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The last Nabisco begins today

The top 30 players on the PGA Tour will compete for the biggest purse in professional golf starting today. The 72-hole Nabisco Championships at Champions Golf Club in Houston offers a $2.5-million purse, with $450,000 going to the winner. "The Nabisco is everything," said Bradenton's Paul Azinger. "It's the World Series, it's the Super Bowl. I can't tell you how much emphasis is put on it by the players. It means your whole year. If you want to be the player of the year or leading money winner, you almost have to win the Nabisco or finish in the top three. If you go there not playing well, you're done."

But you won't be any poorer. The last man in the field still gets roughly $40,000.

This, however, is the last year of Nabisco's involvement. The PGA Tour will take over the tournament next year, and promises no corporate sponsor and a reduced purse.

JCPenney update: The JCPenney Classic is close to filling its 52-team field for the Nov. 30-Dec. 2 event at the Innisbrook Resort in Tarpon Springs. The tournament has the winners of 50 tour events this year, three of the top 10 money winners on the PGA Tour, three of the top six Senior PGA Tour money winners, and 37 of the top 40 from the LPGA.

Among the latest teams to sign up: Rosie Jones-John Mahaffey, Jim Thorpe-Jane Geddes and Laurie and Larry Rinker.

Nancy Lopez, who committed in May, will team with Jay Haas. The defending champions, Pat Bradley and Bill Glasson, also will play.

PGA Player of the Year: It might seem puzzling that Nick Faldo, who is not a member of the PGA Tour, could be the PGA Player of the Year. But the award is given by the PGA of America, not the tour, and it is heavily weighted for victories in major championships. It also gives 50 bonus points for any player who wins two majors in the same year. England's Faldo won the Masters and British Open, making him a runaway winner with 110 points. Hale Irwin was next with 70 points, No.

1 money winner Greg Norman was third with 60, and four-time winner Wayne Levi was fourth with 56. Under the points formula, Levi would have had to win eight times to challenge Faldo.

The PGA Tour will have its own player-of-the-year award based on a vote of players.

New course: Cog Hill's Dubsdread course in suburban Chicago will be home to the Western Open next year because of Butler National's exclusionary policies against women. Butler decided not to change its rules, so Cog Hill, an excellent public facility, got the tournament. Former Western champions Tom Watson and Mark McCumber recently toured the new venue.

"For corporate Chicago and corporate America, this is a chance for them to put their money where their mouth is," McCumber said. "They withdrew sponsorship from ABC-TV because of the debate over issues at Shoal Creek. Now something has been done of a positive nature.

"We've moved a major tournament, second oldest in America to the U.S. Open, from a venue that was very popular, very well established in a very good neighborhood, to a public golf course that is very well respected.

"Now they need to put their money where their mouth is and follow suit. They need to say "You made the change' and get on the bandwagon and support it. If they don't, they're not very honest about it."

Merry Lee: With his victory Sunday at the Transamerica tournament, Lee Trevino became the first Senior PGA Tour player to surpass $900,000 in one season. In fact, Trevino is now golf's leading money winner with $922,352. Greg Norman leads the regular tour with $907,977.