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FORE! Examiner Weekend Golf Guide – March 29

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Opening up the green jacket: You would think all of the winners from the past year would be in the Masters. Not so. But Augusta may change its criteria. Eight PGA winners will not be teeing it up next week. Among them is Aussie John Senden, who won the John Deere Classic and his national title, but was 53rd when he fell ill two weeks ago and couldn’t play, thwarting his chance to move into the top 50.

There used to be two givens in golf. Whenever the PGA teed it up, Tiger Woods was the favorite for whatever tournament he entered. The same could be said for the LPGA and Annika Sorenstam. But after the last two seasons, Sorenstam’s perch as the unquestioned No. 1 women’s player in the world is no longer safe. In fact, Sorenstam could be knocked from the top spot in the rankings this week by Lorena Ochoa, who was the LPGA Player of the Year in 2006. Sorenstam, who has 10 career major titles, has finished second and eighth in her two outings this year and has won the former Dinah Shore event three times (2001, ’02 and ’05). Her next victory will the 70th of her career.

This is tuneup week for the PGA. Many of the big names, including Tiger Woods, PhilMickelson and Vijay Singh, are taking the week off in order to concentrate on their preparation for next week’s Masters. So this gives the underlings of the PGA — as well as some of the Euros making the trek and getting reacquainted with the U.S. — a chance to shine.

Every other year, Golf Digest comes out with its top 100 course in the nation. This year’s list is much like the previous one — with only two slight shuffles. Augusta National dropped from second to third, while Shinnecock Hills in Southampton, N.Y., traded places with the home of the Masters. Seminole in Juno Beach, Fla., went from No. 9 to No. 10, Crystal Downs in Frankfurt, Mich., moved up a spot and into the top 10. Dropping from No. 9 to No. 11 was National Golf Links of America, Shinnecock Hills’ city rival. Remaining No. 1 is Pine Valley in New Jersey. The rest of the top 10 is Cypress Point, Oakmont, Pebble Beach, Merion, Winged Foot, Seminole and Crystal Downs. San Francisco Golf Club came in 37th, down from 31st.

THIS WEEK’S TEE TIMES

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PGA

EVENT: Shell Houston Open

WHEN: Today-Sunday

WHERE: Humble, Texas

COURSE: Redstone Golf Club, par 72

DEFENDING CHAMP: Stuart Appleby

LPGA

EVENT: Kraft Nabisco Champ-ionship

WHEN: Today-Sunday

WHERE: Rancho Mirage

COURSE: Mission Hills Country Club, par 72

DEFENDING CHAMP: Karrie Webb

CHAMPIONS

EVENT: Ginn Champ-ionship

WHEN: Friday-Sunday

WHERE: Palm Coast, Fla.

COURSE: Ocean Hammock Golf Club

DEFENDING CHAMP: None (inaugural event)

NATIONWIDE

EVENT: Livermore Valley Wine Country Championship

WHEN: Today-Sunday

WHERE: Livermore

COURSE: The Course at Wente Vineyards, par 71

DEFENDING CHAMP: Tripp Isenhour

EURO PGA

EVENT: Estoril Open of Portugal

WHEN: Today-Sunday

WHERE: Cascais, Portugal

COURSE: Quinta da Marinha Resort, par 72

DEFENDING CHAMP: Paul Broadhurst

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