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Tiger Woods to skip Mercedes Championship

Tiger Woods is so serious about wanting a shorter season on the PGA Tour that he is skipping the season-opening Mercedes Championships at Kapalua next month.

"I haven't had an offseason," Woods said. "And I need one."

The only other time Woods has missed the tournament was in 2003, when he was recovering from surgery on his left knee that kept him away from golf for two months.

His withdrawal is a serious blow to the star-deprived Mercedes Championships, which usually has a strong field because it is limited to PGA Tour winners from the previous year.

Phil Mickelson has not played at Kapalua since 2001 and isn't expected to play this year, choosing to spend time with his family. Retief Goosen has said he would stay home in South Africa, and Padraig Harrington will not be coming over from Ireland.

Ernie Els didn't win on the PGA Tour last year before his season ended in July with knee surgery. Adam Scott won the Nissan Open at Riviera, but it did not count as an official win because rain shortened the event to 36 holes.

That leaves only three players from the top 10 -- Vijay Singh, Sergio Garcia and Jim Furyk. And if Goosen decides not to play, that means the field at Mercedes (28 players) will be smaller than the Tour Championship (29).

"Not having Tiger at Kapalua will hurt, but we're excited about the improvements we made to the Plantation course and to the clubhouse," Kapalua vice president Gary Planos said. "We're not running a funeral, we're running a championship. We're going to show Kapalua to a freezing mainland."

Woods missing the Mercedes emphasizes how badly top players want more time off. His absence follows Mickelson's decision to skip the season-ending Tour Championship. Lefty cited "personal reasons," tour officials said he wanted to spend Halloween with his kids, but the real reason was that he shuts it down after the majors.

Woods said this probably will be the only time he skips the Mercedes, which he won in 1997 when it was at La Costa, and in 2000 at Kapalua when he and Els matched eagles and birdies until Woods won in a playoff.

"I love the tournament. I love Gary," Woods said. "But I needed some time off."

When he starts his season at the Buick Invitational on Jan. 26, the six-week break will be the longest in his career except for the eight weeks he missed from knee surgery.

December 12, 2005

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