Austin enjoys his time in sun

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KAPALUA, Hawaii --- Woody Austin figures he would be in paradise this week no matter what the location.

Woody Austin, who opened with even-par 73 in the Mercedes-Benz Championship on Thursday in Kapalua, Hawaii, is enjoying the spoils that come from a career year in 2007.  Associated Press
Associated Press
Woody Austin, who opened with even-par 73 in the Mercedes-Benz Championship on Thursday in Kapalua, Hawaii, is enjoying the spoils that come from a career year in 2007.

He is in sporty company at the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship, where he opened with even-par 73 on Thursday, putting him five shots behind leader Nick Watney.

His Mercedes Benz appearance comes after a summer that gave Austin a tiny taste of celebrity. He won in Memphis with a final-round 62, put up a valiant fight with his clubs and his mouth against Tiger Woods in the PGA Championship, then stole the show at the Presidents Cup by falling face-first into the water trying to play out of a hazard, but playing steely golf in his matches.

His play in 2007 helped earn Austin a Masters Tournament invitation for 2008. His only other Masters start was in 1996.

Those were the highlights of a career that has been anything but smooth.

"Not everybody has things go their way," Austin said.

Austin wonders how good he could have been if he had joined the PGA Tour out of college at Miami. But he tore up his knee, and it was struggle for a guy who had more resolve than money. He had to work as a bank teller, as a bartender, in the supplies department of a drug store, and he almost ran out of money before he could prove himself.

And he needed help from a friend.

No telling how his career would have turned out if not for a tiny gift from Doug Dunakey when Austin was down to his last dime.

Dunakey, best known for three-putting for 59 on the Nationwide Tour, first met Austin at a mini-tour event in Florida, and they soon became traveling companions on the road to uncertainty.

It was Dunakey who offered to pay Austin's entry fee in the Waterloo Open in Iowa.

"Woody shot 60 the first day," Dunakey said. "He ended up winning $10,000. That was the most money he'd ever seen in a long time."

Austin still has the cardboard check from the Waterloo Open, perhaps as important as any golf memento in a collection that includes PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in 1995, three trophies and a spot on the Presidents Cup team under captain Jack Nicklaus.

From Thursday

at Kapalua Resort, The Plantation Course

Kapalua, Hawaii

Yardage: 72,411; Par: 723

Nick Watney 33-35--68 -5

Daniel Chopra 33-36--69 -4

Jonathan Byrd 35-35--70 -3

Angel Cabrera 35-35--70 -3

Aaron Baddeley 37-33--70 -3

Mike Weir 35-36--71 -2

Brandt Snedeker 34-37--71 -2

Stephen Ames 35-37--72 -1

Steve Flesch 35-37--72 -1

Rory Sabbatini 34-38--72 -1

Justin Leonard 38-35--73 E

Steve Stricker 38-35--73 E

Hunter Mahan 38-35--73 E

Woody Austin 35-38--73 E

Scott Verplank 4-39--73 E

George McNeill 39-35--74 +1

Jim Furyk 36-38--74 +1

Mark Wilson 38-36--74 +1

Charles Howell 38-36--74 +1

Vijay Singh 36-38--74 +1

Chad Campbell 35-40--75 +2

Joe Ogilvie 37-38--75 +2

Mark Calcavecchia 36-39--75 +2

Fred Funk 9-36--75 +2

Charley Hoffman 37-38--75 +2

Brian Bateman 9-37--76 +3

Zach Johnson 38-38--76 +3

Henrik Stenson 41-35--76 +3

K.J. Choi 41-38--79 +6

Boo Weekley 40-40--80 +7

Paul Goydos 8-43--81 +8


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