Notes Players Make Pitch for New Orleans Maui Green


04 Mercedes ChampionshipsKAPALUA, Maui -- John Subers is one of the most visible tournament directors on the PGA Tour, usually seen with a gentle smile and a handshake as he makes a pitch for players to come to the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
This year, the reception has been more enthusiastic than ever.

The Zurich Classic had to switch venues when the TPC at Louisiana was battered by wind and flooding, moving to English Turn for the April 27-30 event. Even so, it is expected to be the first major sporting event in New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina devastated the city in September.
Subers couldn't help but notice how interested players were about coming back to New Orleans.
'They've shown compassion and a desire to be part of the regrowth, the rebirth,' he said. 'The compassion they've shown has been overwhelming.'
He has been busy getting early commitments, and some players have offered brief interviews that the tournament wants to package in a six-week television campaign to build support in Louisiana.
'The theme is, 'We're the PGA Tour, we're supporting New Orleans, we look forward to seeing you, we look forward to coming back and we believe in you,'' Subers said. 'We're not trying to script it, but picture six weeks of commercials, with 15 to 20 players saying they're coming to New Orleans. We think it will make an impact.'
Among the early commitments are David Toms, Kenny Perry and Davis Love III. Toms is a natural, because he grew up in Louisiana and considers the Zurich Classic his hometown event.
Beyond a soundbite for TV, however, Toms also has turned into a recruiter.
'I'll talk to some of the players along the way,' Toms said. 'It's something I felt an obligation to do. I think it's important to the future of that event. It's important to showcase it on television, the rebuilding effort. The more quality players in the event, the bigger the television audience will be.'
Subers said the tournament, meanwhile, is offering reduced rates to companies for corporate hospitality, although it still hopes to continue its level of charitable giving. The Zurich Classic raised a little more than $1 million last year, and was ready to distribute it to 25 local charities when Katrina arrived.
Only recently did the tournament distribute the money, with all of it going to agencies helping Katrina victims.
Tiger Woods has long complained about the severe grain in the greens on the Plantation course at Kapalua. By not showing up this year, he doesn't know what he's missing.
Kapalua made a huge investment this year by renovating all 18 greens with a new strain of grass that is tighter and stands more vertical, allowing them to be cut lower to have greater consistency. During the last few days of practice, players have been astonished at how true they roll.
'The best I've seen them,' Mark Calcavecchia said.
It was no small cost.
Kapalua vice president Gary Planos said the resort considered redoing the greens after the first tournament on the Plantation course in 1992, at the old Lincoln-Mercury Invitational. Instead, the staff tried to maintain them and noticed some improvement, but not as great as they wanted.
The Plantation course had to be closed four months to redo the greens.
'Financially, it was a very hard decision because you displace some 18,000 rounds of golf,' Planos said. 'Closing the Plantation from April to July is not inexpensive. But the results are coming in overwhelmingly, and it's a big home run.'
Ernie Els is not playing in the Sony Open this year, meaning Michelle Wie had to get a new practice partner. She found one in someone old enough to be her big brother -- 23-year-old Sean O'Hair.
O'Hair, the PGA Tour's rookie of the year, was talking to David Leadbetter when the swing coach mentioned he would be at the Sony Open to work with Wie. O'Hair mentioned he'd like to play a practice round with her.
'I guess I still have to ask her,' he said. 'I'm going to have stand real tall.'
That shouldn't be a problem because O'Hair is a lean 6-foot-2.
'She hasn't grown any, has she?' he asked.
Jack Nicklaus, Bart Bryant and former USGA president Sandy Tatum have won awards voted on by members of the Golf Writers Association of America.
Nicklaus, who has been dealing with the press for nearly 50 years, won the ASAP Sports/Jim Murray Award for his cooperation, quotability and accommodation to the media.
Bryant won the Ben Hogan Award, given to the individual who continues to be active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness. Bryant, whose three victories in the last two years include a wire-to-wire win at the Tour Championship, has had three significant surgeries since 1992 that almost knocked him out of the game.
The William D. Richardson Award went to Tatum, 85, whose involvement in golf spans his leadership at the USGA to the way he cut through the red tape of San Francisco politics to get Harding Park transformed into a public gem good enough to host a World Golf Championship. The Richardson Award is for those making outstanding contributions to golf.
They will be honored April 5 at the GWAA's annual awards dinner in Augusta, Ga.
John Francis Mallon, the father of two-time U.S. Women's Open champion Meg Mallon, died of a heart attack on New Year's Eve. He was 82. Services will be held Wednesday in Bluffton, S.C. ... Tiger Woods and Retief Goosen not playing at Kapalua this year means that Vijay Singh has the longest active streak of consecutive starts in the Mercedes Championships at four. ... Jim Furyk has signed a contract deal with Srixon, and will start the season playing its ball and wedges, while he works with the company on a set of irons.
Eight players from last year's winners-only Mercedes Championships are at Kapalua for the start of the 2006 season.
'You make a putt to win on the last hole, walk off the green and there's Jack Nicklaus standing there waiting to shake your hand. That's golfer utopia.' -- Bart Bryant on winning the Memorial.
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