Familiar Faces Return to Mercedes

By Golf Channel NewsroomJanuary 5, 2004, 5:00 pm
As fans walked around the grounds of the Plantation Course at Kapalua during last years Mercedes Championships, more than tee-time sheets were necessary in determining one player from another.
 
Fans would ask for an autograph and then view the scribbling to see whose signature they had just received.
 
Last years Mercedes Championships was case-in-point why professionals put their names on their bags.
 
It wasnt that Joe Public hadnt heard of Chris Riley or Jonathan Byrd or Kevin Sutherland or Spike McRoy or John Rollins. But put them all together, and have the likes of them comprise the majority of a limited field, and it can make it very difficult for the casual fan to distinguish one from another.
 
Such will not be the case this year.
 
Absent are: Dan Forsman, Bob Burns, Gene Sauers and J.P. Hayes. In are: Tiger Woods, Davis Love III and Mike Weir.
 
There were 36 players in last years event ' only six have returned.
 
The season-opening tournament is limited to the previous years winners, and in 2002 there were 18 first-time winners on the PGA Tour. That meant for plenty of maiden Mercedes participants.
 
Last year, however, there were only seven first-time winners, while there were 11 different champions aged 40 and over.
 
Out are: Ian Leggatt, Luke Donald and Matt Gogel. In are: Fred Couples, Peter Jacobsen and Craig Stadler.
 
Simply put, the faces will match the names in 2004 ' out with the new, in with the old.
 
This years field consists of 30 players, which means there are 24 who didnt compete a year ago.
 
Some, like Woods, Love and Weir are back from a one-year layoff. Others are making more long-awaited returns.
 
Tommy Armour III is back for the first time in 13 years; Bob Tway and Peter Jacobsen for the first time since 1996. Craig Stadler hasn't played in this tournament since 97, and Fred Couples, who was a television commentator at this event last year, is a participant for the first time since 99.
 
Jim Furyk, the 2001 winner who owns a home at Kapalua, has the longest running attendance mark at the Mercedes; he is making his sixth straight start.
 
Tiger Woods, who won in 1997 and 2000, would have held the longest streak ' he has qualified for the last eight ' but his was snapped when he had to sit out last years edition while recovering from off-season knee surgery.
 
While Woods was resting and recovering, Ernie Els was dominating.
 
Els annihilated the field last year, booming drives and making every imaginable putt on his way to a PGA Tour 72-hole scoring record in relation to par.
 
Els finished at 31-under-par 261; eight strokes clear of runners-up Rocco Mediate and K.J. Choi.
 
He went on to complete the Hawaiian sweep by winning the Sony Open the following week. He won seven times worldwide, as well as the European Tour Order of Merit.
 
A win at the Mercedes is usually an indicator that better things are to come. Over the last 11 years, the winner has eight times gone on to claim at least one other PGA Tour title that season.
 
This years winner will receive $1,060,000 of the $5.3 million purse. The par-73, 7,263-yard Plantation Course is hosting the event for the sixth successive year.
 
There have been six repeat champions: Gene Littler won three consecutive times from 1955-57; Jack Nicklaus in 1963-64; Arnold Palmer 1965-66; Tom Watson 1979-80; Lanny Wadkins 1982-83.
 
Related Links:
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  • Watch: Shilton wins $16k timepiece with hole-in-one

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 23, 2017, 2:50 am

    Australian Brad Shilton made a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole during the first round of the Australian Open, and he was rewarded handsomely for his efforts - with a Tag Heuer watch worth $16k.

    Day gets in early mix with 66 in return to Australia

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 2:32 am

    SYDNEY - Jason Day's first tournament round in Australia in four years was a 5-under 66 to put him among the leaders early Thursday at the Australian Open.

    Day's round came unhinged late with a double-bogey six on the par-4 eighth hole, his second-last of the day. He hit his tee shot into the trees on the left, hit back out to the fairway, missed his approach to the green and then couldn't get up and down.

    ''That was brutal,'' Day said of the 481-yard hole that played into gusting winds.

    But Day recovered quickly to birdie his last to sit three strokes behind fellow Australian and early leader Cameron Davis, who started on the first, had six front-nine birdies and shot 63 at The Australian Golf Club.

    In between the two was Australian Taylor MacDonald, who shot 65.

