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Wagner set to defend at Mayakoba

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PLAYA DEL CARMEN, Mexico - Johnson Wagner is having too much fun defending his title in the Mayakoba Golf Classic to worry about missing out on the World Golf Championships event this week in Arizona.

Wagner, ranked 72nd, failed to qualify for the 64-player Match Play Championship. He won the Sony Open in Hawaii in January and tied for second the following week in the Humana Challenge in California.

“I worked really hard this offseason to get ready for the beginning of the year,” Wagner said Wednesday. “I’m really happy with the way I started and couldn’t be happier to be here at Mayakoba defending my championship.”

Last year, Wagner beat Spencer Levin with a par on the first hole of a playoff.

“I’m playing really good golf right now,” Wagner said. “I’m so happy to be back. My family is here. I’m having a great week already.”

Wagner will open play alongside Greg Norman on Thursday. Norman designed the Mayakoba Resort’s El Camaleon Golf Club.

“I’m very excited to play with Greg,” Wagner said. “I’ve met him once before, never played with him. Obviously, I grew up watching him win golf tournaments.”

The 57-year-old Norman is making his second Tour start of the year.

“I’m finally starting to feel healthy again,” Norman said. “I had surgery on my left shoulder a year ago today, basically, and now after a year, I’ve got my strength back, and I feel like I can go out there and play again. And obviously coming down here is one of my favorite golf courses that we have built.”

Levin is the top-ranked player in the field at No. 69. Robert Allenby is 70th, Charles Howell III 71st and Rory Sabbatini 74th.

Fred Funk, the winner of the inaugural event in 2007, also is playing along with fellow Champions Tours players John Cook, Tom Lehman and Nick Price and European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal. Cook tied for third last year.

Mike Weir is making his second start of the year. Coming off surgery on his right elbow in August, the Canadian missed the cut two weeks ago in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and failed to secure a sponsor exemption last week for the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.