KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Mark Calcavecchia was halfway up a mountain in Arizona when he stopped to text Tiger Woods.
“Hiking a mountain. May die.”
Within minutes, he got a reply from Woods.
“You must be on the Plantation Course.”
The 47-year-old Calcavecchia was only preparing for the Plantation Course at Kapalua, site of the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship. He isn’t known for a strict workout routine — or any workout routine, for that matter — but Calcavecchia decided to prepare for the rugged terrain of West Maui by climbing the South Mountain in Phoenix.
“I hiked it three times last week, just to brace myself for up here a little bit,” he said.
Part of that was from experience. The last time Calcavecchia played at Kapalua, he showed up with rust and rubbery legs and spent four days walking up and down the hilly fairways. When he got to the California desert for the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, he hurt so much that he had an MRI on his right knee to make sure he had not injured something.
“Walking this course took a toll on me, so I wanted to be a little bit better prepared,” he said.
The climb was about 45 minutes and comes with a view of downtown Phoenix and a race track. And then comes the hike down, which Calcavecchia said was no picnic, either.
“I’ve slipped a few times, and you can kind of hurt yourself if you’re not careful,” he said.
How that preparation pays off is yet to be determined. Players are allowed to ride in carts through the pro-am Wednesday until the tournament begins.
This wasn’t the first time Calcavecchia exchanged a text with Woods around this time of the season. Two years ago, when Woods skipped the season-opener for the first time when not injured, Calcavecchia’s text thanked him for staying home.
“More cash for us,” he said.
LEFTY’S START: Three tournaments will be in the books before Phil Mickelson makes his debut on the PGA Tour this year, the longest he has ever waited to start since he turned pro.
Mickelson will be skipping the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic for the first time since 2001, and there is sure to be speculation that Lefty is not happy with the change of courses at a tournament where he has won twice.
He has not played since winning the HSBC Champions in China in early November.
“Taking more than two months off sounds like a long time, but I’ll have to be fresh and ready to go when the 2008 season starts because I’ll play five in a row starting in San Diego,” Mickelson said on his Web site.
A spokesman confirmed he will not play until the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines.
SMART SCHEDULES: As much as the PGA Tour might encourage players to compete more often, the recipe for the most successful players appears to be playing less.
The top 10 players on the money list this year averaged 22.4 starts in 2007.
Players ranked from No. 115 through No. 125 on the money list averaged 29.8 starts.
Among those who are trying to cut back is British Open champion Padraig Harrington, who played 29 events last year while keeping full membership on the PGA and European tours. He had no complaints with his year, especially after he captured his first major. But reviewing his schedule and that of Woods, who played 18 times, made the Irishman wonder.
“Twice as many as the best player in the world,” Harrington said recently. “And that means that we all have to learn from who is at the top. Every time he turns up, he’s turning up to win. You don’t want this attitude of playing lots of events and hoping to win. You want to really pinpoint them and every time you turn up, you’re ready.”
BACK ON THE DL: Brad Faxon missed the final four months of 2007 after having surgery on his right foot to remove bunions.
But instead of starting the year next week at the Sony Open, he’s back on the disabled list.
After playing in the Merrill Lynch Shootout and two pro-am rounds at the Target World Challenge, Faxon learned he had anterior cruciate ligament damage in his right knee, the same one that was operated on at the end of 2005.
“This time there was meniscus damage as well,” Faxon said in an e-mail.
He is to see the doctor for a checkup on Friday, and likely will not be able to start his season until the spring.
CALCAVECCHIA’S LAMENT: Whatever happens the rest of his career, Mark Calcavecchia takes pride in 13 career victories. His only regret is that he feels he should have won more, noting that he has been runner-up 26 times.
“I gave half of those away, and the other half I rallied to finish second,” Calcavecchia said. “I could easily have won 20 times, and that’s a pretty good career. But 13 is not too bad.”
What happened on the ones he threw away?
“I choked. Pressure. Trying too hard. Mental problems. Demons. Yips,” he said. “It’s a tough game.”
DIVOTS: Among the “newcomers” to the Plantation Course at Kapalua is Fanny Sunesson, the caddie for Henrik Stenson. The last time she was at Kapalua was for the 1988 Izusu Kapalua International, played during the silly season, when she worked for Anders Forsbrand. That was on the Bay Course, three years before the Plantation Course opened. … The pro-am at the Mercedes-Benz Championship takes 34 players, and with only 31 players in the field, the tournament asked Billy Andrade, Parker McLachlin and 16-year-old Tadd Fujikawa to fill out the field Wednesday. Fujikawa’s name went quickly in the draw party Tuesday night. “He’s been telling everyone he’s taking Tiger Woods’ place,” Kapalua vice president Gary Planos said. … Voted the shot of the year on the European Tour in 2007 was the 7-iron by Angel Cabrera to 3 feet for birdie on the 15th hole in the U.S. Open at Oakmont.
STAT OF THE WEEK: Thirteen of the 31 players at the Mercedes-Benz Championship have never played the Plantation Course.
FINAL WORD: “It’s hard to say who the next great No.2 player in the world will be.” — Mark Calcavecchia, when asked which player was best equipped to challenge Tiger Woods.