Aloha 2008!: Sweden's Daniel Chopra tapped in a 1/4-inch putt on the fourth playoff hole to defeat Steve Stricker to capture the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship in Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii. It was Chopra's second career PGA TOUR victory.
Nothing like already having travel plans for the 2009 season sewn up in just the first week of 2008. And like they like to say in baseball, 'if the season ended today,' Chopra would be voted player of the year, lead the money list and be the only player back in Maui next year. Unfortunately, the Sony Open starts on Thursday and Tiger has about 16 events yet to play.
NO TIGER, NO PHIL, NO PROBLEM: Tiger and Phil decided - again - not to play in Maui, instead opting to hang out with family and friends in what has become their standard, long winter break from golf.
While four of the top 10 players - Harrington and Scott the others - were not in attendance for the 'winners only' tournament, that didn't take away from a great week of golf on the breathtaking Plantation Course in Kapalua, which ended with an exciting playoff finish. It now appears as though we will all have to wait for the Buick Invitational, at Torrey Pines, in late January, before we see the top-2 players in the world tee it up.
BUT NO FINCHEM? PROBLEM: PGA TOUR commissioner Tim Finchem also was absent from the lid-lifter in Hawaii and it didn't go unnoticed, subsequently drawing the ire of one player in particular.
Joe Ogilvie, a member of the PGA TOUR policy board, seemed to have the pulse of the players when he said, "I think it [sends the wrong message] when you've got four of the top 10 (players) not here at a marquee event. It seems to be common sense to me. If I was commissioner, I'd be here." Those are Ogilvie's words.
BOO BEING BOO: En route to his visit to Maui for his first-ever appearance in the Mercedes-Benz Championship, Boo Weekley was stopped by airport security and was found to have several bullets in his carry-on luggage.
After spending the off season falling from ladders and hunting deer, Weekley had a little issue when trying to navigate airport security on his way to Hawaii. Weekley apparently had forgotten to empty out his carry on bag from his last hunting trip, leaving two bullets in the bottom, prompting security to red flag his name. Whoops. "They put the red flags on me. I had the cops there. I thought I was going to jail," Weekley recounted. Thanks, Boo, for getting us started on what we all hope is a long year full of stories from you.
RULES ARE RULES...: Scott Verplank had his ball positioned on the slope of the 13th fairway on Thursday - with wind gusting some 30 mph in his face - when his ball moved about a quarter-inch. Verplank did not think he had addressed the ball, but after a discussion with a rules official, he was told he caused the ball to move. Verplank protested, but lost the argument after his round and was left with a double bogey on his card.
Even Verplank's playing partner, Rory Sabbatini, disagreed with the decision of rules official Mike Shea, which says something. Verplank, who did bounce back with a birdie on the very next hole, finished in a tie for 18th. That extra shot actually only cost him a few thousand dollars in prize money.
UM, THANKS, BUT NO THANKS: It was reported by Golf Digest's Tim Rosaforte this past week that the membership at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York voted to take their club out of consideration from hosting the 2015 U.S. Open. Winged Foot hosted the memorable 2006 U.S. Open, the one that gave us the now infamous Mickelson 72nd hole meltdown.
According to sources, the main sticking point was - what esle? - money. But another key for the rejection was members not being happy with the amount of time that the course was closed for play. We here at Backspin would rather watch the U.S. Open hosted at another site and never have anyone messing with our tee times. Though it would be very cool to say your club has hosted an Open. O.K. - it's a toss up.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: By virtue of his win in the last event in the 2007 season, Stephen Ames was designated to hit the 'opening drive' of the 2008 season; A report out of Australia told of a python that received emergency surgery after it swallowed four golf balls which it had apparently mistaken for chicken eggs.
Finally, Ames will ultimately be remember more for this historic 'opening drive' than for his 9-and-8 beat down from Tiger in the 2006 Match Play Championship; A hungry snake, several golf balls, some chickens and going under the knife - sounds like an typical episode of Desperate Housewives.
Contributions from writers and editors on the Golf Channel Digital team.
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