Just getting to Hawaii was the hard part for Weekley
KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) -Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson were among four PGA Tour winners who decided to stay home from the Mercedes-Benz Championship and the start of the 2008 season.
Boo Weekley thought he might be staying home, too, although not by choice.
He left his tiny town in the Florida Panhandle at the crack of dawn Friday and didn't arrive in paradise until the early morning hours Sunday. That he made it as far as Kapalua was a minor miracle, considering an oversight that showed how little golf and how much time Weekley has been spending in his beloved outdoors.
Airport security found two bullets from his rifle in his carry-on bag.
``That was kind of like, right out of the gate started the whole week for me,'' Weekley said Monday. ``They put the red flags on me. I had the cops there. I thought I was going to jail.''
He used that bag during a hunting trip to Illinois and never saw them when he packed for Hawaii. But as Weekley soon discovered, those airport scanning machines don't miss much.
``I just begged and pleaded,'' he said. ``I just sat there and shook my head like I was an idiot, you know? They confiscated the bullets and then broke down a bunch of stuff, got in everything and put a flag by me. They said they were going to red flag me.''
Once he got out of that mess and arrived in Atlanta, he missed his connection by minutes and had to spend the night. Weekley, his wife and son and her parents then caught a flight Saturday morning to Los Angeles, where they spent nine hours in the airport because of delays.
But it was good to finally arrive and soak in the view from his villa of the Pacific Ocean, with the occasional splash of humpback whales if he can see through the clouds and rain.
``It's a pretty view,'' Weekley said. ``I live on the water down where I live. It's just a different name for it. It's called the Pacific here instead of the gulf.''
The Mercedes-Benz Championship is for winners only, but it will have only a 31-man field when the season begins Thursday. Woods, a seven-time winner in 2007, is skipping for the third straight year. Mickelson hasn't been to Kapalua since 2001. British Open champion Padraig Harrington typically takes a long break in Ireland this time of the year, and Adam Scott called over the weekend to say he was taking the week off because of exhaustion.
Those that showed up are reminded of what got them here, especially someone like Weekley.
Last year was his second try on the PGA Tour, and after blowing a good chance at the Honda Classic - he three-putted from 30 feet on the last hole to fall into a four-man playoff, won by Mark Wilson - he captured his first PGA Tour victory a month later by chipping in twice and beating Ernie Els in the Verizon Heritage at Hilton Head.
But when asked his biggest thrill of 2007, Weekley pointed more toward the loss.
``I learned more about myself at the Honda than however long I've been playing golf,'' Weekley said. ``I learned that I'm a better person than I thought I was - a better player. Three-putting the last hole ... I felt like crying, but at the same time, I felt joy that, 'Hey, I put myself in this place.' It was my opportunity. I'm the one that choked. It's my fault. I can handle this.
``I might not succeed, but I can handle it.''
He handled it beautifully, and he succeeded.
Weekley finished 23rd on the money list with over $2.6 million, and wound up representing the United States with good friend Heath Slocum at the World Cup in China, where they lost to Scotland in a playoff.
Weekley made fast friends along the way, especially with Colin Montgomerie, who couldn't stop talking about the country boy from the Florida Panhandle a few weeks ago at the Target World Challenge.
``He's a character, Boo,'' Montgomerie said. ``I'll tell you what, Boo can play golf. Boo is very good. Boo is excellent. And he's got that complete, laid-back attitude that is superb for this game. He doesn't seem to care. It's amazing how many putts go in when you don't seem to be bothered, and that's him.''
Weekley is among 14 newcomers to Kapalua. That includes Sony Open winner Paul Goydos, whose previous victory in 1996 was when the Mercedes-Benz Championship was held at La Costa.
Brandt Snedeker might be sharper than most, having played in Japan and Australia, where he lost by one shot in the Australian Open. But he got the flu on Christmas Eve and was still trying to get this strength back.
Still, his outlook is far different from last year, when he was a rookie on the PGA Tour with low expectations.
``Last year, my main goal was to keep a job for this year,'' said Snedeker who won the Wyndham Championship in Greensboro and was voted rookie of the year. ``This year, I want to put myself in contention a lot, give myself a lot of chances to win and be there in the majors. I have a much more specific game plan this year.''
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