Sun Sentinel
PGA Tour
PGA - Mercedes-Benz Championship Preview
From The Sports Network

DATES: Thursday, January 8th through Sunday, January 11th
SITE: Kapalua Resort (Plantation Course), Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii
COURSE ARCHITECT: Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore (1991)
PAR: 73
YARDAGE: 7,411
Hole-By-Hole:1 - Par 4 520 yds10 - Par 4 354 yds
2 - Par 3 218 yds11 - Par 3 164 yds
3 - Par 4 380 yds12 - Par 4 420 yds
4 - Par 4 382 yds13 - Par 4 407 yds
5 - Par 5 532 yds14 - Par 4 305 yds
6 - Par 4 398 yds15 - Par 5 555 yds
7 - Par 4 516 yds16 - Par 4 365 yds
8 - Par 3 203 yds17 - Par 4 508 yds
9 - Par 5 521 yds18 - Par 5 663 yds
36 3,670 Yds37 3,741 Yds
Annual:  57th
Television:  Golf Channel - Thursday/Saturday -- 6-10:30 p.m. (et),
  Thursday -- 11:30 p.m.-4 a.m. (et) - replay,
  Friday/Saturday -- 11 p.m.-3:30 a.m. (et) - replay,
  Sunday -- 6-10 p.m. (et),
  Sunday -- 11 p.m.-3 a.m. (et) - replay
Defending Champion:  Daniel Chopra
Runner-Up:  Steve Stricker
Tournament Record:  261 (Ernie Els, 2003)
54-Hole Record:  194 (Ernie Els, 2003)
36-Hole Record:  129 (Ernie Els, 2003)
Course Record:  62 (K.J. Choi, 2003)
Total Purse:  $5,500,000
Shares:  1st Place - $1,100,000; 2nd Place - $650,000; 3rd Place - $430,000
2008 Finish
Daniel Chopra *274Hunter Mahan278
Steve Stricker274Nick Watney278
Stephen Ames275Charles Howell III279
Mike Weir276Justin Leonard279
Jim Furyk278Mark Calcavecchia280
Brandt Snedeker280

* - Won in Playoff

Past Mercedes-Benz Championship Winners
YearWinner (Score) -- Runners-Up
2008*Daniel Chopra (274) -- Steve Stricker
2007Vijay Singh (278) -- Adam Scott
2006*Stuart Appleby (284) -- Vijay Singh
2005Stuart Appleby (271) -- Jonathan Kaye
2004Stuart Appleby (270) -- Vijay Singh
2003Ernie Els (261) -- Rocco Mediate, K.J. Choi
2002*Sergio Garcia (274) -- David Toms
2001Jim Furyk (274) -- Rory Sabbatini
2000*Tiger Woods (276) -- Ernie Els
1999David Duval (266) -- Mark O'Meara, Billy Mayfair
1998Phil Mickelson (271) -- Mark O'Meara, Tiger Woods
1997*#Tiger Woods (202) -- Tom Lehman
1996Mark O'Meara (271) -- Nick Faldo, Scott Hoch
1995*Steve Elkington (278) -- Bruce Lietzke
1994*Phil Mickelson (276) -- Fred Couples
1993Davis Love III (272) -- Tom Kite
1992*Steve Elkington (279) -- Brad Faxon
1991Tom Kite (272) -- Lanny Wadkins
1990Paul Azinger (272) -- Ian Baker-Finch
1989Steve Jones (279) -- David Frost, Jay Haas
1988#Steve Pate (202) -- Larry Nelson
1987Mac O'Grady (278) -- Rick Fehr
1986Calvin Peete (267) -- Mark O'Meara
1985Tom Kite (275) -- Mark McCumber
1984Tom Watson (274) -- Bruce Lietzke
1983Lanny Wadkins (280) -- Ray Floyd
1982Lanny Wadkins (280) -- Andy Bean, David Graham, Craig Stadler,
Ron Streck
1981Lee Trevino (273) -- Ray Floyd
1980Tom Watson (276) -- Jim Colbert
1979Tom Watson (275) -- Bruce Lietzke, Jerry Pate
1978Gary Player (281) -- Andy North, Lee Trevino
1977*Jack Nicklaus (281) -- Bruce Lietzke
1976Don January (277) -- Hubert Green
1975*Al Geiberger (277) -- Gary Player
1974Johnny Miller (280) -- Bud Allin, John Mahaffey
1973Jack Nicklaus (276) -- Lee Trevino
1972*Bobby Mitchell (280) -- Jack Nicklaus
1971Jack Nicklaus (279) -- Bruce Devlin, Gary Player, Dave Stockton
1970Frank Beard (273) -- Billy Casper, Tony Jacklin, Gary Player
1969Gary Player (284) -- Lee Trevino
1968Don January (276) -- Julius Boros
1967Frank Beard (278) -- Arnold Palmer
1966*Arnold Palmer (277) -- Gay Brewer
1965Arnold Palmer (277) -- Chi Chi Rodriguez
1964Jack Nicklaus (279) -- Al Geiberger, Doug Sanders
1963Jack Nicklaus (273) -- Tony Lema, Arnold Palmer
1962Arnold Palmer (276) -- Billy Casper
1961Sam Snead (273) -- Tommy Bolt
1960Jerry Barber (268) -- Jay Hebert
1959Mike Souchak (281) -- Art Wall
1958Stan Leonard (275) -- Billy Casper
1957Gene Littler (285) -- Billy Casper, Jimmy Demaret, Dow Finsterwald,
Billy Maxwell
1956Gene Littler (281) -- Cary Middlecoff
1955Gene Littler (280) -- Jerry Barber, Pete Cooper, Bob Toski
1954Art Wall (278) -- Al Besselink, Lloyd Mangrum
1953Al Besselink (280) -- Chandler Harper

