H A W A I I _ S P O R T S


Monday, January 10, 2000

Mercedes Notebook

Els and others
now head to Oahu
for Sony Open

Tiger's beat goes on

KAPALUA, Maui -- The Sony Open may be missing three of the PGA Tour's biggest guns this week in Tiger Woods, David Duval and Davis Love III, but that doesn't mean the field is an anemic one.

Ernie Els - who lost on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff in yesterday's $2.9 million Mercedes Championships to Woods -- is coming. So are Jim Furyk, Carlos Franco and Jesper Parnevik.

Furyk finished tied for fourth with Mike Weir, while Franco and Parnevik tied for sixth. Also placing in an eighth-place tie were Sony Open participants Glenn Day, Vijay Singh, British Open champion Paul Lawrie and Brad Faxon. These eight golfers earned a combined $957,500 in this weekend's opening event of the millennium.

"By putting these two events together, we have 20 of these 30 players competing at Sony next week,'' PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said yesterday. "Last year and this year means the full-field event on Oahu will have the best field it has ever had. We have much stronger fields, we have good air time and good television. It makes for a good package to begin the new year.''

Rivalry of their own

A lot of the talk over the past few years has centered on the developing rivalry between Woods and David Duval. But Woods and Els are building quite a battle of their own.

Dating back to the 1998 Mercedes, a span that covers 27 tournaments in which both have participated, the pair has finished in the top 10 in the same event six times.

Yesterday's sudden-death finish won by Woods on the second hole marked the third time the duo has placed 1-2. In those previous meetings, Els won the 1999 Nissan Open, while Woods was victorious in the 1999 National Rental Car Golf Classic.

Bad luck 13th

The par-4 No. 13 hole emerged as the most difficult during last week's Mercedes Championships.

The world's top golfers managed only nine birdies during the four rounds of competition. The hole produced 35 bogeys, four double bogeys and two triple bogeys by Rich Beem and Notah Begay. The average score on the 407-yard hole was 4.333.

Once again, the four easiest holes were the par-5s. The 663-yard 18th surrendered five eagles, including one each by Woods and Els on the 72nd hole to produce the dramatic sudden-death finish. The 18th was ranked the easiest as the 30 touring pros averaged 4.708.

The field had a combined average score of 71.767 yesterday. The average from the three previous rounds was 75.033 (Thursday), 74.267 (Friday) and 71.033 (Saturday).

Awards handed out

Woods and Senior Tour standout Bruce Fleisher dominated the PGA Awards ceremony held Saturday night at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Kapalua.

Woods was the recipient of the Byron Nelson, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus awards. Fleisher also won the same major awards on the Senior side of the equation.

"It was a very exciting year for me,'' Woods said. "Not only to play well, I think more importantly than all of the golf I've had this year, the most important thing when I look back on it was that my father got through prostate cancer OK. That was a very difficult time for me in my life.''

The PGA also handed out awards for the statistical winners. Woods led the way in scoring, greens-in-regulation, birdies, total driving and all-around. Brad Faxon won for putting, Singh for eagles, Jeff Sluman for sand saves, John Daly for driving distance and Fred Funk for driving accuracy.

The comeback player of the year was Steve Pate and the rookie of the year was Franco. The Nike Tour player of the year was Carl Paulson and Andrew Magee was given the citizenship award.

"Tiger, you won player of the year in 1997, rookie of the year in 1996 and last year was the most dominating performance in 25 years,'' Finchem said. "Congratulations on being voted by your peers as player of the year.''

20 coming to Sony Open

Rocco Mediate dropped out of the Sony Open yesterday. He gave no reason for his departure. That means 20 of the 30 competitors in the Mercedes Championships will make the trip to Honolulu.

The two notable exceptions are Woods and Duval. The other seven in the Mercedes field opting to skip the first full PGA Tour event are Steve Elkington, Brent Geiberger, Gabriel Hjertstedt, Tom Pernice, Hal Sutton, David Toms and Mike Weir.

Love also withdrew on Friday. No reason was given as to why last year's second-place finisher opted to skip a tournament he has played well in over the years. Replacing Mediate in the Sony Open field is Grant Waite. The first-alternate is David Ogrin.

Shoot-Out replacements

Love and Mediate were due to take part in tomorrow's $25,000 Johnny Bellinger Shoot-out. The two replacements in the 10-man event are Chip Beck and Mike Hulburt. Sony Open officials may expand the field to 12. If they do, the two additions will be Tom Lehman and Steve Jones.

Attendance on rise

The Mercedes Championships drew a final round of 8,000 people yesterday to bring the four-day total to approximately 20,000, according to tournament officials.

"That's not bad for an island out in the middle of the Pacific,'' former Mercedes tournament director Mark Rolfing said. "We're pleased with those kind of numbers.''

By Paul Arnett

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