The forecast at Kapalua’s Plantation Course continues to plague the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions with strong winds and gusts up to 50mph. Not much has changed from Friday when the PGA Tour’s season-opener was supposed to kick off. For the third day in a row, play was delayed, suspended, and eventually called at 12:12pm on Sunday.
The new (tentative) plan? To return on Monday morning and play 36 holes and 18 on Tuesday. The goal is to complete 54 holes — otherwise it’ll count as an “unofficial” event, meaning it won’t count as an “official” win and the champion won’t get the chance to defend his title in 2014, but it will reward “official FedExCup points/money/75% OWGR points. In other words, it would cause more harm to the already endangered venue for the event. Which would really suck.
Last 36-hole event on the PGA Tour was the 2005 Northern Trust Open. (Let’s hope that remains the case when all is said and done.) And the last time the Tournament of Champions was shortened to 54-holes was 1997.
Good news is 26 of the 30 players managed to tee off — two more than Friday. Steve Stricker, Brandt Snedeker, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson haven’t completed a hole yet. Bill Haas and Nick Watney finally got the opportunity to hit their first drive and approach shots of the year.
“I’ve missed one fairway and one green so far. Wait, it didn’t happen,” quipped Haas.
That’s the bad news — just like Friday, the scoreboard will be wiped when the guys return on Monday morning to try and get the season started. Hopefully, the fourth time around, Mother Nature will show some mercy and calm down to the point where gusts aren’t blowing balls off tees or greens.
More good news is that it stopped raining and the sun came out on Sunday. Bad news is the typhoon-like conditions won’t stop causing havoc, which is entertaining if you’re not playing.
It was a bad omen when Matt Kuchar, who was first off the 10th tee with Webb Simpson, had problems keeping the ball from falling off the tee because it was so windy. Kuchar finally succeeded the third time and hit his opening drive. Watch the replay for the dramatic situation, the first scene of the day with star Ian Poulter. (This happened, too, but he eventually cooled off and fessed up on Twitter.)
“I got to 10 tee and they announced my name, I could hardly hear, the wind was blowing so loud,” said Kuchar after play was called. “Time to go and teed the ball up. I think I was ready to hit it, and a gust of wind came and I backed off. Went back to address the ball and another gust of wind. The second gust blew the golf ball off the tee and rolled probably four or five feet back from the tee.
“We had a good laugh and thought, they have got to probably realize that it’s too difficult to play. We had a powwow and a meeting and took us five or six minutes to laugh it out and say, we are really going to go through with this.”
Kuchar made the best of it, though.
“I was playing today with Webb Simpson and we were enjoying ourselves, actually playing some reasonable golf for the conditions,” he said. “I was even and he was 1-over par.
Ben Curtis might have had the best–by that, I mean, most absurd–experience. He played two holes (nos. 10 and 11) and hit both greens in regulation, and walked away five-over. No joke.
He hit his tee shot on the par-3 11th about 30 feet left of the pin. As he was preparing to putt for birdie, his ball started to move, so he backed up. It ended up blowing off the green.
“I hit it 25, 30 feet left of the pin and we were walking halfway down and my caddie said, hey, your ball is moving, and it rolled about another five feet,” recounted Curtis. “We get over, Mark (Wilson) hits his putt and I get over mine, my hat was going to blow off and I turned it around backwards and still going to blow off.
“So I gave it to Mark’s caddie and I get over it for the third time and this time I see it’s going to move and it started to move a foot, two feet, three feet and just started picking up pace and off the green it went, 25 feet or so.
“Then we called the officials over, just to let them know, nothing more so than, ‘hey, what are we doing out here, the ball is moving this far.’ Then chipped up 15 feet past the hole and 4-putt for the second time in two holes.”
Just watch — it’s morbidly humorous.
The last straw was when Scott Stallings’ tap-in putt blew nearly 10 feet away.
If the holes played Friday and Sunday counted, Webb would be leading. Rickie Fowler and Jason Dufner have the most golf under their belts, with a combined 13 holes (and halfway through their 14th). Almost a full round!
Fowler has maintained his sense of humor, as have most players.
Bottom line: everyone wants to play golf — that doesn’t resemble a bloopers highlight reel.
It’s truly an unfortunate situation for the beloved venue. The last few days have cast a gloomy outlook on the future of the event staying at Kapalua, while the Tour is also in negotiations with Hyundai to renew their sponsorship contract, but that’s another story.
“You do really feel for the tournament officials, for the title sponsor, and the volunteers that have been working these really long hours and really not seeing any golf,” said Kuchar. “It’s been a tough one.”
As of now, the forecast looks like the wind is starting to wane, but it still calls for gusts up to 40mph on Monday. If the players are able to post two official rounds tomorrow, then Tuesday should be a breeze.
“Obviously we need the weather to cooperate,” said Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour Chief of Operations. “It’s going to be borderline tomorrow. Our meteorologist is saying 25 to 30-mile-an-hour winds, which we can play in. It’s the gusts that creep up above 40 that have knocked us out. We had registered gusts up to 48 miles an hour right before we suspended play today.”
Another detail to consider. The Tuesday current plan pushes the season-opener into the Sony Open, the first full-field event at the neighboring island of Oahu at Wailae Country Club. Twenty of the thirty players in the Tournament of Champions, Groundhog Day edition, are entered in the second tournament of 2013.
Other funny stuff from around the web:
*In the picture up top, Bubba Watson and his caddie Ted Scott messing around, with Bubba pretending to be mid-swing and Scott supporting the ball in place like a football kicker holder. Sorry I don’t know who to give credit for taking the photo — Teddy made it his Twitter profile picture.
*This is classic and amusing, but you might have to turn your head sideways to watch the video, but I promise you it’s worth it. Ted Scott, who is a very good golfer in his own right, demonstrates the strong winds on the driving range. He hits a shot with an eight-iron and then runs about 30 yards ahead and “catches” the ball. (He didn’t want to hurt his hand, so he didn’t actually catch it, but pretend I didn’t tell you that because it’s one hell of an editing job.)
*Cameron Morfit’s “Top Ten signs we’re losing our minds at Kapalua” is hilarious. Read for a good laugh. I’m jealous I didn’t come up with it!
*Hats off to the PGA Tour rules officials, who have had the toughest job of the week. They’re doing the best they can and bearing the brunt of player frustrations.
*Lastly — but most importantly — GO SEAHAWKS!