* - Won in Playoff

# - Rain Shortened

Note:Formerly called Tournament of Champions (1953-74), MONY Tournament of
Champions (1975-89), Infiniti Tournament of Champions (1990-93), Mercedes Championships (1994-2006).

Top Contenders in the Field
Daniel Chopra---------------------------Won
Justin LeonardT-5---T-8T-18T-19T-13---8th---T-8
Vijay Singh4thT-8T-3---T-42ndT-52ndWonT-12
Zach Johnson------------------T-23------T-20
Boo Weekley---------------------------T-23
K.J. Choi------------T-2------T-19T-8T-28
Adam Scott---------------7thT-5---2nd---
Trevor Immelman------------------------3rd---
Davis Love III8th------T-16---T-9------T-4---
J.B. Holmes------------------------T-4---
Will MacKenzie------------------------T-4---
Geoff Ogilvy---------------------T-13T-19---
Carl Pettersson---------------------21stT-22---
D.J. Trahan------------------------32nd---
Kenny Perry---------3rd---T-15---T-19------
Sean O'Hair---------------------27th------
Ernie Els---2ndT-3---WonT-21T-3---------
Stewart Cink------T-12---------T-5---------
Ryan Palmer------------------T-26---------
Cameron Beckman---------T-18------------------
Steve Lowery------33rd---------------------
Brian Gay------------------------------
Ryuji Imada------------------------------
Anthony Kim------------------------------
Greg Kraft------------------------------
Dustin Johnson------------------------------
Richard S. Johnson------------------------------
Parker McLachlin------------------------------
Chez Reavie------------------------------
Andres Romero------------------------------
Marc Turnesa------------------------------
Camilo Villegas------------------------------
Johnson Wagner------------------------------
Sports Network Selections

Pick to Win - Ernie Els
Darkhorse - Andres Romero
Last Week's Pick to Win - Chevron (Steve Stricker) - Finished 2nd
Last Week's Darkhorse - Chevron (Boo Weekley) - Finished tied for 9th
The 2009 PGA Tour season begins this week with the first of back-to-back events in Hawaii. First up in the Aloha State is the Mercedes-Benz Championship, which features only winners from the previous season's official events. This tournament kicks off the third season of the PGA Tour's FedExCup. The winner of this event will earn 4,500 points and lead the race for the $10 million FedExCup bonus. Tiger Woods won the inaugural FedExCup in 2007 and Vijay Singh captured the Cup last year.

