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Lack of big wins demonstrates PGA parity

The high turnover at the winners-only Mercedes Championships is one example that ability on the PGA Tour is separated by a fine line.

Only 11 of the 31 players from last year were eligible to return to Kapalua. And because three guys didn't show, only eight players teed it up for the second straight year.

Perhaps another way to illustrate the depth of talent is the margin of victory: Runaways are rare.

"To separate yourself from a bunch of other very, very good players -- more than likely playing some really good golf -- is going to be very difficult," Stuart Appleby said. "What Tiger did at Pebble Beach a few years back was unheard of."

Woods owns the record for largest margin of victory at a major, winning by 15 shots in the 2000 U.S. Open.

Kapalua has had two runaways during its seven years hosting the Mercedes Championships. David Duval won by nine shots in 1999 during his rapid rise to No. 1 in the world (the next time he played, he shot 59 in the final round of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic), and Ernie Els won by eight shots in 2003 when he set a PGA Tour record at 31-under-par.

The other five events at Kapalua were decided by one shot, or in a playoff.

"That's just the level of play," Appleby said. "It's a unique sport. You can look at motor sports, you look at Formula One, they have competitive teams, all the cars look the same. Sometimes you have races where it's a whitewash. You don't want that. Having runaways is not good for any sport."

Last year on the PGA Tour, 36 of 47 tournaments were decided by two shots or fewer, with 11 of those a playoff. The largest margin belonged to Kenny Perry at the Colonial, where he shot 63-64 in the middle of the tournament and won by seven. Bart Bryant won by six shots in his wire-to-wire victory at the Tour Championship.

Tiger Woods twice won by at least three shots, although that's not surprising. Nineteen of his 46 victories on the PGA Tour have been by at least three shots, with four of those in double digits.

"It's very seldom a guy gets on a roll with his putter to the point where he can separate himself from the field, like Tiger has done a few times, and Ernie did here, and Duval," Fred Funk said.

Funk still hasn't experience that. Of his seven victories, the largest margin was two strokes.

January 9, 2006


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