Associated Press
Thursday, November 2

ATLANTA -- Steve Flesch just goes with what feels comfortable. On the golf course, that means swinging left-handed.

 Steve Flesch
Steve Flesch is back in contention for the second consecutive week.
Flesch is one of three lefties in the 29-man field at the Tour Championship, an unusual sight in a sport where virtually everyone plays right-handed.

He opened with a 4-under 66 Thursday, leaving him only two shots behind leader Ernie Els.

As a kid, Flesch was a left-handed baseball player, but he started out as a righty on the golf course because that's the way his father played.

When Flesch was about 10 years old, he decided to find out how the other side plays. He never switched back.

"I still shoot a basketball right-handed, but I throw a baseball left-handed. ... I eat right-handed. I think I do more things right than left-handed," he said. "I just kind of go with what is natural."

There were a couple of lefties near the top of the leaderboard Thursday. Phil Mickelson shot a 67, only three shots behind Els.

The other lefty, Mike Weir, was six shots back after an even-par 70.

Last week, Flesch lost the National Car Rental Classic at Disney World by one stroke when Duffy Waldorf, closed with a career-low 62.

End of the line
The official PGA Tour season ends next week in Spain with a World Golf Championships event, but the Tour Championship is still the grand finale for some players.

David Duval is among those who doesn't plan to go to Valderrama, saying a 10-hour flight wouldn't be the best thing for his back. Tom Lehman also said he would call it a year.

"I'm not playing real well and it cuts into my offseason," said Lehman, who had a 72 on Thursday.

Lehman also cited his knee, which he injured during the International in August. He has played only three tournaments since then, and hasn't finished higher than 28th.

"I feel like the year is dragging to an end," he said. "Let it be over with, so I can work on my game and come out fresh."

Lehman is playing in the Grand Slam of Golf the week of Thanksgiving and the $3.5 million Williams World Challenge the week after. Wanting to start the year off fresh, he says he plans to go to Australia for the Match Play Championship.

History lesson
East Lake Golf Club is considered the home course of Bobby Jones, but he was a member of the Atlanta Athletic Club.

What gives?

The Atlanta Athletic Club opened the Donald Ross-designed East Lake course in 1908, just a few miles from its downtown headquarters. That's where Jones spent his summers learning the game.

East Lake's luster began to fade as more people moved to the Atlanta suburbs. In 1967, the club opened a new golf course north of the city, River Bend.

That course became home to the Atlanta Athletic Club when the membership sold both East Lake and its downtown facility. Jones' memorabilia is featured prominently at the newer facility, where the main entrance is known as Bobby Jones Drive.

East Lake, which was surrounded by a drug-infested neighborhood known as "Little Vietnam, began a comeback after being purchased in 1993 by developer Tom Cousins.

A nearby housing project was demolished, replaced by attractive apartments and condominiums. Cousins renovated the course and refurbished the Tudor-style clubhouse, which has become a virtual Bobby Jones museum.

Of course, there's a third Georgia course which claims Jones as its own, Augusta National.

Next year, all three courses will play host to major championships: The Masters at Augusta National, the U.S. Amateur at East Lake and the PGA Championship at the Atlanta Athletic Club.

Spin control
Galleries love to see a ball hit the green and then suck back, but spin isn't everything.

On the third hole, Mickelson hit a high wedge that landed 20 feet past the flag into the rough, hopped out and spun back so quickly that it caught a ridge and rolled 40 feet away. Tiger Woods hit a soft wedge that landed 8 feet next to the hole and stopped.

Then again, Mickelson holed his putt for birdie and Woods missed his.

  • Hal Sutton, who won the 1998 Tour Championship when it was held at East Lake two years ago, shot a 70 in the opening round.

  • Flesch said he attended the University of Kentucky not because of its golf program. "I went because I knew I was going to get to go to all the basketball games," he said. "I think I only missed two games the whole time I was there." Help | Advertiser Info | Contact Us | Tools | Site Map | Jobs at
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