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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, January 6, 2006

Some showed their true colors

By Bill Kwon
Special to The Advertiser

Spain's Sergio Garcia was trying to make a fashion statement during the Mercedes Championships at the Kapalua Plantation Course.

JEFF CHIU | Associated Press

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KAPALUA, Maui — How do you figure?

Justin Leonard and Wes Short Jr., two rabid Longhorn fans, didn't wear orange in yesterday's first round of the Mercedes Championships, but Sergio Garcia and Robert Gamez, who both couldn't care less about football or if the University of Texas won the national championship, did.

"I have an orange T-shirt and I was going to put it on today, but it didn't have a collar and you can't play out here without a collar," said Leonard, a college All-American at Texas, who said he sat on pins and needles watching the Longhornső 41-38 victory over Southern California in the Rose Bowl the night before.

Short brought a bunch of orange shirts along.

"But I done wore it earlier in the week, so I ran out. I'm a huge Longhorn fan, born and raised in Austin. I bleed orange," said Short, a Texas alum of an older vintage who still lives in his native city.

Short, at least, showed his true colors — a Texas Longhorn prominently displayed on his golf bag.

He got to watch only the second half of the game, having played in the afternoon pro-am on Wednesday.

"I don't know if my pro-am partners liked me much. I was on the phone all the time, kept text-messaging to know what was happening. I didn't play all that well," added Short, who did better yesterday, opening with an even-par 73 to tie for 10th in the 28-player field in the PGA Tour's season opener.

Leonard carded a 72 to be in a four-way tie for seventh, three strokes back of first-round leader Olin Browne.

After bogeying the first hole, Leonard played the rest of the round 2-under with birdies at the fourth and 14th holes.

"I made a bunch of pars," said Leonard, who won twice last year after going winless in 2004.

For Garcia, who only cares about the other game called futbol, his orange pants was simply a colorful fashion statement, just as his new-look, longer hairstyle was "just a little fun thing."

He had an opening 71, joining three others, including two-time defending champion Stuart Appleby, in third place, one stroke back of Vijay Singh, who's alone in second.

For Gamez, he wore an orange shirt, but not as a tribute to the Longhorns.

"I didn't watch the game. I don't care about football. I just want to look good," about why he made orange the color of choice in his first appearance at the Plantation Course.

Gamez, who once represented the Ko Olina Resort on Oahu, ended the longest drought between victories (394 events over 15 1/2 years) in PGA history by winning the Valero Texas Open.

"I was 5-over through eight (holes) but I played solid after that," said Gamez, not discouraged by his 77 start.

Especially since it meant a trip back to the islands.

"It's always nice coming back to Hawai'i," Gamez said.

It's the first trip to the Valley Island for Short, who played in the Sony Open two years ago.

"My wife (Gail) is making me go back there next week," said Short, who won the Michelin Championship at Las Vegas for his first PGA Tour victory at age 41. He's the first alternate to win since Gene Sauers in the 2002 Air Canada Championship when Arron Oberholser withdrew.

One of 11 first-timers in this year's event, Short kicked around the Nationwide Tour for years before earning his tour playing card in the 2003 Q-School.

"In my heart I knew I could play. I just wanted to have a chance to prove it," said Short, a club pro in his hometown for nine years before trying the tour.

"One of the things about golf is that it takes a whole lot of money to play and I really didn't have a whole lot."

So the breakthrough victory came as vindication.

"I knew that I didn't have to go to Q-School for a couple of years at least. Then I could play in the Mercedes and I could pick my schedule pretty much. That's a huge thing," Short said.