The PGA Tour officially kicked off 2014 with the first round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Friday. Now, as a friendly reminder, it’s not the start of the season because of the change to the new wraparound schedule, which begins in October.
Unlike last year’s crazy wind and rain storms, this time around the weather cooperated and while the wind was 20-25 mph in places, it was a fairly mild day at Kapalua’s Plantation Course, where experience is always emphasized due to the difficult layout, especially around the greens.
That didn’t seem to be entirely the case today, with two of the four leaders — Michael Thompson and Jordan Spieth — tied at seven-under being first-time participants of the event. Thompson and Spieth, along with Chris Kirk and Webb Simpson, fired 66s to take a share of the first-round lead.
Spieth just doesn’t seem fazed from excelling in one place to the next. The 20-year-old won the John Deere Classic last June, then almost beat Patrick Reed in a playoff at the Wyndham Championship a couple of months later, and also qualified for the Tour Championship and the U.S. Presidents Cup team.
While Spieth even managed to miss the very generous 18th fairway somehow, he still carded a birdie 4 to shoot four-under in his last five holes.
“It was a little into the wind and I was trying to push it to get near the green in two, and I actually missed the fairway, which is pretty hard to do for anybody on that hole,” said Spieth, following his round.
“That’s probably the second largest fairway outside of Hilton Head, 18, we’ll have all year and I’ve actually missed it two out of the three times I’ve played it now, one of the practice round days, too. I just overcooked it and tried to kill it and it went in the rough and punched a hybrid and it came down the hill in No Man’s Land in the little swale still 155 yards out and I hit a 9iron to about ten, 12 feet and made it, so got to four somehow.”
Spieth has also been having a good time in Maui, and I love the way he described the event (nails it).
“I’ve been done in the afternoons and out in the water, and kind of enjoying myself,” he said. “It’s almost like a vacation tournament in a sense. It’s been an awesome week so far. I mean, obviously I’m here for this reason, and I don’t have my family here with me. So there’s definitely more of an emphasis on golf than maybe some other guys are putting into it here. Maybe that’s an advantage.”
In other words, he’s chillin’.
Before I leave for dinner, I’ll leave you with this fact, scores of the first-time participants at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions: Michael Thompson (66), Jordan Spieth (66), Kevin Streelman (67), Sang-Moon Bae (69), Ken Duke (70), Patrick Reed (70), Harris English (70), Scott Brown (71), John Merrick (71), Russell Henley (72), Billy Horschel (72), Jimmy Walker (73), Derek Ernst (79).
(Getty Images/Sam Greenwood)