PGA players get down to business in Vernon, N.Y.

John Pitarresi

The waiting and anticipation are over.

It's here now.

The inaugural Turning Stone Resort Championship, Central New York's PGA Tour event, becomes a reality today.

"The train has left and it's headed in the right direction," said Robert Harper, Turning Stone's director of golf operations. "We've been blessed with great weather, and we're off and running."

After two days of practice rounds and Wednesday's Pro-Am, everything is ready to go for the $6-million tournament - the first of the Tour's new seven-event Fall Series - played over the pristine, 7,482-yard Atunyote Golf Club.

While the very top names in the game might not be here, plenty of great golfers are, including Rich Beem, Corey Pavin, Lee Janzen, Justin Leonard, John Daly, Todd Hamilton, Bob Tway and Shaun Micheel, who have 10 major titles among them.

And Stuart Appleby is, too, although he didn't intend to be. And so is John Rollins, who is something of a defending champion, having won the final B.C. Open Presented by Turning Stone last year, when the tourney was played at Atunyote because of flooding in the Southern Tier.

Rollins, who shot 19-under last year, coming from behind with a final-round 64, feels this year's field is stronger than it was for the B.C.

"You know, it was still a strong field," said the 32-year-old veteran from Virginia. "Great golf course. Great tournament. And this year, I think a lot of the players have heard so many good things from last year ? it's generated a good feel. The purse helps. A $6 million purse is big for one of the first fall series here. ? It should be a good event."

Appleby, a 36-year-old Australian, had hoped to play in the Tour Championship last week and take this week off in preparation for the President's Cup competition in Quebec next week. He, like most everyone else, feels the Tom Fazio-designed course favors big hitters.

"Anyone who is considered a Top 10 length player on the Tour is definitely going to eat up a lot of holes out here. There's just so much room. And if they've got their putting game going, they'll be in the game for sure."

And there are plenty of bombers in field, including Daly and J.B. Holmes, who are tied for second in driving distance at 312.3 yards, followed by Robert Garrigus (4th, 311.1), Scott Gutschewski (5th, 306.5), Harrison Frazar (6th, 304.0), Steve Allan (9th, 302.7) and Charles Warren (10th, 302.6).

There has been considerable speculation about what kind of score it will take to win the tourney.

Rollins' 19-under last season was over a course that was 167 yards shorter than it is this year, and it happened earlier in the season. Appleby, who had nine birdies in the Pro-Am, thinks that could be in the neighborhood again.

"The leading scorers will have to shoot probably three to five under each day," he said. "But it stays, if we can get nice weather and not get any water, keep the Tour away from the sprinklers, you know, I think the winners will be happy to make three under each day."

Atunyote designer Tom Fazio, one of the most honored golf course architects in |America, says it won't bother him if the winning score is somewhere close to 20-under par.

"Not at all," he said, pointing out that Tiger Woods won last week's Tour Championship at 23-under on a par 70 course.

If the greens dry and rough is allowed to continue to grow, the scores might not be all that sensational anyway.

"I think we'll see a little different score this week just because of the rough," Fazio said.

The tourney gets under way at 7:15 a.m. today, with Mark Hensby, Tom Byrum and Ryuji Imada teeing off on the first tee and Jerry Smith, Charlie Wi and David Brandshaw, the Oswego native who has made eight cuts this year, going off on the 10th.

Eric Manning, the assistant pro from the Yahnundasis Golf Club, goes off from No. 10 at 8:50 a.m. with Craig Bowden and Jason Dufner.

Daly tees off at 11:45 a.m. from No. 1, Appleby starts at 7:43 from No. 10 and Fred Funk, who has eight PGA Tour wins in his career, starts at 12:23 p.m. from No. 10.