Tiger, Phil MIA in Maui

Updated: January 5, 2007, 1:03 PM ET
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- With apologies to David Letterman, from the home office in Maui, here are the top 10 reasons Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are skipping this week's Mercedes-Benz Championship:

10. Three-time defending champ Stuart Appleby is way too intimidating.

9. Strong trade winds known to chap their delicate lips.

8. Too much temptation to break new no-pineapple, no-coconut diet fad sweeping the PGA Tour.

7. Tricky "Hang Loose" hand gesture always turns out more like "Hook 'em Horns".

6. Commercial plane fare too pricey during the holiday season.

5. Abundant rainbows only bring unfriendly reminders of 1997 PGA Championship, the last time both players finished 29th or worse at the same major.

4. With a Buick or Ford in the garage, who needs to win a 2007 Mercedes-Benz GL450?

3. Already in intense preparation for next month's Mayakoba Classic at Riviera Maya.

2. Wanted to give Eric Axley and John Senden a head start in the FedEx Cup points race.

And the No. 1 reason Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are skipping this week's Mercedes-Benz Championship:

1. Two words: Ski season.

All kidding aside, both Woods and Mickelson have reasonable excuses for eschewing the PGA Tour's season-opening event, each opting instead to hone his game for the upcoming season and spend extended vacation time with family. In Tiger's case, his reasoning is especially viable, considering he and wife Elin just announced the impending birth of their first child this summer. Meanwhile, Phil always skips this event; it's the fifth straight time he has qualified but declined the invitation to Kapalua.

As whales playfully spout in the waters surrounding the course, each of the 34 players in the field can't help but look at ease, a fresh suntan brandishing his faces, 34 faces with a permanent smile affixed (smiles likely caused by the comped accommodations and guaranteed paycheck that come with the territory). It's easy to forget that Woods and Mickelson aren't here, but let's not let the world's two most endearing golfers off the hook so easily.

This week's tournament isn't your ordinary PGA Tour event. Shoot, it's not even your ordinary Mercedes-Benz event, what with all the extra Golf Channel and FedEx bigwigs patrolling the scene, making their presence felt. Thursday's first round marks the beginning of the tour's 15-year TV contract with the cable network, a splash the league certainly hoped it could have made with its two biggest drawing cards in the deck. It also marks the first of 40 tournaments that make up the nascent FedEx Cup playoff series, of which Woods and Mickelson have been staunch supporters.

Each had publicly called for a shorter season, and the tour promptly obliged, scaling back its schedule by nearly two months. In turn, both Tiger and Phil outwardly cheered the efforts and gave their seals of approval.

Just when everything seemed copacetic between the tour and its stars, each gave a Hawaiian punch to the kidney of the organization, knocking the wind out of this anticipated event while -- in a way -- also serving a blow to the new FedEx schedule for which they had campaigned.

Not that their fellow players see it as much of a slight.

"I don't want to be too selfish," said Appleby, the three-time defending champion, "but we are all players trying to do our thing and Tiger sure is enjoying his lifestyle back home."

There are, sure enough, plenty of reasons Woods and Mickelson chose not to play the Mercedes-Benz Championship. But there are just as many reasons they should be here, too.

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.

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