Originally created 01/06/02

Mercedes Championship notebook



KAPALUA, Hawaii - David Duval has played the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am every year since he joined the PGA Tour, and was runner-up in 1997. He loves the course, the amateur format and doesn't even mind the 6-hour rounds.

The greens are another story, which is why he probably will take a rain check this year.

"I'm just tired of hitting it a foot from the hole and not knowing if I'm going to make it," Duval said. "You could hit it 6 feet 72 times and shoot 12 over. That's the problem."

Pebble isn't always in the best shape during the first week of February.

The Monterey Peninsula usually gets socked with rain, and the poa annua grass on the greens can get bumpy and inconsistent. Add to that 360 players - 180 pros and 180 amateurs - over the three courses, and it can get unpredictable.

"Everybody has their spikeless shoes on. They get filled with mud, so you get a quarter-sized indentation, seven or eight of them on each green," Duval said. "You get tired of that. I've gotten tired of that."

Pebble Beach isn't for everyone. It's one of the most tradition-rich events on tour, started by the late Bing Crosby with an atmosphere that screams entertainment.

Duval promises to be back if he skips this year.

"I love it too much," he said. "I love the whole idea of it. I like it there so much I'm thinking I still might play. It's just frustrating."

Pebble will hardly be lacking in stars if he doesn't play.

Tiger Woods, who won the National Pro-Am and the U.S. Open at Pebble in 2000, says he'll continue to go as long as his partner - childhood pal Jerry Chang - wants to play.

PRETTY AS A PICTURE: The PGA Tour's effort to strengthen security has extended to wives and family of the players.

While they used to wear a gold pin for access to tournaments, their credentials now come with a photograph. The only thing missing is a name that shows who they are - or who they belong to. That was by design, to keep them from attracting undue attention.

"I think some of the players are worried about their kids walking about with these tags ... fans would know who they are," Jim Furyk said. "I go hook one in the water, some fan looks at your kid and says, 'Your dad stinks."'

Furyk's first child isn't due until July, but he says his wife, Tabitha, already has experienced some of that from fans who recognize her from TV.

"I wouldn't want to upset her too much," Furyk said. "She's very sweet and she's very nice, but she's feisty. I wouldn't press your luck. She'll hold her own with you."

NO APOLOGIES: Frank Lickliter's 2001 season can be summed up as the good, the bad and the ugly.

He won the Kemper Open for his first PGA Tour victory. He handed Phil Mickelson a victory in the Buick Invitational by following his tee shot into a canyon and making triple bogey on the third sudden-death playoff hole.

The ugly?

That came during the silly season while paired with John Daly in the Shark Shootout. They were deciding on where to take a drop on the 17th hole when Brad Faxon came over to take a look. Lickliter shooed him away, then told him to get away by using foul language.

Such confrontations are rare on the PGA Tour, and golf is such a game of honor that players usually don't mind when competitors oversee them taking a drop.

Lickliter's only regret, however, was cursing on national television.

"The only thing that happened was I said a word I shouldn't have," Lickliter said. "I'm not apologizing for why I was upset. The only thing I apologize for was what I said and where I said it."

Lickliter said he has talked about it with Faxon, and everything is "cool."

He didn't make it clear what made him upset. When asked whether he thought there was an insinuation that he was cheating by Faxon coming over, Lickliter said, "I think we're done talking about this. I'm done talking about this. You can ask all the questions you want."

LONG TRIP: Kenny Perry qualified for the winners-only Mercedes Championships for the first time in six years. It felt like it took him that long just to fly from his home in Kentucky to Maui.

"It took me about 24 hours," he said.

The ordeal began when his connection out of Denver was delayed because of bad weather in San Francisco. Once he got there, he missed his connection to Maui.

"I sat in the airport about 7 hours. Stood standby," Perry said. "Thank goodness I got on that flight."

He finally arrived about midnight, but the trip wasn't over.

"It took 2 hours to get our luggage," he said. "I guess there was only one group of people doing that. It was a long day, but I'm glad I got here."

DIVOTS: The winner of the Mercedes Championships gets $720,000, a $3,000 blazer made of cashmere and silk, and a Mercedes SL 500 Sport. ... Barring an injury or a change of heart, Scott Hoch says he plans to play the British Open at Muirfield. That would be the first time he has played golf's oldest championship in consecutive years. Then again, Hoch has only played the British Open four times since turning pro 22 years ago.