    ''It was a pretty solid round, I didn't miss many fairways, I didn't miss many greens,'' Day said. ''I'd give myself a seven or eight out of 10.''

    Defending champion Jordan Spieth, attempting to win the Australian Open for the third time in four years, was off to a poor start among the afternoon players, bogeying his first two holes.

    The Sydney-born Davis played most of this season on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada and will attempt to secure his Web.com card in the final round of qualifying from Dec. 7-10 in Chandler, Arizona.

    ''Everything went to plan,'' Davis said. ''I got off to a great start. I was hitting my spots and was able to keep it together on the back nine.''

    NOTES: Australian Brad Shilton had the first ace of the tournament, using a 5-iron for a hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole, his second hole of the day. Australian veteran Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open winner, shot 69. He and Rod Pampling (68) played the first round with Day.

    Day: Woods feeling good, hitting it long

    By Golf Channel DigitalNovember 22, 2017, 9:33 pm

    Jason Day says Tiger Woods told him he feels better than he has in three years, which is good news for Woods a week ahead of his return to the PGA Tour at the Hero World Challenge.

    Day, a fellow Nike endorser, was asked about Woods during his news conference at the Emirates Australian Open on Wednesday. "I did talk to him," Day said, per a report in the Sydney Morning Herald,"and he did say it's the best he's ever felt in three years'" Day said.

    "He doesn't wake up with pain anymore, which is great. I said to him, 'Look, it's great to be one of the best players ever to live, but health is one thing that we all take for granted and if you can't live a happy, healthy life, then that's difficult.'"

    The Hero World Challenge will be played Nov. 30-Dec. 3 in the Bahamas and broadcast on Golf Channel and NBC.

    Day, who has had his own health issues, said he could empathize with Woods.

    "I totally understand where he's coming from, because sometimes I wake up in the morning and it takes me 10 minutes to get out of bed, and for him to be in pain for three years is very frustrating."

    Woods has not played since February after undergoing surgery following a recurrence of back problems.

    "From what I see on Instagram and what he's been telling me, he says he's ready and I'm hoping that he is, because from what I hear, he's hitting it very long," Day said.

    "And if he's hitting it long and straight, then that's going to be tough for us because it is Tiger Woods. He's always been a clutch putter and in amongst the best and it will be interesting to see.

    "There's no pressure. I think it's a 17- or 18-man field, there's no cut, he's playing at a tournament where last year I think he had the most birdies at."

    Move over Lydia, a new Ko is coming to LPGA

    By Randall MellNovember 22, 2017, 5:11 pm

    Another gifted young South Korean will be joining the LPGA ranks next year.

    Jin Young Ko, the Korean LPGA Tour star, informed the American-based LPGA on Sunday night that she will be taking up membership next year. Ko earned the right by winning the LPGA’s KEB Hana Bank Championship as a nonmember in South Korea in October.

    Ko, 22, no relation to Lydia Ko, first burst on to the international spotlight with her run into contention at the Ricoh Women’s British Open at Turnberry two years ago. She led there through 54 holes, with Inbee Park overtaking her in the final round to win.

    With 10 KLPGA Tour titles, three in each of the last two seasons, Ko has risen to No. 19 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings.

    Ko told GolfChannel.com Sunday afternoon that she was struggling over the decision, with a Monday deadline looming.

    “It’s a difficult decision to leave home,” Ko said after the final round of the CME Group Tour Championship in Naples, when she was still undecided. “The travelling far away, on my own, the loneliness, that’s what is difficult.”

    Ko will be the favorite to win the LPGA’s Louise Suggs Rolex Rookie of the Year Award next year. South Koreans have won that award the last three years. Sung Hyun Park won it this year, In Gee Chun last year and Sei Young Kim in 2015. South Korean-born players have won the last four, with New Zealand’s Lydia Ko winning it in 2014. Ko was born in South Korea and moved to New Zealand when she was 6.

    Ko released this statement through the LPGA on Wednesday: 

    "It has been my dream since I was young to play on the LPGA Tour and I look forward to testing myself against the best players on a worldwide stage. I know it is going to be tough but making a first win as an LPGA member and winning the Rolex Rookie of the Year award would be two of the biggest goals I would like to achieve next year."