Sorry, not that Maui Wowee. I've been to Maui. It's truly paradise on earth. You're in your own country, the landscape is stunning, you can drink the water, and they take American currency. That's the list. When staring at the overtly verdant mountains dropping into the Pacific you expect to see a dinosaur patrolling the slopes. Truly beyond description. I'd encourage anyone, if possible, to spend at least one vacation in this jewel. Enough travelogue.
The previous year's winners have the pleasure of beginning their new year in a very limited field event at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, held at The Plantation Course, a Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw design at Kapalua Resort. As a "2008 winners only" event it may be marked more than by who isn't playing rather than who is. Woods obviously, and Mickelson, who never plays this tournament, will be joined by non-winners Furyk, Mahan, Stricker and Luke Donald as spectators. Limited then to 33 starters, expect Vijay Singh to be a prohibitive favorite. The greens at Kapalua are notoriously funky and Singh's played here enough to have at least familiarized himself. Besides, he never really took a break from the 2008 season and should have the least rust. Stuart Appleby won here for three consecutive years, '04-'06, but didn't win in '08 to make this field. Keep an eye on last year's defender, Daniel Chopra, as well as Anthony Kim, Ernie Els , Davis Love III, and JB Holmes. Don't discount Camilo Villegas, who has played recently and Boo Weekly, who may have some vacation possum hunting withdrawals.
All in all the ones playing have to love this. Golf in paradise with a 4-5 times better chance to win due to the small field. The course is a unique beaut with huge descents, unpredictable winds, and the aforementioned quirky greens. While I'm watching from my winter wonderland, the contrast should be surreal. Let the season begin....
* Average Golfer Bonus - You have to check out Golfgal's recent posts about her up close and personal experiences with Maui golf.