L.A. Nissan Open Weekend Notebook

By Bob Buttitta, Contributor

Inside the Ropes with TGM's Bob Buttitta

Sibling Rivalry A Big Hit In L.A.

From Jeff and Beau Bridges to the entire clan of Baldwins, Hollywood has always embraced brother-acts. The Nissan Los Angeles Open is played in the shadow of Hollywood and this year's tournament is featured golf's version of brotherly love with two sets of brothers all within four strokes of the lead heading into Sunday's final round.

Leading the brother charge was David Sutherland, who sat alone at the top of the tournament at 9-under, 204. David's brother Kevin, who finished fifth at the Buick Invitational the week before, was among a group of player at 208, four strokes behind his brother David. Also in the hunt were the Freeman brothers, Robin and Jeff. Robin Freeman was just two strokes off the lead after three rounds while Jeff Freeman was three shots down.

Neither Sutherland brother has ever won the PGA Tour, but both do have second place finishes to their credit. Before he left Riviera Country Club on Saturday night, David Sutherland said the one thing he and brother Kevin would discuss that night at dinner was the chance that either of them would win the tournament.

"It would mean so much to each of us to win, that it's something we just don't talk about," David said. "If I can't win this tournament (Los Angeles) I sure hope that Kevin does."

The Sutherland brothers are very close. They live 10 minutes from each other in their hometown of Sacramento and when they are on the road, they often work on their games together, especially on the putting greens.

For the second week in a row, David and Kevin were paired together in the first two rounds of play. David said the pairing is a lot of fun for both of them.

"We seem to respond to being paired together,' David said. "As I tell everyone, I've known him my whole life and luckily we get along."

While the Sutherland's were the story in the third round, the early round brother story went to the Freemans. Jeff Freeman opened the tournament with a 66, putting him two strokes off the lead. His brother Robin did him one better with a 65. Both said it's fun having the other guy to compete against.

"He's (Jeff) a great player, he's just had trouble getting through the second stage of Q-school," Robin said. "We didn't have much of a rivalry (growing up) since I always beat him," Robin said. "We've had so many great brother players over the years. My brother Craig is probably better than either one of us but he just doesn't want to play."

Jeff said he and his brother pull for each other. "We've never had a big rivalry," Jeff said. "We pull for each other so hard. I hope he breaks out soon.

Southpaw Crazy

Not along ago it was nearly impossible to find any player on the PGA Tour that played left-handed. A combination of very little equipment for lefties forced many potential southpaws to learn to play right handed.

But over the last century, that has changed and more and more lefties are making their mark on the tour. It starts with one of the tour's best, 2000 Buick Invitational winner Phil Mickelson but the list does not end there.

There's Russ Cochran, Steve Flesch and Greg Chalmers. Flesch actually started out playing right handed before switching to his natural left side. The move seems to have paid off; he was the 1998 PGA Rookie of the Year.

Cochran started his golf career playing with a set of ladies left handed clubs because he could not find any equipment. He's got the right equipment and in 1991 won the Centel Open.

Chalmers was tied for the lead at 9-under after the first two rounds of the Nissan Los Angeles Open but dropped back a bit with a 74 on Saturday.

Even those that don't strike the ball left-handed are getting into the southpaw craze. Notah Begay III uses a two faced putter that allows him to make some of his putts left-handed.

And they call natural lefties a little strange.

Tiger Creating Fans For Other Players

There's no doubt that Tiger Woods is the PGA's most popular players with both adults and kids alike. Many new golf fans have been drawn to the game after seeing and hearing about Tiger's exploits. But some of those fans that initially came out supporting Woods are now taking their support to other players.

Kevin Davis, 11, of Santa Monica, said he started out a Tiger Woods fan but now he roots for Jesper Parnevik. Davis was following his old favorite player and his new favorite player during the third round of the Nissan Los Angeles Open.

"I still like to watch Tiger because he's a great player and can hit the ball so far, but I like Jesper more because he seems to have fun," Davis said. "Jesper wears bright colors and he will talk to the fans.

"Tiger is too serious, even after the round he won't stop and sign autographs but I got one from Jesper yesterday."

Davis' friend Mark Phillips, 11, said he's a David Duval fan. "He's just really cool," Phillips said. "I like the way he dresses, especially his sun glasses. He's a great player."

West Coast Winners Gets A Little More Cash

Palm Computing Inc., a 3Com company that manufacturers handheld computers, signed an agreement with the PGA Tour to sponsor the 2000 Palm Performance Award, a $200,000 bonus that will go to the player who plays best during the nine tournament PGA Tour West Coast Swing.

The recipient of the Palm Performance Award will be determined by a point system for top 8 finishes. A victory is worth 100 points, followed by decreasing 10-point increments from 70 for second place through 10 points for the eighth. The player with the most points will receive a $200,000 bonus and a Palm VII handheld computer.

Heading into the Nissan Open, Tiger Woods led with 200 points, followed by Jasper Parnevik with 180 points, Tom Lehman with 127.5 and Ernie Els with 110.

"The Palm Performance Award adds another element of excitement to the early portion of the PGA Tour schedule," said Tom Wade, senior vice president of corporate marketing and business development for the PGA Tour.

Bob Buttitta, Contributor

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