Mercedes Championship
Mercedes Championship
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Worlds best descent on Hawaii for seasons opener

KA LUA, Maui, Hawaii -- Have you ever seen Tiger Woods launch one of his powerful drives into the stratosphere? Or observe the silky putting stroke of Mark O'Meara? Have you ever gotten close enough to enjoy the fluid and athletic golf swings of Fred Couples, David Duval, Davis Love III or Phil Mickelson? If not, your chance is just around the corner.

Current Champion -
Phil Mickelson

Many of the world's top-ranked golfers, including Tiger Woods, Mark O'Meara, David Duval and Davis Love III, the top four players according to the final Official 1998 World Golf Rankings, are preparing to invade Maui for the season-opening Mercedes Championships at Kapalua Resort. The Mercedes Championships, featuring an elite winners-only field from the previous PGA TOUR season, will be making its first visit to the famed Plantation Course at Kapalua, Jan. 7-10.

Six of the world's top 10 are expected to tee it up at The Plantation Course. In addition to Woods, O'Meara, Duval and Love, other top 20 performers include PGA Champion Vijay Singh and defending champion Phil Mickelson, who are ranked ninth and 10th, respectively. Other marquee players include Fred Couples, Jim Furyk, Justin Leonard and Steve Elkington, who are ranked among the world's top 20, and Tom Watson, an eight-time major championship winner who qualified for the Mercedes Championships at age 49 by capturing the 1998 MasterCard Colonial.

For some players, including Woods, Leonard, and Couples, Kapalua may be their only PGA TOUR stop in Hawaii. Couples, Love, O'Meara and Furyk are familiar faces to the Maui golf fans, all having won the Kapalua International, a post-season tournament that over the years drew the biggest names in golf. Couples, who won twice on the PGA Tour in 1998, and Love, who won his fourth MCI Classic last year, are two-time winners of Kapalua.

O'Meara, voted the Jack Nicklaus Award for Player of the Year on the PGA TOUR in 1998, hasn't been back to Kapalua in a while, but he has fond memories after winning the 1985 event. He returns fresh off a monster season in which he captured The Masters and the British Open. Furyk triumphed in Maui a decade later, taking the 1995 Kapalua International title.

New faces for Hawaii golf fans to watch include Duval, who won a season-high four tournaments in 1998 and also captured the Arnold Palmer Award as the TOUR's top earnings leader and Vardon Trophy for lowest adjusted stroke average. Also included in that group Vijay Singh, one of eight players to win multiple titles last season, joining Duval, O'Meara, Couples, Mickelson, Hal Sutton, John Huston and Billy Mayfair.

And then there is Woods, winner of the BellSouth Classic in 1998, and arguably the game's biggest draw. Woods, who won a record three straight U.S. Amateur titles, burst on the professional scene in late 1996 and won six times in less than a year's time. Among his victories was a historic 12-stroke triumph in the 1997 Masters.

All these great players will be at Kapalua Resort for the Mercedes Championships, Jan. 7-10. Having a chance to watch them might be the perfect give for your favourite golf fan -- or yourself.

The Mercedes Championships will be broadcast by ESPN live in prime time on the East Coast, a first for the tournament.