KAPALUA - The lack of wind the past two days and the rain-softened ground has sucked the sexiness straight out of the closing 663-yard hole at the Plantation Course.
On a normal day at Kapalua, most PGA Tour players, after soaking in the extraordinary view of Molokai and the Auau Channel from the 18th tee box, drive the ball onto one of the most inviting fairways in all of golf and are then able to reach the green in two, affording a handful of eagle opportunities.
This year, however, there has been only one eagle in two days of the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions - and Bubba Watson had to get creative to earn it.
Robert Garrigus connects on his tee shot Friday at the Kapalua Plantation Course’s 18th hole — the second-longest hole on the PGA Tour.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
BUBBA WATSON, who has used his driver for each of his first two shots on each of the first two days of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
‘I’ve hit it successful a lot of times. I’m used to it. Just like any other club, I’m used to it.’
JASON DAY, one of 13 players competing in the PGA Tour’s Kapalua event for the first time
‘You’re doing something right when you’re standing up on the 18 tee at the start of the year.’
One of the longest hitters on the tour, Watson on Thursday followed his 350-yard tee shot by hitting driver again, this time straight off the fairway. With about 305 yards remaining, the southpaw sliced it from right to left, the ball landing about 50 yards shy of the green before rolling to within 11 feet of the cup.
For everybody watching, it was the shot of the tournament.
"It was the best shot of the year," said Ian Poulter, like Watson making his first appearance on the Valley Isle for a competitive event.
For the guy who actually pulled it off, however, it was nothing new.
"I've hit it successful a lot of times. I'm used to it. Just like any other club, I'm used to it," said Watson, who birdied the hole with another driver-driver combo on Friday. "That didn't scare me. That's not the part that scares me because I've done it so many times, I'm used to it.
"Having to make putts, that's the hard part about golf."
Despite the absence of aid from the wind, the 13 golfers making their Kapalua debuts are still relishing the hole, some going so far as to call it the best on tour.
"I think it's a lot of fun," Matt Bettencourt said after a pair of pars on the daunting yet alluring hole. "I wish we played more holes like that, too."
There is just one longer on tour, the 667-yard 16th at Firestone Country Club, and perhaps none as beautiful.
"The view is breathtaking up there," Bettencourt said. "It's amazing."
No. 18 at Kapalua has had four bogeys, 11 pars and 10 birdies by the first-timers through the opening two rounds. Perhaps comfort played a role on Friday - birdies went up by four, and bogeys dropped by two.
"I don't think it's in anybody's head. I think they see it as an opportunity to make a birdie," said Justin Rose, who bagged two birdies. "I saw maybe a couple sixes on there which I thought was surprising. The only way you can make six is hit it left, I suppose."
That's something he was instructed not to do, although second-round playing partner Jason Day did, and still managed par.
"People told me that if you hit it down the right you get, like, an extra 30 to 40 yards. I hit four great tee shots down the right and they don't seem to be going anywhere," he said. "Jason hit one down the left side today and he got, like, an extra 30. So, I think someone's been having me on here."
Without the traditional trades blowing 20-25 mph, the ball isn't carrying as long, and the recent rain hasn't allowed it to roll as far, either.
"I'm hoping the tour makes an adjustment and moves the tee way up tomorrow," Bettencourt said. "That way everybody in the field can try and go for it. It will make it exciting. Otherwise, it's just going to be one guy."
Watson, that is.
His memorable shot in the winners-only event seemed to captivate many golfers.
"It was unbelievable," Day said. "The cut on it was ridiculous."
"I think there's about one person in the world that has that one and he hit it," said Bill Lunde, who has two birdies so far.
"Because he's left-handed," said Bettencourt, "he's the only one in the field that can make that happen."
While he had never participated in an official round at Kapalua, Watson did vacation on the Valley Isle last year and played five times.
Experience can help.
"A driver off the deck is going to slice just because of the loft of the club," he explained. "It's going to be harder to turn it over. So for me, it's perfect. For a right-hander, they won't be able to cut it because it's going back up into the hill, so it won't roll like mine did."
Whatever the case, the hole is still providing a bit of personal pride, if not lower scores.
"It's unbelievable," Day said. "You're doing something right when you're standing up on the 18 tee at the start of the year."
* Matthew Carroll is at firstname.lastname@example.org.