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Popular golf show making its return

The Addams Family. The Beverly Hillbillies. Batman. They all made comebacks from the 1960s.

Now Shell's Wonderful World of Golf gets its turn.

A series that pitted some of golf's top stars in televised one-on-one matchups in the 1960s comes back to ABC this year with three new shows.

And if you think it was a coup having Raul Julia play Gomez Addams, consider these lineups:

April 9 _ Fred Couples vs. Raymond Floyd.

April 30 _ Jack Nicklaus vs. Arnold Palmer.

July 16 _ Nick Faldo vs. Greg Norman.

"You see the names involved, I think it gives you a pretty good indication of how excited people were to bring this back," said Mike Biggs of Golden Bear Productions, the Nicklaus-owned company involved with the revival.

"Whenever you read about the Ryder Cup, everybody talks about how exciting match play is. This will be done by stroke play, but it's still one-and-one. It's still something very different and exciting for the players."

The series originally ran from 1962 to '70, with 93 episodes _ most of which are available on videotape. The show closed down when Shell had to pull its corporate support because of the oil crisis. Shell now is a sponsor on the PGA Tour and agreed to revive the series in its original format.

Times do change, so at least one minor adjustment had to be made for the players. In Nicklaus' only previous appearance on the show, in 1963 against Sam Snead at Pebble Beach, the winner got $3,000 and the loser $2,000. The new purse is $100,000 for the winner and $50,000 for the loser.

Another part of the show's allure will be the locations of the matches. The Couples-Floyd showdown will be at the Teeth of the Dog course in the Dominican Republic, while Faldo-Norman will play at Sunningdale in England.

"Back in the old days, it was like a travelogue. You would get to see people playing golf at places you would not normally see," Nicklaus said. "That's what we're going to try to do again."

The matches will be taped and condensed into a 90-minute format with Dave Marr _ who played in four of the original shows _ providing on-site commentary and Jack Whitaker as host.

The shows will not conflict with regular tour events, instead airing just before or after tournaments like the Masters and the British Open. Nicklaus said he hopes to increase to eight matches a year by 1995.

To see or not to see: A shrunken seating capacity at the ThunderDome may help Tampa Bay avoid a blackout of NCAA Tournament games at the facility. The Dome's ability to handle close to 40,000 fans was a major selling point in landing the 1999 Final Four. But, with the NCAA's blessing, the Dome is setting up a configuration with a capacity of 23,500 for the sub-regional games March 18 and 20. Those 23,500 seats will have to sell out 24 hours in advance for the games at the Dome to be shown locally. Advance ticket sales are around 17,000, and Dome officials expect to sell the remaining tickets when tournament brackets are announced March 13.

If the Dome does not sell out in time, WTVT-Ch. 13 instead will show games from other sub-regionals.

That's the technical explanation.

In reality, Tampa Bay likely will see Southeast-type matchups regardless of where they are played. If Arizona is playing at the ThunderDome, we more likely will see a game with Kentucky or Duke at some other sub-regional. If Florida is playing in the West, that game will trump any matchup at the Dome.

"Those decisions will be made here in combination with the affiliates," said CBS official LeslieAnne Wade. "Basically, it should not look any different than if there were no games in your area."