Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Low-Key Style Works Well at Disney Event

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Low-Key Style Works Well at Disney Event

Article excerpt

LAKE BUENA VISTA -- The National Car Rental Classic has been a PGA Tour event for 30 years -- older than The Players Championship, The Memorial and The International. And the folks at Walt Disney World Resorts don't even insist that you capitilize the word "the" when the tournament name comes in the middle of a sentence.

Since it began in 1971, pretentiousness has not been a part of this tournament's makeup. It was a pro-am for the first three rounds, the only Tour event east of Nevada to have amateur partners playing with the touring professionals during competition. Tickets were cheap, players gave fans autographs whenever and wherever they wanted and Mickey and Minnie Mouse presented the trophy to the winner.

And for much of the tournament's history, it was a forgotten fall week for sports fans. College football season was raging all around and it often fell on the same week as the World Series. It didn't help that after Jack Nicklaus won the first three events, the tournament inexplicably reverted to a team format, ensuring that it would be treated with the same regard as meaningless off-season events.

The Disney folks went back to stroke play in 1982, and had a string of reputable winners: Hal Sutton, Payne Stewart, Larry Nelson, Lanny Wadkins and Raymond Floyd. But the late 1980s and early 1990s saw the tournament decline again as the likes of Bob Lohr, Tim Simpson and Rick Fehr won it.

The PGA Tour at Disney is hot again, however. National Car Rental Classic officials can give Tiger Woods a large part of the credit but several other factors also have gone into a third rebirth of this event that now rivals the March Florida Swing Doral Open or the Honda Classic.

-- Big-name winners and fields: Woods is going for his third NCRC title this week, and other winners in the past five years have been David Duval and John Huston. The runners-up have included Stewart, Davis Love III and Ernie Els. This year's field includes the winners of all four major championships (Woods and Vijay Singh), Love, John Daly, and Presidents Cup participants Stuart Appleby, Kirk Triplett, Paul Azinger, Carlos Franco and Mike Weir. …

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