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Players skipping Sony Open in favour of Bob Hope Classic

It used to make sense for players on Maui for the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship to take a 30-minute flight over to Oahu for the Sony Open the following week.

This year, however, nine of the 31 players at Kapalua headed east to the mainland.

One reason for more players skipping the Sony Open is the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic the following week, a 90-hole tournament that starts on Wednesday and no longer features the same rotation of courses in the California desert.

"It's hard to go from the Sony to the Hope and prepare for four courses," said Charles Howell III, who was at Waialae this week but will be skipping the Hope. "You can't get there until Monday night and you've got a time change. The positive is you can use a cart to ride around, but it's not like you can a 72-hole practice round."

Among those skipping the Sony Open from Kapalua are Scott Verplank, Justin Leonard, Hunter Mahan, Mike Weir and Charley Hoffman, who will be defending his title next week at the Hope.

Verplank has heard that Waialae sets up nicely for his accurate game, but he prefers the Hope. The five-day tournament no longer has Indian Wells, Tamarisk or Bermuda Dunes in the rotation. It featured the new Classic Club designed by Arnold Palmer last year, then added another new course -- the Palmer Course at SilverRock Resort -- for this year.

"You don't get there until Monday night if you do any good in Hawaii, and the tournament starts Wednesday on four courses," Verplank said. "And they're adding another new one this year. When they keep changing courses, you have to get over there and learn them."

For someone like Leonard, it's all about scheduling and conditions.

He prefers to start at the Hope when he's not eligible for the Mercedes, mainly because it allows him to start a new season in an ideal climate -- usually. The wind howled at the Classic Club last year, and only three players broke 70 in the final round.

"I need a week to get out of the wind mode," Leonard said. "And when I go back, I'm playing four in a row to see if I can play my way into the Match Play. I understand that if you're already here, why not stay. But I like playing the Hope, and I feel like if I stay for the Sony I'll be at a disadvantage."


January 9, 2008

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