Browne starts off the new year in the lead


Published: Friday, January 6, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 6, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
KAPALUA, Hawaii - Olin Browne waited six years before getting back to the winners-only Mercedes Championships, and played Thursday as if he doesn't want to wait that long again.
Browne was the only player to break 70 in blustery conditions at Kapalua and finished with a 4-under 69 to take a one-shot lead over Vijay Singh as the PGA Tour season began without some of its biggest stars.
Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen decided to take the week off, leaving a 28-man field to tackle a Plantation course that played long and soft, and deceptive because of its new greens.
Only nine players managed to break par. "I'm thrilled to be here," Browne said. "I would like to play well enough to be invited back. And there's only one way to get back."
His 69 matched the highest score to lead after the first round in the eight years the Mercedes Championships has been played at Kapalua. Jesper Parnevik also had a 69 in 2000.
Singh, coming off a year in which he won four times but surrendered his No. 1 ranking to Woods, overcame some more balky putting with consecutive birdies down the stretch, but he tried a high pitch from just off the par-5 18th green that ran some 20 feet past the pin.
Two-time defending champion Stuart Appleby hit his tee shot into the weeds on the 17th and took bogey to settle for a 71, leaving him in a group that included David Toms, Carl Pettersson and Sergio Garcia.
Jim Furyk, who has a house beyond the 18th green, might have joined them except for a penalty stroke he called on himself on the 14th green when a gust moved his ball a fraction of an inch as he stood over a putt. He made the 5-foot putt, but had to score it as a par.

The race begins

Six players at the Mercedes Championship have to play well quickly if they want to get into the Masters.
Augusta National six years ago went away from its criteria that winning on the PGA Tour earns a trip down Magnolia Lane, preferring to put more emphasis on overall play by relying on the world ranking and money list.
Heath Slocum, Wes Short Jr., Robert Gamez, Jason Gore, Brad Faxon and Tim Petrovic failed to crack the top 50 in the world ranking or finish in the top 40 on last year's money list. But there's still time. The Masters will take the top 50 in the world and the top 10 on the current money list at the end of March.
"I'm going to hammer out a lot on the West Coast," said Gore, who is No. 90 in the world. "It's definitely a dream of mine to play there. I pretty much watched videotapes falling asleep, watching Augusta, for a long, long time."
Faxon gave up a good chance to get back to the Masters by having knee surgery. His victory in Hartford put him inside the top 30 on the money list and the top 50 in the world ranking, but he didn't play the final two months of the season. He wound up 45th on the money list, and slipped to No. 67 in the world.
"I thought if I came back early and played well, I would have a chance to make points early," Faxon said. "That's still my goal."
--- RANKING FILES: One way to look at who had the best year is to consider only the points earned for the official world golf ranking. That not only is a reflection on players' most recent success, but shows how they did against the stronger fields.
Not surprisingly, Tiger Woods tops the list at 772.44 points, well ahead of Vijay Singh (514.53 points). Retief Goosen earned 386.2 points, followed by Phil Mickelson (369.93) and Sergio Garcia (296.4).
Rounding out the top 10 were Colin Montgomerie (282.9), Ernie Els (274.23), Jim Furyk (272.13), Michael Campbell (249.88) and Adam Scott (245.42).
Among top players, the biggest turnaround belonged to Campbell and Montgomerie, each of whom improved 73 spots in the world ranking. Montgomerie ended last year at No. 81 and finished 2005 at No. 8, while the U.S. Open champion went from No. 89 to No. 16.
One of the biggest falls belonged to Todd Hamilton, who went from No. 16 last year to No. 97. His best finish was a tie for 13th in the John Deere Classic.

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

Comments are currently unavailable on this article

▲ Return to Top