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Tee Time: Ray Lewis on An Unfamiliar Field of Play

By Matt Hombach

Ray Lewis strode confidently across the turf toward the field of battle, a look of supreme determination on his face. Fans rose to their feet and shouted their encouragement to the Ravens legend. All of a sudden, those fans fell silent.

Lewis looked at one of the fans and casually asked, "Do you think this putt will break to the right?"

Last week Lewis traded in his cleats for golf shoes last week when he played host to the Edge Tech RSD Golf Classic at The Woodlands Golf Course in Windsor Mill. The event was just a small part of "Ray's Summer Days," which also included a dinner, sports memorabilia auction, bowling tournament, youth fitness clinic and paintball competition.

While hundreds of golfers teed it up at The Woodlands, Lewis stayed off the course and stuck to the practice green, where he challenged all participants in a putting contest.

"I definitely don't have the swing that Tiger Woods does," Lewis said, "so I stick to putting."

Lewis' putting stroke isn't exactly textbook, but it didn't take him long to get a feel for the greens. Throughout the morning he posed a fairly strong challenge for golfers who passed through the putting station during the 18-hole scramble event.

Proceeds from Ray's Summer Days benefit the Ray Lewis Foundation, which helps disadvantaged children in Baltimore and across the country.

It's Tiger's Tourney And He'll Play If He Wants To

The inaugural AT&T National Tournament is coming up in just a few weeks. The field is shaping up to be one of the best "non-major" fields of the season on the PGA Tour, but is still missing a few key pieces.

Chief among them is the host of the tournament himself --Tiger Woods. While it seems Woods has done his part to promote the event by making several trips to press events in the D.C. area and calling on friends on the tour to commit early, as of this week he was still not committed to play in his own event. His wife, Elin, is pregnant with their first child and the due date falls during tournament week, July 2-8, at Congressional Country Club in Potomac.

"My intention is to play," Woods said. "But my wife may have something to say about that. I love this golf course, and I want to play here, but everybody understands our No. 1 priority is our child."

Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els are also not expected to play. A number of top European players will also skip the event because they're gearing up for their own biggest tournament of the year, the British Open.

The good news is the field already looks outstanding. With names like Darren Clarke, Vijay Singh, Davis Love III, Fred Funk, Jim Furyk, Adam Scott and Stuart Appleby, golf fans will have plenty of superstars to follow around the beautiful and historic Congressional Club.

Many feel Woods will make every effort to tee it up, but if his wife is near delivery or delivers right before the event, chances are slim Woods will take part. Even if he doesn't actually play, fans and event organizers are hopeful Woods will at least stop by Congressional for a day to fulfill his hosting duties.

Passes for the AT&T National are on sale now and can be purchased by calling 1-800-594-TIXX.

The Tiger Woods Foundation, which is organizing and receiving funds from AT&T National, announced that 5,000 passes per day will be distributed at no charge to men and women who are active military personnel.

Open Storylines

Oakmont Country Club outside Pittsburgh plays host to the U.S. Open this week. The tournament traditionally marks the high pointof the PGA Tour's season and always offers high rough, fast greens and much excitement.

Oakmont was the site of Jack Nicklaus' historic unseating of Arnold Palmer as the premier golfer in the game in the 1962 U.S. Open. It will be interesting to see if similar drama unfolds this weekend.

Fan favorite Mickelson, whom many compare to Palmer, comes into the week with an ailing wrist that remains a question mark. It sounds as if Mickelson is healthy and ready to go, but the proof will be in the scores he posts at the long and difficult Oakmont.

The world No.1, Woods, comes off a disappointing 15th place finish at the Memorial Tournament. He always manipulates his playing and practice schedule to get his game to peak during the four majors each year, just as his idol Nicklaus did decades ago. There's no question Woods will be a factor on the weekend.

Another storyline to follow will be the play of Masters champion Zach Johnson. He has been fighting strep throat, but there's no doubt the only man with a chance at golf's grand slam this year will be primed and playing to win.

Fans from the Pittsburgh area will be watching closely to see if Pennsylvania natives Furyk and Rocco Mediate can bring home a major championship for the Keystone State.

ESPN and NBC will be covering all four days of the tournament. In addition, the USGA will again be offering exclusive live coverage of the championship at www.USOpen.com.

Last Call for Father's Day Gifts

With Dad's big day coming up on U.S. Open Sunday, don't forget to grab something great for your golfing guy.

While thoughtful and plan-ahead gift givers already have their Father's Day presents bought and wrapped, many last-minute shoppers are still wondering what to buy.

Bill Cullum, PGA golf professional at Gunpowder Falls Golf Course in Kingsville, offered a word of advice for golf-related Father's Day gifts, especially those being purchased at the last minute.

"Unless you know the exact make and model of the club or even the golf balls your dad wants for Father's Day, you're much better off getting a gift card or gift certificate," Cullum said. "A gift certificate for merchandise, lessons or greens fees is always the right size and always a welcome gift for any golfer." 

Cullum indicated that the best gift of all for any golfing Dad is to give him the day off from yard work or "honey do" lists so he can play his favorite course and watch the final round of the U.S. Open.

Issue 2.24: June 14, 2007