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|Mercedes Championships: PGA 2006 Begins
Right, Max. Hawaii, Max.
It`s not just that California`s had a run of really wet weather
lately (possibly forecasting the rain-delayed 2005 West Coast
swing that revivified the age-old debate about indoor golf),
it`s that the famous line from Annie Hall---"California, Max",
as in, "if we lived in California, we could play outdoors every
day, in the sun"---doesn`t apply this week because the PGA Tour
kicks off the 2006 season with the Mercedes Championships at the
Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii, where the usual weather
event comes in the form of trade winds, not steady drenching
Every year I talk about what a great tournament this is: TV
cutaways to and fro, commercial breaks of beautiful vistas, sun
and sea from the course`s tall hills; a solid field of last
year`s Tour winners; 400-plus yard drives on the last hole; and
the possibility of long money on quality golfers in a small
field. Because Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen and
Padraig Harrington are not playing (or Ernie Els, by the way,
who didn`t win in his injury-shortened 2005) and because there
were so many low-ranked winners on Tour last year, this week`s
Mercedes is a smaller (28-player), more bargain-filled field
than normal. Mickelson and Goosen didn`t do the Silly Season
tour like Woods and Harrington, and the latter`s decision to not
play in Kapalua is curious as he`s never played in the
tournament. Hawaii`s a long flight from anywhere, fine,
a guaranteed paycheck. And I have to figure the islands are
sunnier than Ireland this time of year. Hawaii, Padraig.
There`s always the flipside to the strength-of-field approach.
Maybe the favorites---Vijay Singh, Jim Furyk, David Toms and
Sergio Garcia---do look more likely to win than 50-1 shots like
Jason Bohn, Jason Gore and Ted Purdy. But given that there`s no
cut, the pressure is off slightly, and so is the intimidation
factor, which is significantly less a factor anyway because
Tiger isn`t playing. Even if the world #1 was playing, though,
I`d still look at other golfers. Bart Bryant, an unknown, won
twice last year: the Memorial and season-ending Tour
Championship where he held off guess who? Purdy won the Byron
Nelson last May, fending off Singh.
As for the course, there are the peaks and valleys of Kapalua,
and those trade winds (which are almost always at the players`
backs on the last hole, yielding those 400-500-yard drives). The
greens can be slick, which might be a factor for the favorite,
Singh. Two months doesn`t account for much of an offseason; who
can say if Vijay`s come to a happy place with his putter?
Jeremy Church covers Nascar for Brian Gabrielle Sports
About the author:
Jeremy Church is a documented member of the Professional
Handicappers League. Read all of his articles at www.procappers