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“We had a couple deals that looked like they were going to close, and they fell through at the last minute,” Piercy said. “As everyone knows, it’s tough out there right now. The deals that we did have weren’t the greatest, so we decided to keep it blank.”

Piercy said he had a few offers, but “we didn’t get anything that we felt was fair.”

The hat deal didn’t sour his mood _ not in the least. Piercy made his first trip to the winners-only Tournament of Champions and tied for 12th after a rocky start.

Next up is the Sony Open, and Piercy already has noticed a change that comes with winning. He has a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour and no longer feels he has to rush into the year.

“It’s nice not to play for three months and have the first tournament be one you can kind of work into it, instead of showing up at Sony and having a so-so day or two and you’re going home,” he said. “You have a so-so day or two here, you still have the weekend.”

At Waialae, the course will be filled with rookies eager to get going.

“They’re like, `Oh, man, I finally made it to the PGA Tour.’ We’ve all seen that. I’ve done it,” he said. “As a rookie, you’ve got to kick butt on the West Coast, and everybody but the rookies know it. So it’s nice to ease into the year.”

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AMERICAN RICHES: The Race to Dubai was announced with great fanfare for 2009, which was to conclude with a $10 million purse at the Dubai World Championship and a $10 million bonus pool.

Because of the economic crisis, the prize fund for both was reduced to $7.5 million.

Going into its fourth year, the bonus pool for the top 10 players now is $3.75 million, with $1 million going to the winner _ that compares with $10 million for the FedEx Cup champion on the PGA Tour from a $35 million bonus pool.

The good news for Europe is that it extended its agreement for the Race to Dubai through the end of 2014.

And while the bonus pool dwindled, the prize money for the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai has increased to $8 million, the same amount offered at The Tour Championship.

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GOLF CHANNEL: The Golf Channel must wait a few days to see if that Monday finish at Kapalua helped the viewership. But it couldn’t complain about the start of the new season.

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