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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 9:25 a.m., Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Tales from the PGA Tour

By Doug Ferguson
Associated Press

Starting the season in Hawaii usually means a player is coming off a good year on the PGA Tour.

Most of the winners congregate on Maui to kick off the new campaign in the Mercedes-Benz Championship, then stick around the islands for the Sony Open on Oahu. This point was driven home to Steve Stricker by his 8-year-old daughter.

Bobbi was a toddler when Stricker last qualified for Kapalua in 2002, but the memories must have been lasting.

"She won a tournament at our club (in Wisconsin), it was either three holes or six holes," Stricker said toward the end of his season. "She comes home all excited and says, 'Daddy, I won, I won! We're going to Hawaii.'"

Stricker had to break the news that he's the one who has to win for the trip to Hawaii. He did everything but that in a remarkable turnaround this year. Starting the season with limited status, able to play only four times the first four months of the year, Stricker rode a third-place finish in Houston and a tie for sixth in the U.S. Open to finish 36th on the money list.

He showed up at Tiger Woods' year-end tournament in California to play in the pro-am and prepare for 2007. After giving it some thought, Stricker decided to make his debut at the Sony Open.

"I'm going a week early to get ready," Stricker said, adding that Bobbi probably won't know the difference.

The PGA Tour embarks on what it calls a "new era in golf" next week in Hawaii, and no matter how much the schedule changes, there are sure to be some entertaining moments like these throughout the year:

Wilson likes quiet surrounding

Dean Wilson, a Castle High alum and one of two Hawaii players on the PGA Tour (Parker McLachlin is the other), was in the first group Thursday at Doral and was the early leader with a 66. He spoke about the morning conditions, when the conditions are calm and quiet.

"I like to play when there's no one around, and you just go out and do your thing and get it done," Wilson said.

He knows the other side, having played with Annika Sorenstam the first two rounds at Colonial in 2003, more fans than he had ever seen. When someone jokingly said Doral must have been as peaceful as Colonial, Wilson returned the volley.

"Colonial on Saturday," he said.

Sorenstam, of course, missed the cut at Colonial and the place emptied out on the weekend.

How fortunes can turn

It didn't take long for David Howell to realize that no matter what he did, something would go dreadfully wrong in the third round of the Memorial. He kept getting ridiculous lies after marginal shots, taking three double bogeys in four holes and eventually shot 83.

On the sixth, another good shot that took a bad hop and led to bogey. Even Jim "Bones" Mackay, the caddie for Phil Mickelson, could not believe Howell's bad luck.

"Have you ever seen anything like this before?" someone asked him.

Bones shook his head, then paused.

"Yeah, but just watch," Mackay said with a grin. "He'll birdie every hole in the Ryder Cup."

Four months later, Howell chipped in and holed a 50-foot putt while making four straight birdies to finish off a singles victory over Brett Wetterich in the Ryder Cup.

For Pressel, tears flow easily

Morgan Pressel has a major leak in her tear ducts, whether she's happy or sad. She was disgusted after a three-putt double bogey from 5 feet on her final hole of the first round in the U.S. Women's Open, knocking her out of a tie for the lead. A reporter went to the side of the ninth green, waiting to see the size of the meltdown.

Standing next to the gate where players exit was Beth Murison, the industrious USGA media official. She was holding a large box of tissue.

"Are you waiting for Morgan?" she was asked.

"No," Murison said, confused by the question. "My allergies are killing me."