Golfers donate, raise money for New Orleans

Updated: April 27, 2006, 11:11 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS -- Before they start playing for $6 million at the Zurich Classic, Masters champion Phil Mickelson, David Toms and other players at English Turn are giving money away to help rebuild New Orleans.

Toms, the only Louisiana native to win this tournament, already has raised about $1.6 million through his foundation. On Wednesday, he teamed with one of his sponsors, Humana, to hand out $100,000 checks to four local groups trying to help children and families recover from Hurricane Katrina. One of those charities is Desire Street Academy, run by former Heisman Trophy winner Danny Wuerffel.

Mickelson wrote a $250,000 check last year to foundations run by Toms, Kelly Gibson and Hal Sutton.

When he registered for the Zurich Classic, his first tournament since winning the Masters, he decided to donate his entire earnings this week to hurricane relief. Mickelson said he also would designate one tournament for at least the next five years in which he will give the money he makes to Katrina relief funds.

"It's going to take time and it's a tough situation," Mickelson said. "But it's going to get done."

How much he gives this week depends on how he plays, and while Lefty said any player is only as good as his last tournament, he's not putting much stock in his victory earlier this month at Augusta National, which brought him his second green jacket and his third consecutive year winning a major.

The two-week celebration was sweet, but certainly different from two years ago.

He didn't ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange. He didn't jump at the chance to go on talk shows. And unlike 2004, he didn't walk around in a daze, still having a hard time believing he was a major champion.

"I was not just excited, but almost in disbelief there for a week or two," Mickelson said. "This time, there is a great sense of satisfaction having won, and having been able to beat such a great field."

He hasn't play much golf in the last two weeks, and while he spent Tuesday at Winged Foot -- already thinking about the U.S. Open and a chance to win his third straight major - Mickelson only went around the course with a putter.

"I've got a ways to go before I'm ready to play some top golf this week," he said. "I haven't done the drills as diligently as I did leading up to the Masters. But it doesn't feel far off. It feels pretty close. I will need a couple of good practice sessions. Fortunately, I tee off late tomorrow. Get a good practice session and hopefully I'll be sharp this week."

There wasn't much time to work on his game Wednesday.

New Orleans was socked with rain much of the morning, cutting short the pro-am. No one played more than nine holes on an English Turn course suddenly soft and soggy, and some only got in five holes.

Plus, Mickelson had a long line of television interviews. He spent part of the afternoon in a chair before a bank of cameras, listening to questions through an ear piece and firing away the same answers about his Masters win, New Orleans and Winged Foot.

The pro-am round -- what little was left of it -- wasn't much better.

Mickelson spent the early part of his round watching shots disappear into the water hazards, and someone asked him if it lifted the spirits of his amateur partners, knowing they could beat a three-time major winner on at least a couple of holes.

"Understand, if you give anybody enough shots, they'll eventually beat you," Mickelson said. "I didn't want them to be intimidated. So I just hit a couple in the water to show them that it's OK. They relaxed and we had fun."

Mickelson nearly won the Zurich Classic two years ago in his first appearance since winning the Masters, but he didn't make enough birdies down the stretch at English Turn and was overcome by a closing 63 from Vijay Singh.

The defending champion is Tim Petrovic, and the field includes four of the top 10 players on the PGA Tour money list -- Mickelson, Toms, Houston Open winner Stuart Appleby and Players Champion Stephen Ames.

Mickelson will be trying to win his third straight PGA Tour event, and he's keeping one part of the equation in place. He said he likely would use two drivers at English Turn, as he did at the Masters and BellSouth Classic. One helps him with a fade, the other a draw.

And he said he probably would use both drivers at Winged Foot.

But the U.S. Open can wait. Mickelson has won the last two majors, putting him halfway home to Tiger Woods' feat in 2000-01 when he held all four majors at the same time. But he doesn't like talking about it, pushing aside questions that first came up at the Masters.

"To look that far in advance, it's not smart because it doesn't give me the best chance to play well in the next tournament, which is what I'm trying to do," Mickelson said.

Still, he doesn't mind other people talking about his chance to win four straight majors.

"This is much better than the stuff I was getting two years ago," Mickelson said. "So if that's the tough questions that I'm facing, I'm all for it."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press