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Players skip Sony over early Bob Hope start

HONOLULU — (AP) It used to make sense for players on Maui for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship to take a 30-minute flight over to Oahu for the Sony Open the following week.

This year, however, nine of the 31 players at Kapalua headed east to the mainland.

One reason for more players skipping the Sony Open is the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic the following week, a 90-hole tournament that starts on Wednesday and no longer features the same rotation of courses in the California desert.

"It's hard to go from the Sony to the Hope and prepare for four courses," said Charles Howell III, who was at Waialae this week but will be skipping the Hope. "You can't get there until Monday night and you've got a time change. The positive is you can use a cart to ride around, but it's not like you can do a 72-hole practice round."

Among those skipping the Sony Open from Kapalua are Scott Verplank, Justin Leonard, Hunter Mahan, Mike Weir and Charley Hoffman, who will be defending his title next week at the Hope.

Verplank has heard that Waialae sets up nicely for his accurate game, but he prefers the Hope. The five-day tournament no longer has Indian Wells, Tamarisk or Bermuda Dunes courses in the rotation. It featured the new Classic Club designed by Arnold Palmer last year, then added another new course - the Palmer Course at SilverRock Resort - for this year.

"You don't get there until Monday night if you do any good in Hawaii, and the tournament starts Wednesday on four courses," Verplank said. "And they're adding another new one this year. When they keep changing courses, you have to get over there and learn them."

For someone like Leonard, it's all about scheduling and conditions.

He prefers to start at the Hope when he's not eligible for the Mercedes, mainly because it allows him to start a new season in an ideal climate - usually. The wind howled at the Classic Club last year, and only three players broke 70 in the final round.

"I need a week to get out of the wind mode," Leonard said. "And when I go back, I'm playing four in a row to see if I can play my way into the Match Play. I understand that if you're already here, why not stay. But I like playing the Hope, and I feel like if I stay for the Sony I'll be at a disadvantage."

DRUG LIST: Toward the end of the U.S. PGA Tour's anti-doping program manual distributed to players last month is a section that lists examples of medications that are permitted, such as antibiotics, hemorrhoidals and muscle relaxants.

It was surprising to see vaginal preparations as the final entry.

Turns out it was a reminder that the U.S. PGA Tour is not a men's tour. Annika Sorenstam played in the Colonial in 2003, Suzy Whaley played in Hartford late that year, and Michelle Wie has played every year since then.

"In the era of females wanting to perhaps play on the PGA Tour, our policy had to reflect that such products were permissible," tour spokesman Ty Votaw said.

DIVOTS: Russ Holden's "Caddie for Cure" program got a big lift when Phil Mickelson agreed to take the highest bidder on eBay to be his caddie during a practice round at the FBR Open. Also for sale in bidding that ends on Monday are Brett Wetterich and Mercedes winner Daniel Chopra. All money raised goes to leukemia research and charities designated by the tour and the player.

STAT: Nine players at the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship were not in the top 100 in the world ranking.

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