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Controversy spices Solheim Cup rivalry

There is nothing like a little controversy to get an otherwise overlooked event immediate recognition.

The Solheim Cup didn't have much going for it before Beth Daniel's alleged remarks _ she claims she never said anything inflammatory _ two years ago spurred a surprising European victory.

The competition between United States women pros and European women pros is much like the Ryder Cup. The problem is a lack of tradition. The United States won the first Solheim Cup easily, 11{-4{ in 1990 at Lake Nona in Orlando. Few noticed.

Two years later, the competition was moved to Europe at the Dalmahoy in Edinburgh, Scotland. Daniel, one of the top American players, reportedly said: "You could put any one of us on the European side and make it better. But the only Europeans who could help us are Laura Davies and Liselotte Neumann."

Europe, a huge underdog, scored an 11{-6{ upset, winning seven of the 10 singles matches after nursing a 4{-3{ lead going into the final day.

Afterword, Sweden's Helen Alfredsson said: "It's a great scalp to put on the wall for Europe. I guess this is our answer to Beth Daniel. Europe's best whipped America's best."

The series is 1-1, with this year's event beginning Friday at The Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.

Daniel is saying nothing inflammatory this time, although she emphatically denies the words attributed to her in Golf Digest prior to the 1992 matches.

"Unlike the first two, I think this will be a close match," Daniel said. "I have tremendous respect for the Europeans. They have great players. But we've got some pretty good players of our own, ones who have performed well for over a two-year period just to make this team."

"It will be very hard for us," Davies said. "Team spirit will be tremendous. But we awakened the American team."

Final stretch: The last official full-field event of the PGA Tour season is under way in Las Vegas. The five-day event gives players one last chance to work their way into the top 125 money winners and retain playing privileges for next year, or to work into the top 30 to gain a spot in next week's Tour Championship in San Francisco.

Fat Lady chings: St. Petersburg's Bobby Grace is getting "300 to 400 orders per day" for his "Fat Lady Swings" putter _ at $150 each _ that Nick Price used to win the PGA Championship in August.

But fame has its price. Ram Golf recently filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against Grace, claiming the putter has too many similarities to its "Zebra" model. Grace said the infringement occurs only in a prototype putter he sold but will not manufacture. Settlement talks are under way.

The phone (327-9633) continues to ring. "The timing was incredible," Grace said. "The fact that the putter got into Nick's bag right before he became the No. 1 player in the world was what made everything."

New putter: Players have all sorts of methods for choosing their weapons, so Paul Azinger's recent discovery of a new putter is no surprise.

Embroiled in a fun putting contest with his wife, Toni, Azinger was using his Ping putter and Toni grabbed a Tommy Armour blade model from dozens her husband keeps.

"I hit my two putts from 20 feet and didn't sniff making it and then she drains it," Azinger said. "We try it again and I miss two more, she drains it again. I said, "What are you doing there?' She said, "I don't know, I just point that little arrow at the hole.' I said, "Give me that thing.' "

The arrow helped with his alignment.

Putting around: Al Geiberger recently returned to the Senior PGA Tour after seven months off rehabilitating his left shoulder after rotator cuff surgery. The first stage of PGA Tour qualifying is going on at the TPC of Tampa Bay of Cheval. The 72-hole tournament concludes Friday, with players who qualify advancing to a second-round site. The PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament finals are at Grenelefe in Haines City on Nov. 28. The six-day, 108-hole tournament will have 40 players earning privileges on the PGA Tour for 1995. Putting and short game expert Dave Pelz's clinic _ the Dave Pelz Short Game Tour _ will be at Bloomingdale Golfers' Club Nov. 1-6 and Fox Hollow Golf Club Nov. 8-13. Call (800)-833-7370 for more information.

Solheim Cup

What: The women's equivalent to the men's Ryder Cup, where top players from the United States compete against top players from Europe.

When: Friday through Sunday.

Where: The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.

Captains: U.S. _ JoAnne Carner; Europe _ Mickey Walker.

Series: 1-1.

U.S. team: Donna Andrews, Brandie Burton, Beth Daniel, Tammie Green, Betsy King, Meg Mallon, Dottie Mochrie, Kelly Robbins, Patty Sheehan, Sherri Steinhauer.

European team: Helen Alfredsson (Sweden), Laura Davies (England), Lora Fairclough (England), Trish Johnson (England), Liselotte Neumann (Sweden), Alison Nicholas (England), Catrin Nilsmark (Sweden), Dale Reid (Scotland), Annika Sorenstam (Sweden), Pam Wright (Scotland).

Format: Friday _ foursomes matches (alternate shot); Saturday _ four-ball matches (better ball); Sunday _ singles.

TV: 1-3 p.m. Friday, ESPN; 4-6 p.m. Saturday, Ch. 8; 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Ch. 8 live, 4-6 p.m. taped.