2008 Mercedes-Benz Championship – Plantation Course, Kapalua, Hawaii

PGA Mercedes-Benz Championship, Thursday through Sunday, at the Plantation Course at Kapalua, Hawaii
7,411 yards, par 73
by Zman of Predictem.com

The PGA tour begins it’s 2008 season with the Mercedes-Benz Championship this weekend, with a field made up exclusively of players who won PGA tournaments last year. But notably absent from the field, again this year, are the two top-ranked players in the world, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.

Vijay Singh won this tournament last year with a four-round score of 14 under par 278. And Singh, along with Jim Furyk, is the favorite to win this tournament this weekend, with a 6/1 listing. Singh may be one of the oldest players in this field, but he’s still one of the best golfers in the world and has made a habit of winning early in the PGA season.

Furyk, of course, is one of the most consistent players on tour, a real grinder with a good track record in Hawaii. He won this tournament in 2001, and has seven top-10 finishes in 10 appearances at Kapalua. But Furyk could only manage an 18th-place finish last year in this event, finishing at even-par for the weekend.

Singh and Furyk are the only previous winners of this tournament in this weekend’s field. Joining Mickelson and Woods on the sidelines is Stuart Appleby, who won this event three times in a row from 2004-06.

Following Singh and Furyk on the betting board for this weekend’s tournament are the resurgent Steve Stricker and two-time ’07 winner K.J. Choi, who are both listed at 12/1 to win. And besides Singh, Choi is the highest-placing player to return from last year’s season-opening tournament, after shooting six-under par 286 to tie for 8th place.

Australian Aaron Baddeley is next on the list at 14/1. He’s followed on the Bodog betting board by a rather impressive young foursome consisting of defending Masters champion Zach Johnson, bratty Rory Sabatini, defending U.S. Open champ Angel Cabrera and European tour regular Henrik Stenson, who are all listed at 16/1 to win this weekend.

Hunter Mahan, winner of the Travelers Championship last season, Brandt Snedeker, who finished one shot out of a playoff three weeks ago in the Australian Open, and Mike Weir, who had a bit of a resurgence himself last season, come next on the Benz Championship betting board at 20/1. And among the rest of the field, Woody Austin is listed at 40/1, and Fred Funk, who won on both the PGA and the Champions tour last season, is listed at 100/1 to win this weekend.

Snedeker had a real shot to win in Australia last month, but called a penalty on himself on the 68th hole of the tournament and ended up in a three-way tie for second place at 10 under par. And Baddeley also played well down under, finishing in a tie for sixth place at eight under.

In some of the individual betting match-ups, Sabatini, who withdrew from the Target World Challenge three weeks ago supposedly because of shin splints, is listed as a -125 favorite to outshoot Weir. Stricker is a -125 fave to outscore Johnson. And Choi is a -125 choice to beat Stenson.

The Plantation Course, with three par-3s and four par-5s, plays at right around 7,411 yards, but that number isn’t the whole story. Sure, skies should be sunny and temps in the pleasant range, but the wind always plays a factor on these Hawaii courses, making the mph figures a big part of the game.

The Golf Channel will provide live television coverage each of the four days, from 6-10 pm Eastern.