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Jimmy Walker recalls the hole he played with Tiger Woods; MLB.com gets small PGA Tour presence

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SAN DIEGO - Jimmy Walker is playing the opening two rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open with Tiger Woods.

That will be 35 more holes than the first time they played together.

Walker was a senior at Baylor when he used his parents' credit card — against their wishes because it was during finals — to go through Monday qualifying for the Byron Nelson Championship. He got in the field and after taking one final exam, ran up to Dallas for a practice round at Cottonwood Valley using a local caddie.

"All of a sudden, Tiger is over on the front nine and my guys is like, 'Hey, there's Tiger over there,'" Walker said.

This was 2001. It was Woods' first tournament since he won the Masters for his fourth straight major.

"So he pretty much was owning everybody," Walker said.

Woods skipped over to the par 5 that Walker was playing, so Walker picked up his ball and headed to the next tee. Woods picked up his ball and headed to the same tee.

"He's like, 'Can I play through you? I'm trying to play real fast and get a couple of holes in?' I said, 'Dude, you can do whatever you want,'" Walker recalled.

So this was the one hole they played together, and it was memorable for Walker for one reason.

"I am literally shaking," he said. "I have every bad-swing thought possible — don't shank it, top it, all that stuff. I make contact. I look up and it's heading right at it. Can't see it because it's kind of in the setting sun. We walked down there and he asked what's going on, I told him I Monday qualified. We talked and it was really cool and he was really nice. We get down there and his ball is about 15 feet away and mine's about 6 feet away."

Woods picked up his ball and was on his way. But there was a lesson for Walker.

"I can remember thinking, 'Man, if I was that nervous and I hit that good of a shot, I guarantee I will never be that nervous again my entire life — ever,'" Walker said.

He recalls narrowly missing the cut. And then he qualified for his first U.S. Open at Southern Hills. Walker played a practice round that week with Nick Faldo.

No big deal.

"It was so easy compared to that one shot," he said.

So when his wife sent him a text Tuesday that he was playing with Woods and Jordan Spieth, Walker offered a predictable response: "Sounds fun."

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WESTWOOD ON BOARD: Lee Westwood feels he is settled in to his new life living in Florida and playing a majority of his events in America.

And on Tuesday, he had his first meeting as a member of the PGA Tour's Player Advisory Council. Westwood was among four players who were selected by the players serving on the policy board.

"I don't know what they're expecting," he said. "I don't know what to expect. I think I'll just sit there for a while and listen. Obviously, 20 years on the tour, I've seen a few things, so I might be able to comment a little bit."

Westwood, with 38 wins worldwide and a No. 1 ranking, never served on the tournament committee in all his years on the European Tour. He said he would have served on the committee, but he was never asked.

"I don't think I'm controversial or anything like that, but occasionally sensible," he said. "Occasionally, I have a good idea."

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MALNATI AND MLB: As a PGA Tour rookie, Peter Malnati is taking a close look at the schedule.

The Major League Baseball schedule.

Malnati is part of a recent crop of players who have deals with MLB.com, one of the premier websites in sports. He has the logo on his golf bag, and one of the perks really caught his attention. Malnati says he gets two tickets to any game all year.

"I'm going to catch a lot of Kansas City Royals games," said Malnati, who wore Royals colours when he won a Web.com Tour event last year.

The Royals?

"That's exactly why I'm a fan," said Malnati, who grew up in Tennessee and played golf at Missouri. "I was dating a girl from Kansas City and we got to a game and I thought, 'This is pathetic.' It's a great ballpark. This team needs fans and no one is here. So I'm a die-hard Kansas City fan."

MLB.com spokesman Matt Gould said it also has deals with Shawn Stefani, former NCAA champion Max Homa and Zack Fisher, who was medallist at Q-school last month to earn his Web.com Tour card.

"The general thinking is twofold," Gould said. "First and foremost, we're big fans of the PGA Tour in a general sense. Secondly, we think there is a great, smart crossover opportunity with a like-minded fan base for young and upcoming players. And a lot of these guys have friends who are baseball players."

Prior to these limited endorsement deals, MLB.com had a strong golf presence that not many knew about — it powers Tiger Woods' website. In a deal that dates to 2006 and was expanded five years ago, MLB Advanced Media works with Woods' staff to produce the website, host it on their servers and update the content.

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HIGH-TECH ANALYSIS: Ben Hogan looked for answers in the dirt. Humana Challenge winner Patrick Reed has turned to cyberspace.

Reed uses ShotsToHole.com, a computer program co-founded by Australian teaching pro Stuart Leong, to help identify weaknesses and ways to save strokes. It was hard to argue with the results last week in La Quinta after Reed shot 9-under 63 in each of the first three rounds and held on for his second victory in his last nine tournaments.

"It tells you really what you need to work on and what will help you save the most shots," Reed said. "That's key to us on being able to dial down our distances. Not only that, but also dial down what we need to work on to be successful."

Reed takes notes during rounds and uses information from the PGA Tour's ShotLink database.

"We'll get home this afternoon and I'll type in this round and see what it is I need to work on," Reed said.

"You enter your stats and it kind of takes it to the next level. It's, 'OK, how far is the hole? What club did you hit?' You might hit the fairway, but did you feel like you hit your target? Did you hit left of your target? Right of your target? How far are you hitting into the green and what's your lie? Did you hit it past the hole, short of the hole, left of the hole, right? And putts, same thing. ... It gets very detailed."

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DIVOTS: Zach Johnson is taking a four-week break before the Match Play Championship. "I know it's a necessity, I know it's good for me, it's good for my family, but I'm also hesitant because I'm playing well," Johnson said. ... The Senior British Open will be played at Sunningdale in 2015 and Carnoustie the following year. ... Maj. Dan Rooney, founder of the Folds of Honor Foundation and Patriot Golf Day, and majority owner of The Patriot Golf Club in Tulsa, Okla., has been selected by the American Society of Golf Course Architects as the 2014 Donald Ross Award recipient. ... Kiradech Aphibarnrat of Thailand has received an exemption into the Phoenix Open next week.

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STAT OF THE WEEK: Tiger Woods is the only FedEx Cup champion whose season earnings were more than the $10 million bonus. He won the money title with $10.5 million in 2009 and with $10.8 million in 2007.

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FINAL WORD: "I don't like not playing in big tournaments." — Jimmy Walker, on going 11 years without qualifying for the U.S. Open.

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