New Year New Work New Fun

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So here I sit, Orlando-bound, jetting home from nine days on Maui. Stuart Appleby took top prize at the PGA Tour lid-lifter and now sits atop the money list, if even just for one week.
 
And as host of the Golf Channels Sprint Pre-Game and Sprint Post-Game shows Im pretty enthusiastic about the year ahead. For the first time since 1997, the money list doesnt seem to be a lock for Tiger Woods and neither does the PGA Tour Player of the Year honor.
 
Ill never bet against him, and Im still calling him the favorite. But after a week watching the play at the Mercedes Championships and talking with players both on and off the set, confidence appears higher for everyone and nobody seems to be conceding anything!
 
If you saw the shows, you caught a new-look Darren Clarke. Hes sporting slimmer pants and a tighter game after losing some 30 pounds. Clarkes been hitting the gym with more enthusiasm than he used to exert at tournament watering holes and it really shows.
 
At the Target World Challenge I rode a bike and did my customary treadmill routine while watching Clarke do sit-up after sit-up, throw jabs with the gloves and pump iron until he was red in the face. Thursday night at Kapalua he tossed a few jabs our way on the set and had us laughing about his seriousness. Clarke finished third.
 
Beware of the two guys who battled at last years PGA Championship. Shaun Micheel and Chad Campbell joined us and talked about being more recognizable and more focused than a year ago.
 
Chads going to be a superstar. Hes the complete package and interestingly enough talked about not having goals for the year. Perhaps he doesnt want to limit himself.
 
Micheel is as good a guy as they come. Hell walk up to folks like me basically asking if theres anything he can do to help. Im serious. And, unlike Campbell, hes got goals. Missing out on the Tour Championship (that Campbell won) was a pain.
 
Did you catch our chat with Freddie? Fred Couples is struggling with his back, banking on buddy Davis Love III to have another monster year, and is very caught up in the Golf Channels BIG BREAK.
 
He spent time on-camera talking about wanting to captain a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team someday and spent even more time off-camera watching NFL playoff football and waxing about how hed like to be the host of BIG BREAK II or III or IV.
 
And Couples is also a big fan of Vijay these days. Look out, Fred says, hes just hitting his stride. By the way, we tossed Couples a Golf Channel hat for the time (like we do many of the players) and he said, This is for me? The next day Couples said thanks again for the hat.
 
The point that comes across more and more as we take our show on the road is just how thankful these world-class players seem to be toward what were doing at The Golf Channel.
 
Craig Stadler and Peter Jacobsen joined Brian Hewitt, Mark Rolfing and me as well. So, too, did Masters champ Mike Weir, Ernie Els, Kenny Perry, J.L. Lewis and of course the years first winner, Appleby.
 
Yankee-turned-Astro Andy Pettitt also came aboard after an offer I threw him in the hotel lobby, and now un-retired Astros pithcer Roger Clemens was upset that he couldnt.
 
Michelle Wie jumped at the chance and so did others. Dont get me wrong, were very lucky for their cooperative nature, but I really get the feeling that they feel like its their great opportunity, too! I think it comes across.
 
One more thing before I go: I hope you like Steve Flesch. The left-hander who won last year at New Orleans and has a world of talent wants a piece of our action. And weve come up with a forum.
 
Beginning Wednesday night on the Sprint Pre-Game, In the Flesch debuts from the Sony Open. His locker room insight, his range gossip thats fit to share will hit the air. He wants it to be fun and light-hearted. I cant wait. And oh, yeah. I also cant wait to share more of what we do, who we run into, whos working on the show with me, and what I think is fit to print in a new column that will appear each Friday on the Golf Channel.com.
 
Until then, do like me, and get excited about whats to come in 2004!
 
Email your thoughts to Kraig Kann