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Maruyama shoots 68 despite injuries

10/31/2002

ATLANTA -- Shigeki Maruyama had no reason to think he could
finish his first round at the Tour Championship, let alone break
par.

The Japanese star has been out the last six weeks with a
shoulder injury. Once he was healthy enough to swing a club, he
played Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles last week was a tuneup
and injured his lower right back.

Maruyama isn't comfortable speaking English, but he explained
the cure by mimicking a series of injections -- cortisone,
presumably -- that left him fit enough to play.

And a new putter helped in a round of 68 Thursday.

''Couple of injections Monday night,'' he said through an
interpreter.

Maruyama won the Byron Nelson Classic in May, becoming the first
Japanese player to win twice on the PGA Tour.

He injured his right shoulder during the Pennsylvania Classic in
early September, and has spent the rest of the time going to
doctors. He feared surgery might be his only option, but now says
he might be able to do without it and open the season in the
Mercedes Championships.

''I had no expectations, and that helped my game,'' Maruyama
said. ''I was very happy to swing with both hands.''

With the shoulder injury, he has been letting go of the club
with one hand on his follow through.

Asked if the injury was frustrating, he said, ''I have stress
all the time.''

Keeping busy
Retief Goosen would love to win the Tour
Championship in his first attempt, but the real prize is next week.

The former U.S. Open champion is in a tight battle with Padraig
Harrington on the European tour's Order of Merit.

Goosen leads by about $54,000, and the race will be decided next
week at Valderrama in the season-ending Volvo Masters. Harrington
is playing in the Italian Open this week, although the purse is
small and he already is 10 shots out of the lead.

''I won it last year and I would love to win it again,'' Goosen
said after opening with a 69 at East Lake. ''Winning any Order of
Merit, being the best player in Europe, is a good achievement.''

Goosen left the Madrid Open on Monday to get to Atlanta, and he
will return to Spain after the Tour Championship is over.

With so much on the line, he didn't think twice about coming
across the Atlantic for only one week.

''I wanted to play here,'' he said. ''It's my first time in the
Tour Championship, and I was definitely going to come. I'm going to
try to do well this week. I'm not really thinking about next
week.''

Goosen isn't the
only guy piling up frequent flyer miles.

Steve Williams, the caddie for Tiger Woods, left the Disney
World Golf Classic two weeks ago for New Zealand so he could race
cars.

He won both races over the weekend, then got on a plane Monday
morning and arrived in Atlanta on Monday night, a trip of about 24
hours. Williams was on the course the next morning at 7 a.m. to map
out yardage.

Not a fair test
Steve Lowery shot a 60 in the pro-am at East Lake
on Tuesday, but don't look for his name in the record books.

Rick Burton, the golf director at East Lake, said Lowery's score
will not be recognized because it was played under the lift, clean
and place rule, and because the course for the pro-am is set up
easier.

Vijay Singh owns the competitive course record with a 7-under 63
in the first round of the 1998 Tour Championship.

Bryce Molder owns the course record when East Lake plays to its
regular par of 72. For the Tour Championship, Nos. 5 and 10 are
converted to par-4s.

Notes
Chris DiMarco went to the Atlanta Thrashers hockey
game and got booed. He concluded an interview at the arena with the
Florida Gator ''chomp,'' not the gesture most of the Georgia fans
wanted to see. Florida and Georgia play this weekend in
Jacksonville, Fla. ... Only 10 of the 30 players in the field broke
par. ... Charles Howell III won't be through playing after this
week. He plans to play in the Taiheiyo Masters on the Japanese
tour, then the Australian Open.