Whether players are returning from a hiatus measuring in months or weeks, its nice to be able to start anew on the island of Maui ' where an air of vacation is still afloat, and everyone is guaranteed to get paid at the Mercedes Championships.
No one may be more excited about the start of the 2005 season than Woods, who finally seems to be putting together the pieces of his puzzled swing.
Woods won only once on the PGA Tour a year ago ' and that came prior to the retooling of his swing. In fact, after Tiger repeated as champion of the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Woods decided to rework his mechanics in an effort to find more consistency and putt less of a burden on his body, particularly his left knee.
The Match Play was his lone victory ' officially ' in 04. But the refinements finally started to feel natural at the end of the year. Woods said he was encouraged by shooting 64-65 in the middle rounds of the Tour Championship. He didnt win that event, despite holding the 54-hole lead. But he won his next two starts at the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan and at his own Target World Challenge.
The things that I had been working on started to come together, Woods said. Im excited about (this) year.
For the first time since 1998, Woods wont start the year as the No. 1 player in the world. That distinction belongs to Vijay Singh, who won nine times in 04, as well as the money title and player-of-the-year honors.
Singh is no longer the predator, but he's trying not to be prey either.
That's true. They can hunt me all they want. I know how to hide, Singh said with a laugh at the Target World Challenge.
I hope I just keep playing the way I am. I don't see why I cannot. I'm looking forward to it. I'm looking forward to the season. I know it's going to be a very difficult season for me because there's a little bit more pressure. How I'm going to handle it, that's entirely up to me.
A player can only qualify for the Mercedes by winning an official PGA Tour event in the previous season. And thanks primarily to Singhs abundance of victories last year, there is room for only 32 players (out of a possible 48 different tournament winners) in the field; however, only 31 will be in attendance as Phil Mickelson has once again decided to skip the season-opener.
Of those 31, 10 will be making their debut on The Plantation Course at Kapalua: Heath Slocum, Todd Hamilton, Zach Johnson, Stephen Ames, Mark Hensby, Rod Pampling, Vaughn Taylor, Bart Bryant, Andre Stolz and Ryan Palmer.
John Daly has been here before ' but not since 1996. Dalys victory in last years Buick Invitational guaranteed him a spot in the elite field for the first time in nine years. Woody Austin is also making his first appearance since 96.
But neither holds a candle to Joey Sindelar, whose Mercedes flame has been burning for over a decade. Sindelar win at the Wachovia Championship was his first on tour since 1990. Thus, this will mark his first Mercedes start in 13 years.
The first player to qualify for this years Mercedes was Stuart Appleby, who won last years season-opener by one over Singh. Hes one of only nine holdovers from a year ago.
Of those in the field, only Appleby, Els (2003), Garcia (2002) and Woods (1997, 2000) have won this tournament in the past.
Lanny Wadkins was the last repeat champion, doing so in 1982-83. Tom Watson (1979-80), Arnold Palmer (1965-66), Jack Nicklaus (1963-64) and Gene Littler (1955-57) have won in successive seasons.
This is the first of 48 events on the 2005 tour schedule.