'He still plays in another world.' - Golfer Shigeki Maruyama, a 2001 PGA tour winner, on Tiger Woods.

Tiger ready to roar in '02

Tiger Woods arrived in Kapalua, Hawaii, with only part of his goatee remaining, changed into golf shoes, and was quickly out of sight.

Carts were allowed for the practice rounds at the Mercedes Championships earlier this week, and about 50 fans had no chance of keeping up with Woods on the hilly Plantation Course. Taking a shortcut and playing only six holes, he finished in 40 minutes.

Perhaps that kind of pace will set the tone for a new season. "It's always important to win early," Woods said. "It's important to play well because it makes you feel better about the season."

A year ago, Woods was coming off one of the greatest years in sports, winning nine PGA Tour events and three straight majors. But 2001 didn't fare as well. "I think it would be very difficult to accomplish that [2000] again," British Open champion David Duval said. "But he's capable of it."

Pro Bowl's Surprise picks

Tom Brady of the New England Patriots made it to the Pro Bowl. So did three members of the Carolina Panthers, a team with only one win.

The Pro Bowl teams, announced Wednesday, were the usual hodgepodge of surprises, sentiment, and the same old names. "It's been a horrible year, but it's still an honor," said tight end Wesley Walls of Carolina, which can become the first team ever to lose 15 straight games in one season if it loses to New England Sunday.

The selections generated a lot of discussion - the Pro Bowl is probably the only all-star game in which there's more interest in the selections than in the game, which will be played in Honolulu Feb. 9.

One of this year's notables is Brady, who started the season as a second stringer, becoming a starter when Drew Bledsoe was hurt in the second game. Since then, the Patriots are 10-3 and only one win away from clinching the AFC East title. "I think at some point you sit back and evaluate and say, 'Wow, this has been a pretty good year,' " Brady said.

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