bones about the fact it is aimed at a very upscale audience, so don't expect to find many "best bargain" stories. For instance, its "Golf Life," section celebrates the joys of driving a 2005 Bentley Continental GT Coupe (base price: $156,990), and offers golf shorts in brushed cotton twill that go for $600.

It also offers a dubious "story" touting a new, hand-held rangefinder gadget. It is obviously an advertisement, though it is not clearly marked as such, and is bylined by Leonard Finkel, a freelance writer who has shilled the product in other publications.

This is a magazine that takes itself and the sport a little too seriously. The same magazine that promoted Tiger Woods for President.

It does have a travel story on golf in Puerto Rico that shows signs of objectivity. The story, mostly photos with text by Bob Cullen, notes that most Puerto Rico golf is "enclave golf" that takes place in "gated golf communities" and that locals are apt to get a much lower rate than tourists.

Cullen also notes that, for an island, the courses don't offer many sea views because most are blocked by residential developments.

"But, that is a quibble," Cullen writes.

Chink in Vijay's armor?

Golf Week quotes "The Scotsman" when reporting that Vijay Singh's caddy Dave Renwick stayed in Scotland when Singh started his competitive year in Hawaii.

"I never got a 'good morning' from Vijay," Renwick told the paper. "Or 'good club' after a shot. Or 'have a nice night' at the end of a day. It was either nothing or a negative if he did speak to me. Being courteous isn't much to ask...He was always tossing clubs and accusing me of getting yardages wrong. There's only so much of that stuff you can take, no matter how good the money is."

On the young and old

The Michelle Wie factor got tons of ink from various newspapers covering the Sony Open. Vartan Kupelian of the Detroit News, on her making the cut, wrote: "I suspect she'll be trying hard to make it this time and that will be a critical mistake, certain to hinder her performance."

She wasn't trying hard last time?

Tom Kite's return to the PGA Tour got a lot of play, too. Paul Arnett of the Honolulu Star-Bulletin had probably the best line in his profile on Kite.

"When Tom Kite joined the PGA tour in 1972, Roger Staubach was the MVP of Super Bowl VI, Jerry West led the Los Angeles Lakers to the NBA title and Roberto Clemente collected his 3,000th hit.

Ain't none of them making no comeback."

Bad travel writing

This month's "overblown, incomplete and misleading travel writing award" goes to Marcia Levin, a freelance writer and a member of the Society of American Travel Writers.

Levin, writing for Cruise Mates, wrote about the shopping on St. Thomas.

"If your gift list includes a bottle of fragrance for Aunt Minnie, a fifth of gin for Grandpa or a spectacular piece of jewelry for someone special, how serendipitous that you've sailed into St. Thomas!"

Levin wrote about how liquor is one of the best buys in Charlotte Amalie's shopping district. What she doesn't mention is that it can be bought for about half the price at the nearby K-Marts.

Of trash and wild dogs

Levin describes St. Thomas' Magen's Bay as "one of the prettiest crescent-shaped beaches you'll ever see."

Again, what she doesn't bother to point out is that many locals don't go there anymore because of the trash and cigarette butts that litter the beach.

"Magen's is always crowded, but the western end is more secluded," she writes.

Yes, I believe that's where the female tourist was attacked by wild dogs a year or so ago.

Cruise Mates describes itself as "an independently owned and editorially unbiased Internet Cruise Magazine and Cruise Information Guidebook ..."

Tim McDonaldTim McDonald, Contributor

Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.

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