Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Players Not Immune to March Madness; They Want a Win This Week, but They Still Live and Die by Their Brackets

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Players Not Immune to March Madness; They Want a Win This Week, but They Still Live and Die by Their Brackets

Article excerpt

Byline: Garry Smits, The Times-Union

PGA Tour players are no different from any other sports fans during the month of March.

They've got basketball brackets, many of them are busted and some players are swearing in retribution that they'll never play a corporate outing in Vermont.

"My bracket's a mess," said Scott Verplank. "Who would have picked Vermont and Bucknell?"

They've got some important work to do in March, such as this week's Players Championship, for the largest purse in professional golf. But when Tour players are not competing or practicing, the chances are good that whatever TV they're near -- in the locker room, the Tour fitness trailer or their hotels -- the NCAA basketball tournament will be on.

"We're like any fan when it comes to college basketball," said Fred Funk, a former golf coach at Maryland and feeling the absence of his beloved Terrapins in the tournament this year. "When we're not at work, we're watching the games, or watching the highlights."

Joe Ogilvie, a Duke graduate, said the trash talk involving basketball in the locker room or on the practice range is far more prevalent than golf.

"I guarantee you that there aren't five guys out here [on the PGA Tour] who care if their college golf team beat someone else's college golf team," he said. "But if Duke beats someone's team in basketball, I'm letting them know it."

It was hard to tell what Kenny Perry was more relieved about: Vijay Singh hitting a ball into the water last week to hand Perry a victory at the Bay Hill Invitational, or Perry's Kentucky Wildcats surviving the upset bug that chewed on some other top seeds.

"You bet I'm following them every step," said Perry, a native of Elizabethtown, Ky. "Just because you play golf for a living doesn't mean you don't care about other sports."

Jeff Sluman, who played golf at Florida State, said overall interest in college basketball on Tour still ranks below the NFL and college football. But he said in the spring, college hoops are king.

"The NBA died as far as interest out here after Michael Jordan retired," Sluman said. …

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