Wednesday, January 07, 2009

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — The Mercedes-Benz Championship typically makes first-round pairings based on the chronological order of when players won their PGA Tour events to qualify for the event. This year, the tour decided to based pairings on the final FedEx Cup standings, putting the defending champion at Kapalua (Daniel Chopra) with the FedEx Cup champion (Vijay Singh).

That allowed for quite the rivalry in the opening round beyond golf.

In front of them will be Camilo Villegas, who graduated from Florida, and Anthony Kim, who spent two years at Oklahoma. They tee off about two hours before the BCS Championship game between the Gators and the Sooners.

``I'm going to be thinking more about that game than my round, because I've got three more days to make up ground, but the Sooners need every minute,'' Kim said. ``It's going to be very fun playing with Camilo.''

Villegas is from Colombia and doesn't have quite the grasp of American football as Kim does, although he loved going to Gators game.

``I'm not a Chris DiMarco that knows the name of every player and knows the stats up and down, but I would love watching the game,'' Villegas said. ``I'll be pulling hard.''

Kim took a recruiting trip to Oklahoma, not intending to play golf. The trip included a football game against Alabama, which the Sooners won in the rain. He was sold on the Sooners that day.

``After the football game, I knew that was the school for me,'' Kim said.


Geoff Ogilvy is one of the most articulate players on the PGA Tour, but even he was verbally challenged when talking about changes to the Titleist golf ball.

Titleist is involved in an ongoing dispute with Callaway over patents applied to the popular Pro V1 ball. Two courts have ruled in favor of Callaway, and Titleist is appealing. Before the latest court ruling, Titleist converted the Pro V1 to be outside the patents in question.

So what does that mean for PGA Tour players, the majority of whom use Titleist?

Some are using the modified ball. Others are using the new Pro V1, which carries a ``plus'' in the side marking, although that's not the name of the ball. Steve Stricker used it at the Chevron World Challenge last month.

As for Ogilvy?

``The new-new one, I'm not going to use this week,'' he said. ``I'm going to play these two weeks with the new version of the old one, and then do a bit more testing. There are good reports about the new-new one. So I've got a whole month in Phoenix to test them all out. They never make a bad ball. They're always pretty good.''

Asked to clarify, things really got entertaining.

``There's a new-old one, and there's a new-new one, which is the new one, which is the model in front of the old one,'' Ogilvy said, grinning as he spoke. ``The other one is a 2007 ball, and this is a 2009 ball. There's a version of the 2007 ball, but it doesn't breach the patent. So I'm using the non-patent breaching version of the 2007 ball these two weeks.''

Thankfully, players only have to put a number on their scorecard.

TIGER ODDS: Tiger Woods has not played since winning the U.S. Open on June 16, and even he doesn't know when he will return. But British-based William Hill already has installed him as the 9-to-4 favorite to win the Masters.

The bookmaker lists Phil Mickelson at 10-to-1 winning the Masters, followed by Sergio Garcia at 12-to-1 and Padraig Harrington, going for his third straight majors, at 14-to-1.

One other betting option on Woods is how many majors he will win in 2009. William Hill offers 2-to-1 odds that Woods will win at least one major, 11-to-4 that he will win two majors, 14-to-1 that he will win three and 33-to-1 odds that he will win them all. In other words, the odds of Woods winning the Grand Slam are equivalent to Adam Scott winning the Masters.

William Hill also has 11-to-10 odds that Woods will not win any major this year. All of this is predicated on him playing the Masters.


DEFENSE OF DALY: John Daly made news for smashing a fan's camera against a tree at the Australian Open, written off as more bad behavior from golf's ``wild thing.'' Geoff Ogilvy played the event, and said it could have happened to anyone.

``I think every player on tour would have snapped, putting up with what he was having to put up with,'' Ogilvy said. ``There was a guy with a flash less than 3 feet from his face for 20 minutes just going, 'Bang, bang, bang, bang,' right in his face, trying to get him to snap. And he did. I think a lot of guys might have grabbed the camera and thrown it in a marsh or something.''

Ogilvy is the second player to defend Daly over the incident. Robert Allenby also blamed tournament officials for allowing the fan to bring a camera and continually take pictures so close to Daly.

``The Australian tour didn't even fine him (Daly) because the guy wasn't supposed to have a camera in the tournament, and he was flashing and trying to wind him up,'' Ogilvy said. ``I don't blame him at all.''


DIVOTS: Anthony Kim has a Nike bag, but no deal. Kim said his contract expired last year, but he declined to discuss negotiations for a new deal. ... The 16th green at the TPC Scottsdale apparently wasn't rowdy enough for the FBR Open. Tournament organizers have added general admission bleachers for about 3,000 fans to the right of the 162-yard hole, making it fully enclosed by bleachers and corporate boxes with capacity up to 20,000 people. ... Jack Nicklaus will receive the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Golf Coaches Association of America. Nicklaus is the namesake for the GCAA players of the year in all three NCAA divisions, and he invites the winners to the final round of The Memorial to present them their awards. ... Carl Pettersson was No. 49 in the world after the Tour Championship. He played three times in the Fall Series, made all three cuts, and fell to No. 62. ``I came to hate Monday,'' Pettersson said, referring to when the weekly world ranking was published.


STAT OF THE WEEK: The European Tour has more members from the top 50 in the world than the PGA Tour.


FINAL WORD: ``It was a great finish to the year. But on Thursday, we start from zero.'' - Camilo Villegas, who won the final two PGA Tour Playoff events.

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