Singh calls for a better schedule as world's best snub Mercedes

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WORLD No10 Vijay Singh has urged the PGA Tour to consider changing their schedule to give players more time off in the new year. The first event of the 2008 season – the Mercedes-Benz Championship – got under way in Hawaii yesterday, but in a winners-only event there are some big names missing.

Open champion Padraig Harrington, world No1 and 2007 US PGA winner Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Adam Scott are all missing the event at Kapalua's Plantation course.

Their absence has reduced the field to just 31 and Singh feels the top players need to be given more incentive to turn out so early in the year.

"It's just unfortunate," said the tournament's defending champion. "It's a big event and I think everybody should be grateful that we have a big event to play in. I would really push the (schedule] one week back. Instead of 3 January, start on the 9th or the 10th. I'm sure they should be able to do that."

Singh is looking to repeat last season's success and use it as a springboard for the rest of the year.

"Last year, I was very disappointed in the way I played," Singh said. "Although I had two wins, I was really very discouraged in the way I played in the mid-season and during the majors. The two wins happened very early in the season, in the first three months, and the rest of the season was pretty cold for me. I did not perform like I thought I would. I had my chances, but just never closed the deal. It was very disappointing."

Swedes Henrik Stenson and Daniel Chopra are the only Europeans in the field but it was American Boo Weekley who had the most eventful pre-tournament build-up. As he went through airport security last Friday, two bullets were found at the bottom of his carry-on bag. "I used it for hunting and I left two bullets in it," he said. "I had the cops there – I thought I was going to jail. I just begged and pleaded. I just sat there and shook my head like I was an idiot. The security guys come up, the actual police guys, the dog and he's sniffing around at my heels and stuff. They said 'We're going to re-run this one again'. I said 'There ain't nothing in there' and he said 'Yeah, there is – some bullets'. They confiscated them and said they were going to red flag me."

Weekley added: "I can understand – they're doing their job. Accidents do happen like this one, for sure, but it's kind of comical because no matter where you fly, we get red-flagged half the time anyway."

Meanwhile, next week's Royal Trophy in Bangkok – a match play tournament between teams from Europe and Asia – has been postponed after the country entered a period of mourning following the death of the King's sister.

Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana, elder sister of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, died on Wednesday aged 84 after receiving treatment for abdominal cancer in hospital for the last six months. The Thai government has announced a 15-day mourning period and asked that festive activities be suspended during this time as a mark of respect.

Ryder Cup stars David Howell, Darren Clarke, Paul McGinley, Lee Westwood and Robert Karlsson were due to play alongside European counterparts Graeme Storm, of England, French duo Raphael Jacquelin and Gregory Havret and Denmark's Anders Hansen in Seve Ballesteros' team. The tournament, due to be played from Friday to Sunday next week at the Amata Springs Country Club, will be rescheduled at a later date.

Clarke is looking to kick-start his bid for a sixth successive Ryder Cup appearance with a good performance in next week's Joburg Open, after moving quickly to ensure he will still have competitive action by signing up for the South African event, co-sanctioned between the European and Sunshine Tours, which starts at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club on Thursday.

"I went to South Africa before Christmas because I felt I needed to get competitive again and played pretty well in both events (the Alfred Dunhill Championship and South African Airways Open)," said the four-time Ryder Cup winner.

"I always enjoy my trips to South Africa and can't wait to play. I've worked hard over Christmas and I'm now looking forward to getting my year off to a fast start and putting myself into the Ryder Cup picture."

Angel Cabrera capped a memorable 2007 by adding the Argentine Sportsperson of the Year award to his US Open triumph at Oakmont last summer.

The 38-year-old beat tennis player David Nalbandian, Barcelona's Lionel Messi and Rugby World Cup star Juan Martin Hernandez in a journalists' poll.

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