KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Only winners are invited to Kapalua to start the new season at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, making it perhaps the toughest of all PGA Tour events to join.
Once in paradise, it might be the easiest tournament all year to win.
For starters, only 31 players are in the field. Thirteen have never competed on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, with its mountainous terrain, massive greens and severe slopes. And while all of these guys know what it takes to win, most haven't hit a meaningful shot in more than a month.
"Never thought of it that way," Mark Calcavecchia said.
"There's 31 guys here this year, and there's 30 at the Tour Championship. But Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson aren't here, so that increases your chances of winning greatly. I might have to agree with you on that."
In what is becoming a tradition the tour could do without, the top two players in the world ranking have decided to sit out opening day. Woods, who won at Kapalua in 2000, cited a desire to spend more time with his family. Mickelson, who hasn't played at Kapalua since 2001, did not give the tournament a reason.
Also missing this week are British Open champion Padraig Harrington, who traditionally takes his one full month off in January, and Adam Scott of Australia, who withdrew over the weekend citing exhaustion.
That leaves only four of the top 10 in the world at Kapalua to start the year today, and few complaining about it.
Most of them are simply thrilled to be in these parts, reminded of what they did to get a starting time.
A team of skiers and snowboarders has set out to ski all of California's ski resorts in just four days. Skiing all 28 resorts this week could set a new record. The group's eight members skied all of Colorado's 28 resorts in four days in 2002. Pietro Simonetti of Boulder, Colo., says the group, which calls itself Across the Atlas, started on a whim. He and a friend were comparing how many Colorado resorts they had skied, and decided to try them all. The group is using the California trip to raise money to help two disabled athletes qualify for the 2010 Paralympic games in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Olympic champion sprinter Justin Gatlin will challenge his four-year doping suspension and may take the case to federal court. "We may have to file multiple actions at the same time," Gatlin's attorney John Collins told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
A South Korean boxer who fell into a coma after winning his WBO intercontinental flyweight title fight last week was declared dead early today. Choi Yo-sam was declared dead after his internal organs were removed for donation, a spokesman at Asan Hospital said. A hospital committee had pronounced Choi brain dead Wednesday after a series of tests. He had been in a coma since shortly after winning the fight against challenger Heri Amol in Seoul on Dec. 25.