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Len Ziehm On Golf

ENCOMPASS: Opening day had its share of sidelights — including soccer talk

The first day of Chicago’s only pro tour stop of the year certainly had its share of twists on Friday. So many, in fact, that Tom Lehman’s 7-under-par 65 was almost an after-thought. Here’s a sampling:

In the middle of the first round Tiger Woods announced on his Facebook page that he’s ready to compete again. He sent word from Florida that he’ll play in next week’s Quicken Loans National – an event that raises money for his charitable foundation.

Meanwhile, back at North Shore Country Club in Glenview, retired Bear Brian Urlacher drew more gallery attention than most of the Champions Tour players did in the $1.8 million Encompass Championship. He’s again paired with Hinsdale’s Jeff Sluman in the two-day two-man pro-amateur portion of the event that concludes on Saturday.

Another long-time Bear, center Patrick Mannelly, made his own retirement announcement from football before teeing off in the pro-am..

Tom Kite, the 1992 U.S. Open champion, criticized the U.S. Golf Assn. for the way it conducts its U.S. Opens, the most recent of which concluded on Sunday at Pinehurst, N.C.

“Since (USGA executive director) Mike Davis started setting up the courses the U.S. Open has had lower scoring than ever before…..At Pinehurst there was no rough at all. A lot of guys can drive the ball very poorly and still have good tournaments. The guys who grew up in the old style, when the rough was very penal, don’t like what’s happened with the U.S. Open.’’

And then there was Roger Chapman, the English golfer who shot a 6-under-par 66 but was more emotionally involved in his country’s dismal showing in the World Cup soccer tournament than he was in his own great round.

“`The press will crucify them,’’ said Chapman. “We invented the bloody game. I can’t remember England being out of the World Cup after two games.’’

Soccer has been the subject of choice between Chapman and his new caddie, Angel Monguzzi since they formed their working relationship.

“He’s an Argentinian guy who caddied for Vicente Fernandez for a long time,’’ said Chapman. “He just seemed to be saying the right things at the right time. We were talking about football and the World Cup, so we had a bit of giggle at England yesterday.’’

That was in the aftermath of a 2-1 loss to Uruguay in England’s first World Cup game. Chapman didn’t find it so funny after another 2-1 loss to Italy while he was on the course Friday. Chapman — winner of two major titles on the Champions Tour last year — is convinced something is wrong soccer-wise, and he blames it on the structure of the English Premier League.

“There needs to be a radical change in the Premier League,’’ he said. “They say the Premier League is the best league in the world. It probably is for the amount of foreigners playing. They’ve got world class players, but we should limit them to three-four per game and let our youngsters in our country know what it’s like.’’

And that’s not all from Chapman.

“(The Engligh soccer players) also get paid too much,’’ he said. “The passion doesn’t seem to be there. It looks as though they want to just go on holiday basically.’’