Fowler, Gainey pace Kapalua first-timers
KAPALUA – Rickie Fowler’s final two holes pretty much capsulized the roller-coaster ride that was this year’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Fowler, one of nine first-timers in the field of 30 PGA Tour winners from 2012, finished tied for sixth at 8-under-par 211 after a 6-under 67 on Tuesday at the Kapalua Plantation Course. Tommy Gainey (70) matched Fowler for the best finish among the Kapalua rookies and each won $304,000.
Sitting in a tie for fourth through 16 holes, Fowler hit a drive 344 yards into the 17th fairway before his 209-yard second shot landed in the weeds to the left of the green, leading to a double bogey.
He made up for it on the 663-yard par-5 18th. A 313-yard drive split the fairway and his second shot from 287 yards rolled within five feet for an eagle putt that he sank.
Fowler, a U.S. Ryder Cup player in 2010, won for the first time on tour at the Wells Fargo Championship in May.
“I had a good time,” Fowler said after signing autographs for 20 minutes outside the scoring tent. “Unfortunately, we had some delays with the wind, but I enjoy playing in winds like this where the ball is not moving on the greens. Nice to finally get some golf in. The guys wanted to make it an official event, 54 holes, so, nice to get it in and finally be done with a pretty long week.”
The first three days of scheduled play produced no official golf because of unplayable weather conditions.
“The wind is still up, it is still pretty soft out there from the rain,” Fowler said Tuesday. “I heard it can get a little firmer and faster, but this was a little bit more of what I was expecting.”
While Fowler wore his all-orange finishing-day clothes – in honor of alma mater Oklahoma State – playing partner John Huh wore white pants and an electric lime-green shirt.
Huh tied for 18th at 1-under 218 after a 74 on Tuesday.
“We had a great time,” said the 24-year-old Fowler, younger than everyone in the field but the 22-year-old Huh. “It was a good pace,
we were moving along. Unfortunately, (Huh) didn’t play the way he wanted to. It’s fun to get out here with some young guys playing together on tour and I look forward to playing with him more this year.”
Huh, who won February’s Mayakoba Classic in Mexico on the eighth hole of a playoff, said the week was a learning experience.
“Playing 36 holes yesterday and then playing 18, it wasn’t easy, but I really enjoyed it and hopefully I can come back here next year,” he said.
Huh had the bulk of his trouble on the back nine holes, playing them a combined 3 over for the tournament.
“If you have been here more than once, I think you can take advantage and know where the break is, where the grain is,” he said. “I guess I can play better next year if I come back.”
Charlie Beljan – who overcame a panic attack to win the final event of the season, the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic in November – tied for 23rd at 221 after a 75 on Tuesday.
“I feel wonderful,” Beljan said. “I didn’t play the way I wanted. The grains on this golf course, you need more than one go-around at it. It’s tricky, but just to be here amongst these guys was a wonderful time.”
Beljan experienced Kapalua’s fury and rewards, but left with a smile.
“I played some good golf, I played some bad golf,” he said. “At the end of the day, just to be here at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, a winner on the PGA Tour with two full seasons ahead of me, life is good.”
Jason Dufner (69) and Jonas Blixt (72) also posted 218 totals, and Marc Leishman (71) finished at 221. Ted Potter Jr. (73) tied for 26th at 223 and Kyle Stanley (72) finished last at 230.
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org