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PODS Championship notebook

Bucs' Brooks plays round with Dunn on mind

Derrick Brooks of the Bucs hits a tee shot on the 18th hole during the Aim for the Heart Pro-Am at Innisbrook.

JIM DAMASKE | Times

Derrick Brooks of the Bucs hits a tee shot on the 18th hole during the Aim for the Heart Pro-Am at Innisbrook.

PALM HARBOR — Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks enjoyed his afternoon in the Aim for the Heart Pro-Am at Innisbrook, on a team with the PGA Tour's Rich Beem. But he can't avoid questions about football — especially on the day the Falcons released his former Bucs and Florida State teammate, running back Warrick Dunn.

"Obviously I know that last time we missed him — and I know that coach (Jon) Gruden wanted to keep him a few years back," Brooks said, sliding behind the wheel of his golf cart late Monday afternoon. "I'm always championing trying to get Warrick on my football team. So we'll see what the Bucs think, and he'll compare it to his other options. I know a lot of teams will give him a look. He can still play — he proved that last year. I don't know what our plans are, but I'm campaigning for him."

As for his play Monday, Brooks remarked, "I play this course all the time. I know it's Monday, but it was pretty tough out there."

HOCKEY SHOTS: Former NHL stars Dave Andreychuk and Stan Mikita skated to the top of the leaderboard. Patrick Sheehan, in his sixth year on the PGA Tour, teamed with former Lightning captain Andreychuk — plus Vincent Lucente, Jim Dean and Mick Dean — to shoot 58. Finishing second at 60 was the team of pro Brian Davis (71st on the money list in 2007) with Mikita — a standout center with the Chicago Blackhawks in the 1960s and an NHL Hall of Famer. Rounding out the team: Tom Wille, Craig Harter and Martin Gawel.

NO WAFFLING: Richard Johnson, 36, who finished first on the Nationwide Tour last year, headed a team that included former Bucs linebacker Shelton Quarles, now a member of the team's front office. In 1997, Johnson was a manager at a Waffle House down the road from Augusta National during Masters week when David Duval showed up for breakfast. That was a cold dose of reality for Johnson. "I didn't talk to him — I was hiding in the back. And it was like, this s----," he said. It prompted Johnson to recommit to his golf career. It has been an up-and-down road. He was hampered by a wrist injury in 2001, and in 2004 he found himself back in the food business, managing a Chili's. But he hopes to cook up some more good memories in 2008.

REPEAT BID: Defending champion Mark Calcavecchia will attempt to become the first to win consecutive PODS Championships. It is his sixth start at the PODS, having notched three top-25 finishes, including a tie for 19th in 2006 and for 24th in 2003. His victory in 2007 helped him surpass his career high in earnings of $2,993,332 and wind up in eighth in the FedEx Cup standings.

WORLDWIDE: The PODS winners have had a decidedly international flavor since the inaugural in 2000. Outside that year's winner, John Huston, and Calcavecchia last year, the title has been won by K.J. Choi (South Korea), Vijay Singh (Fiji), Retief Goosen (South Africa) and Carl Pettersson (Sweden). Meanwhile, Sunday's Honda Classic winner, Ernie Els of South Africa, returns to Innisbrook for his third event. His first outing was forgettable (tied for 34th, 2003), but he made a run in 2006, tying for sixth.

Miscellany: Retief Goosen enters his fifth tournament in the area hoping to end a string of frustrating performances that began after he won it in 2003. He tied for 20th in 2004, 44th in 2005 and missed the cut in '06. His last PGA win was the 2005 International. … The par-71, 7,340-yard Copperhead Course ranked as the 15th most difficult PGA Tour course last year out of 55 total with an average score of 72.005. It was the sixth time the course has been in the top 15 since 2000. … At 46 years, 8 months, 27 days, defending champion Calcavecchia is the oldest to win the PODS, topping Singh, who was 41 years, 8 months, 9 days when he won in 2004. … Aaron Oberholser withdrew with a shoulder injury, and Chris Stroud rejoined the field.

Dave Scheiber can be reached

at scheiber@sptimes.com or

(727) 893-8541.

Bucs' Brooks plays round with Dunn on mind 03/04/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 4, 2008 12:34am]

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