Playing it safe
KAPALUA – Now making his third appearance at the Kapalua Plantation Course, Bubba Watson understands the allure of the Valley Isle and doesn’t want to burn himself out before the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Watson, who adopted a baby boy last year with his wife, Angie, said his family traveled to Maui a little earlier this year so they could enjoy the beach and his body could rest before the PGA Tour’s season-opening event, which begins Friday.
“I love playing in the water and goofing around, but I try not to do it too much when the tournament is going on,” said Watson. “I love to go surfing, but I’m scared of the water, which is weird.”
Another member of the field who is wary of the ocean is Hunter Mahan – a member of the “Golf Boys” band with Watson, Ben Crane and Rickie Fowler (the video for their song “Oh Oh Oh” is on YouTube).
“I don’t particularly like the water that much,” Mahan said. “I get seasick pretty easily, so I won’t be out in the water too much. I had some fun the other day trying to boogie board on the waves I got pounded a little bit out there.”
When asked about previous beach-related injuries to Geoff Ogilvy and Lucas Glover, Mahan said he is being careful with the situations he puts himself in.
In 2011, Ogilvy’s bid to win three consecutive times at Kapalua was stymied because he cut his finger on a piece of coral. Last year, Glover sprained his knee when he fell off a paddleboard.
Both players were forced to withdraw from the tournament.
“You never know what could happen,” Mahan said. “I would hate to not do something because I’m afraid of getting hurt, but at the same time, you’ve got to be smart.”
The same is true about the event itself.
Watson ranked 162nd on the tour in putts per round last year, and Mahan was 177th, but getting to the green on the long layout might not cause either one too much trouble. Watson ranked first in driving distance in 2012. Mahan was 17th in driving accuracy and 12th in greens in regulation.
The Plantation course offers wide fairways, and frequently yields low scores – since the event moved to Maui in 1999, only three times has the winner been worse than 17 under.
Steve Stricker won last year at 23 under.
“I’m excited about it,” Watson said. “Next year, I don’t know what the tournament is going to be like, but hopefully I can get back here. It’s a great time for the family, hanging out with friends, seeing the scenery and playing the golf course. It’s a challenge, but it’s a fun time to start off the year here in Maui.”
* Chris Sugidono is at firstname.lastname@example.org