KAPALUA, Hawaii - Not many players came to the Mercedes Championships with as much determination and energy as Hal Sutton.
"I'm just as excited this year as I was in 1982, my rookie year," Sutton said.
Then again, he doesn't have much choice. Sutton turns 44 in April, and he knows the clock is ticking on the PGA Tour career.
"I don't know if I even want to think about it in terms of years that I have left," he said. "I think I'm still getting better, let me put it that way. I'm still charged up to make changes. I want to be better than what I am right now."
He has been hampered by nagging injuries the past two seasons. He already has won his share of the loot, including a duel against Jack Nicklaus to win the 1983 PGA championship and a duel against Tiger Woods to win The Players Championship in 2000.
Why not ride into the sunset?
Part of it was a 10-year slump he endured in the prime of his career, when he got wrapped up in outside expectations. He won only once and qualified for the Tour Championship just twice during that span.
"That gave me a taste of things I didn't really want to taste," Sutton said. "I don't have to be reminded of it very much any more how bad it can be. We're only a short distance from being bad most of the time."
The other reason to press on is that there's simply no quit in the Hoss.
Sutton has won six times since he turned 40. Only Sam Snead (17), Julius Boros (10), Gene Littler and Dutch Harrison (7 each) have won more at that stage in life.
"Just over the last five years, I think I've kind of begun to touch on what I'm capable of," Sutton said. "In '82, I had a lot of time to do that in. Now, I don't feel like I have a lot of time to get the final product out. I'm kind of in a march against the clock."
Next on his agenda is winning another major. His only major came at Riviera in 1983, and his best finish since resurrecting his game was a tie for seventh at Carnoustie in 1999.
"I'd like to win another major, I really would," he said. "On the right golf course, I still think I have the ability to do that."
FAST MONEY: It's not often that Tiger Woods dips into his wallet to pay off a bet.
To his caddie, no less.
"Let's just say I was paid very nicely," Steve Williams said.
Woods and swing coach Butch Harmon bet Williams that the Kiwi caddie could not run nine holes on the mountainous Plantation Course at Kapalua in under 30 minutes.
So, after carrying a 40-pound bag for four hours over about five miles of hilly terrain in the first round of the Mercedes, Williams set out on the back nine. The rules were that he had to touch the back of every tee and the front of every green.
Williams set his timer. Harmon followed along in a cart.
After sprinting down the 18th fairway, he finished in 19 minutes, 28 seconds.
"I suspect if we do this next year, the bet will be on a lower time," Williams said.
Williams was going to try it last year at Kapalua, but broke a rib the week before while racing his car in New Zealand.
NEW DEAL: Players to win PGA Tour events the next four years can count on a return to Maui.
Mercedes-Benz, the title sponsor of the winners-only tournament, and Kapalua Land Company have agreed to another four-year contract with the PGA Tour.
The agreement stipulates that the Mercedes Championships remain the season-opening event for only tour winners.
Mercedes, the title sponsor since 1994, moved the tournament from La Costa to the Plantation Course at Kapalua in 1999.
NO MORE WAGGLES: Mike Weir used to have one of the most peculiar pre-shot routines on the PGA Tour. He would stand over the ball, take his club one-third of the way back and stop to check his alignment, continue back and finish his practice swing.
That's no longer the case.
"Before, my swing was built on keeping my lower body very stable, keeping my swing short, dynamic, really fast," Weir said. "I wasn't very flexible. Now, I can get behind the ball a little more and use more of my body to generate clubhead speed."
The Canadian will stand well behind the ball and occasionally halt his practice swing, but once he's over the ball, the only routine still in his place is that he hitches the front left leg of his pants.
"For the most part, it felt great not to waggle the club," Weir said. "I think I get a better transition at the top of my backswing into the ball. It's really helped my long iron game and my driver. That's what I'm looking forward to this year, is really driving the ball much better than I have been."
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