Notes Somber Start for Durant

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PGA Tour (75x100)KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Joe Durant had not qualified for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship in five years, so his holiday season was brimming with excitement about a trip to Maui to start the year.
 
He arrived in a somber mood, still stunned over the Christmas Eve death of his sister-in-law.
 
'My brother and his wife were at our house and we had a party for a bunch of us, and they went back to the condo at the beach,' Durant said. 'They were there about 30 minutes and she passed away. They still don't have a cause of death.'
 
Durant was extremely close to his older brother, Flip, and his wife, Frances, who came to several PGA TOUR events.
 
He was supposed to arrive at Kapalua on Wednesday, but the family held a memorial service for Frances Durant on Thursday, and Durant flew to Hawaii on Saturday.
 
'It was a tough holiday,' Durant said. 'Trust me, coming over here ... it was a hard trip to make. As excited as you are about going some place, when that happens to someone you love so much ... You want to get excited because you know your family is excited, but it's tough.'
 
Durant never imagined he would be at Kapalua six months ago.
 
He was in danger of losing his card, but a top-10 showing at the Buick Open got him off the bubble. He won at Disney, tied for fourth in Tampa and ended the year with a tie for third at the Tour Championship, moving up to 13th on the money list with more than $2.8 million, his highest finish.
 
'It was a great finish for me and for my family,' he said. 'Halfway through the year, I wanted the year to be over. And by the end of the year, I didn't want it to stop.'
 
KING OF KAPALUA
Stuart Appleby has won three straight years at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, and it reached the point that people said he ought to buy property.
 
So he did.
 
Appleby purchased a lot on Honolua Ridge and plans to build a home, joining Jim Furyk as past champions (Furyk won in 2001) with homes at Kapalua.
 
'It's an amazing piece of property,' Appleby said. 'It's not my home, but it's become my golf home in a way. Half of my victories have come out of this sections of the woods, so it was a no-brainer.'
 
DORAL CHANGE
Piling up FedExCup points early might pay off for some players trying to get into the World Golf Championship at Doral. The PGA TOUR added another criteria for the CA Championship, taking the top 10 in FedExCup standings the Monday before (March 12) and the Monday of (March 19) the tournament.
 
Previously, this WGC event took the top 50 in the world ranking and top money leaders from each tour. That criteria hasn't changed.
 
IN THE BAG
David Toms will make his debut at Kapalua with his new TaylorMade irons, having signed a new endorsement deal after Cleveland decided not to renew any of its contracts.
 
The change could include the end of a club that made him famous -- his 5-wood.
 
Toms has had the club since 1998, and his most memorable shot came in the third round of the 2001 PGA Championship when he made a hole-in-one on the 15th hole at Atlanta Athletic Club, where he went on to win by one shot.
 
He was testing a TaylorMade hybrid at the Target World Challenge two weeks ago, and he was trying out another hybrid during a practice round Monday at the Mercedes-Benz Championship.
 
'Sooner or later, I'm going to retire it,' Toms said.
 
Joe Durant is using the latest irons from Cleveland, putting aside a model he has used for eight years. He tried to switch last year, returned to his old clubs and finished the year with a victory and two top-five finishes.
 
'I struggled last year trying to make a transition to the irons, and the guys at Cleveland were nice enough to give me the year to really work on it,' Durant said. 'This year, I knew I needed to make a switch and here I am. I'm happy with what I've got in the bag.'
 
He also left Titleist, signing a ball, shoe and glove deal with Callaway.
 
DALY DOINGS
John Daly chalked up his worst year on the PGA TOUR to injuries, particularly problems with his sciatic nerve. Apparently, he still hasn't fully recovered.
 
Daly was in the Phoenix area this week when his right leg went numb, said his agent, Bud Martin. Martin said Daly went to a hospital to get an MRI, and the tests came back negative.
 
The two-time major champion lost his PGA TOUR card last year and will be playing on sponsors' exemptions, with his first start next week in the Sony Open.
 
SEEING RED
Tiger Woods is known for wearing some form of red on Sunday. Luke Donald tends to wear white pants in the final round, although he unwittingly chose a red shirt for the final round of the PGA Championship, where he was tied for the lead with Woods.
 
Was it a mistake?
 
Donald said he was in a no-win situation.
 
The Englishman doesn't like to concern himself with what to wear each night, so he determined what his outfits would be when he arrived at Medinah, and it was a red shirt for Sunday.
 
'Obviously, Saturday night I knew I was playing with Tiger,' he said. 'I think if I changed my outfit, it was almost like giving in to him already on the first hole. It was nothing against Tiger. I wasn't trying to make a statement or anything. I thought if I changed it, I'd have already lost.'
 
Paul Casey went the other direction.
 
He also had chosen a red shirt to wear in the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational, but when he wound up in a final threesome with Woods and Stewart Cink, he switched his shirt to lime green.
 
Didn't matter -- he shot 71 and finished three strokes behind.
 
DIVOTS
For the first time, every player at the Mercedes-Benz Championship was on the early commitment list for the Sony Open next week in Honolulu. That changed Tuesday when Adam Scott decided not to play. ... Joe LaCava is on the bag this week for Davis Love III. LaCava is the regular caddie for Fred Couples, who does not plan to start his season until the Bob Hope Classic. ... Stuart Appleby is wearing Kapalua brand shirts this week. His deal with Ashworth ended last year, and his new clothing contract is not complete.
 
STAT OF THE WEEK
Only seven of the 34 players at the Mercedes-Benz Championship have won a major.
 
FINAL WORD
'I think she came five years too early to try to play the men's tour.' -- Stuart Appleby, on Michelle Wie playing the Sony Open for the fourth straight year.
 
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