Maui Signals Start of 2006 Season


04 Mercedes ChampionshipsThe PGA Tour says aloha to a new season with the Mercedes Championships at the Kapalua Resort in Maui, Hawaii.
Two-time defending champion Stuart Appleby makes his way back to the islands for a chance to join the likes of Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson with three or more wins in this event.
Vijay Singh
Vijay Singh has yet to get his hands on the trophy at the Mercedes Championships in Maui.
That task should be all the more possible for Appleby due in part to the absence of many of the games marquee players including world No. 1 Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington and Ernie Els.
Mickelson has become a regular no show at the event, but this is the first time Woods has skipped the event, other than the year knee surgery prevented him from teeing it up. Both players are two-time champions in Maui. Els didn't qualify for the tournament.
Normally hosting a strong field because it is limited to winners of PGA Tour events from the previous year, many in Maui will try to take advantage of the missing stars to get a good jump on the '06 season.
Headlining that list is workhorse Vijay Singh, who somewhat surprisingly has never visited the winner's circle in his nine trips to Kapalua. He held the 54-hole lead last year before a final-round 74 dropped him into a tie for fifth. He last six starts in Maui however, have produced six straight top-10 finishes, including a runner-up to Appleby in 2004.
Other past winners of this event looking to get out of the blocks in a hurry are Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia. Furyk won the title in 2001 followed by Garica's playoff win over David Toms in 2002.
The complete entry list for this year's tournament is as follows: Appleby, Jason Bohn, Olin Browne, Bart Bryant, Mark Calcavecchia, U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell, K.J. Choi, Ben Crane, Brad Faxon, Fred Funk, Furyk, Robert Gamez, Garcia, Lucas Glover, Jason Gore, Justin Leonard, Peter Lonard, Sean O'Hair, Geoff Ogilvy, Kenny Perry, Tim Petrovic, Carl Pettersson, Ted Purdy, Wes Short Jr., Singh, Heath Slocum, Vaughn Taylor and Toms.
Els holds the tournament scoring record of 31-under-par 261, which he set during his victory in 2003. It also set the PGA Tour mark for lowest score in relation to par in a 72-hole event.
Ben Crenshaw is the co-designer of The Plantation Course at Kapalua, which is located on amongst pineapple fields on the west side of Maui.
The tour island-hops over to Oahu next week for the Sony Open in Hawaii before heading back to the mainland for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic in La Quinta, Calif.
The winner's share for the Mercedes Championship $1.08 million out of a purse of $5.4 million.
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