[ FOOTBALL ]
Hawaii in visits
McKinley defensive tackle Randy Faletoi, considered by some the top college football prospect in the state this year, is scheduled to visit the University of Hawaii on the weekend of Jan. 16-17, Faletoi's mother said.
Faletoi has to get back home from American Samoa first. The other players and coaches from Hawaii who were stuck there after an exhibition game because of bad weather returned yesterday.
"Right now he's scheduled to get back Monday," Grace Faletoi said.
Faletoi took the SAT in December, and received a score high enough to meet NCAA college-entrance requirements, the mother said.
He also has a visit planned for Houston on Jan. 23, and has already toured Utah.
Southern California has shown interest, but hasn't called to set up a visit.
"They haven't called in two weeks," Grace Faletoi said of the co-national champion Trojans. "That's where Randy said he really wants to go at this point. Then Utah, then UH (Hawaii)."
Faletoi (6-foot-3, 310 pounds) is a two-time Star-Bulletin first-team all-state pick.
Postponed: Two top offensive-line prospects, Keala Watson (Nanakuli) and Jeremy Perry (Kahuku), were scheduled to visit Oregon State yesterday. That trip was postponed because of flight cancellations due to bad weather in the Northwest.
Watson and Perry are also high on UH's list and are scheduled for visits at Manoa later this month.
On the trail: Nanakuli running back Kyle Beck said he plans to visit Division II Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D., on Jan. 25. Beck, who has a cumulative grade-point average of 3.9, has also received interest from Columbia and other Ivy League schools. ... Linebacker Dylan Moss, kicker C.J. Santiago, running back B.J. Batts, defensive lineman Fale Laeli and defensive back Keao Monteilh (all from Saint Louis) will visit UH in the coming weeks. Idaho State is setting up a visit for Batts. ... Kamehameha offensive lineman Brennan Carvalho will visit Portland State.
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[ MERCEDES CHAMPIONSHIPS ]
Clarke off cigarettes,
looks good, is 1 back
KAPALUA, Maui >> Old friends who haven't seen Darren Clarke in a while wouldn't readily recognize the Northern Ireland native.
For years, Tiger Woods and others on the PGA Tour encouraged Clarke to put away the beer and cigarettes, and get better acquainted with nutrition and exercise. It took a couple of years, but the message finally hit home.
Despite a woeful performance in his last tournament in November, Clarke flew from his home in South Africa, came to Maui last weekend to get better acquainted with the Plantation Course and promptly fired a 6-under 67 to trail leader Stuart Appleby by one shot at the $5.3 million Mercedes Championships.
"What year did he beat me -- 2000 in match play," Woods asked when responding to how much influence Woods had had on Clarke's new regimen that led to him shedding more than 30 pounds. "You know he had a tough time. He beat me pretty easily in the final, but he was actually really tired.
"I said, 'Darren, granted you beat the crap out of me that day, but you should not be this tired.' You know, it took him a little while to get over that. He started to work out. He's lost some pounds. Darren's doing it the proper way. He's doing it through nutrition as well as exercise."
Darren Clarke almost made an eagle putt on the 18th green yesterday during the Mercedes Championships.
He's also doing it without cigarettes. Clarke decided on New Year's Day that it was time to put away nicotine for good. The 35-year-old, who qualified for the Mercedes by winning the WGC-NEC Invitational, said things are all right so far.
"Today walking up and down the hills, I was fine," Clarke said. "It was my first-ever competitive round, I think, without having nicotine in my body. That was another first. No beer, no nicotine. Don't know what's going on really.
"I decided to try to give up (smoking) on New Year's Day. Nothing legal or illegal (smiling). Cigars, I'm talking about, of course, over here. But (giving up) smoking has been difficult. I wanted to give it a go, to see if I could do it. I've managed to do it so far. I'll keep on trying to stay off them."
Winds of change: With the Kona winds kicking up yesterday morning, the first hole became more difficult than if the tradewinds were blowing at the players' backs. As you might expect, the par-4 473-yarder played the most difficult in relation to par.
Shigeki Maruyama managed the only birdie en route to a 4-under 69 finish. There were 18 pars and nine bogeys. Defending champion Ernie Els opened with a double bogey and Bob Tway, who had the day's worst round at 76, took a triple. The average score was a whopping 4.433.
The easiest hole was the par-5, 663-yard 18th. Even though it also played into the Kona breezes, three golfers managed eagle, including Woods and Fred Couples. There were 15 birdies, 11 pars and one bogey by Shaun Micheel. The average score for the longest hole on the PGA Tour was 4.333.
There were five bogey-free rounds posted by Scott Hoch, Justin Leonard, Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh and Chad Campbell.
Toms misses out: David Toms is the only player out of 31 eligible golfers not participating this week. Toms, who lost in a playoff here to Sergio Garcia in 2002, is home in Shreveport, La., recovering from offseason wrist surgery. He underwent the surgery the last week of December.
He had the hard cast removed Tuesday and is now wearing an elastic brace on his left hand and wrist. Toms, who won twice last year, hopes to begin rehab work in about two weeks, but hasn't set a date yet on when he will return to the PGA Tour.