This year, 37 players are eligible for this event, as there were seven multiple winners in 2008. The top-four players in the world, however, are skipping this week's event: Tiger Woods, who is still out with a knee injury, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson and Padraig Harrington. Of the 33 participants this season, 12 are competing for the first time in this event. Only six players in the field competed in last year's event. There are four former champions competing this week: defending champion Daniel Chopra, 2007 winner Vijay Singh, 2003 champion Ernie Els and 1993 winner Davis Love III.

Last year, Daniel Chopra beat Steve Stricker with a birdie at the fourth playoff hole to win the Mercedes-Benz Championship, bringing a thrilling end to the PGA Tour's 2008 season-opener. Chopra saw a three-shot lead slip away over the last five holes of regulation as Stricker made a run down the stretch, finally catching the Swede with a birdie at the 18th hole. They finished regulation tied at 18-under 274 and followed each other around during the first three playoff holes, hitting similar shots for the same results: three straight pars. Stricker hit an errant drive into the rough at the fourth extra hole, the par-four ninth, a costly shot that was followed by Chopra's hybrid onto the green. After Stricker chipped 15 feet past the hole, Chopra was left tortured by a 23-foot eagle putt that hung impossibly on the edge of the cup. But it didn't matter. Chopra tapped in for his birdie, while Stricker missed his mid-range try. The end came more than an hour after Chopra missed by inches on a birdie putt at the 18th hole that would have given him the win in regulation. All the drama ended in Chopra's second career PGA Tour win -- his second victory in three starts, actually, after going more than 130 starts and nearly four seasons without one. He won $1.1 million and a Mercedes-Benz. Stricker fired a nine-under 64 in the final round, which tied with Hunter Mahan for the low round of the tournament, and played his last 14 holes in regulation at nine-under par.

Vijay Singh won his 30th PGA Tour event at the Mercedes-Benz Championship in 2007 and reached three milestones. He became the 17th player with 30 or more wins in PGA Tour history. The title was also his 18th since turning 40. That broke the PGA Tour record for victories over 40, passing Sam Snead. Finally, the $1.1 million winners check pushed Singh over the $50 million mark in career earnings on the PGA Tour. He became the second player to break that plateau, joining Woods, who has over $70 million in career earnings.

In 2006, Stuart Appleby became just the second player to three-peat at the Mercedes-Benz Championship. Gene Littler accomplished the feat from 1955-57. Appleby is the leader in career earnings at the Mercedes-Benz Championship with $3,468,155 in seven starts. This event has been won by foreign-born players the last seven years: Chopra (2008), Singh (2007), Appleby (2004-06), Ernie Els (2003) and Sergio Garcia (2002). Jim Furyk was the last American to capture the title when he won in 2001.

When he won in 2003, Els blitzed the field, as he shot a tournament-record 261, breaking the previous mark of 266 set by David Duval in 1999. Els also set marks for 36 holes (129) and 54 holes (194). When K.J. Choi finished tied for second in 2003, he set a new course record of 62 during the third round. Littler owns the largest victory margin of 13, when he defeated Jerry Barber and Pete Cooper in 1955. Jack Nicklaus is a five-time winner of this tournament, while Bruce Lietzke has been runner-up four times. Appleby, Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson and Littler are three-time winners of this event. There have been nine wire-to-wire winners of this event, the last coming in 1978 when Steve Pate recorded the victory. There have been 12 playoffs in the history of the event.

This is the 11th consecutive year in which this event is being held at this site. The Plantation Course unfurls across island canyons, native vegetation and panoramic oceanfront plateaus. A shot-maker's dream, players will find that the use of imagination and feel - along with every club in their bag - is an asset here. Kapalua means "arms embracing the sea." Although the Pacific Ocean is in full view on every tee box, there are no water hazards on the course. Prior to Kapalua, the event was held at La Costa Resort and Spa in California the previous 30 years. The first 16 were played in Las Vegas; 14 at Desert Inn Country Club and two at Stardust Country Club. This is the only course on the PGA Tour which uses a par 73. The Kapalua Resort was previously the site of the Lincoln-Mercury Kapalua International from 1982-97.

The first full-field event of the 2009 season will be played on the Island of Oahu next week, as the PGA Tour's best battle defending champion K.J. Choi at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

01/06 13:59:07 ET

As of January 6, 2009, at 01:59 PM ET