Wind keeps winning
KAPALUA – It was Groundhog Day at Kapalua.
On Sunday, for the third day in a row, no golf that counted was played in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course as winds that neared 50 mph wiped out play in the PGA Tour’s season opener.
For the second time, golfers teed off – first group Rickie Fowler and Jason Dufner got through five holes after completing seven on Friday – but like Friday’s original first round, play was suspended and the scores were scrubbed.
The plan is now to play 36 holes today and 18 on Tuesday in hopes of salvaging an official tournament, which must be at least three full rounds. Lurking is the start of the Sony Open, the first full-field event, set to begin Thursday at Oahu’s Waialae Country Club.
“So, we are back to square one and we’ll be back out here at 7:10 a.m. (today), same starting times as we had today,” said Andy Pazder, the PGA Tour’s chief of operations. “We’ll cross our fingers through the rest of this afternoon and this evening that we get a little bit of a break from Mother Nature.”
As was the case Sunday, players are slated to begin play off the first and 10th tees today.
If only 36 holes are played, it is an unofficial win, but the money awarded is official, as are the FedEx Cup points, though the winner does not clinch a spot in next year’s Tournament of Champions.
If only 18 holes are played, the purse is cut in half, and neither the money nor the points will count.
Any of those scenarios appear in play at this point, but much more ominous is the prospect of the event being scrapped completely. The last time a PGA Tour event was canceled due to weather and not rescheduled was the 2009 Viking Classic, now known as the True South Classic.
The Viking Classic is also the last tournament postponed to a date later in the season, in 2005. The tour schedule and the travel involved would make a return to Hawaii especially difficult.
“I think that’s possible and I think that is something they would have to consider,” said NBC and Golf Channel analyst Mark Rolfing, a Kapalua resident and former organizer of the Tournament of Champions. “What you have got to consider here is that the players who earned their way into this field deserve the FedEx Cup points that they would have gotten this week or deserve the official money that they would have gotten.
“So, it’s a little different than any other tournament in that I don’t think you can just wipe it off the map. I think they would find some way to play it and I think that is why they are trying to so hard the next two days to find a way to play.”
Rolfing said that would not be easy.
“The first time that the PGA Tour is going to split their season is going to be this fall, so there is a week in the
FedEx Cup playoffs in the fall,” he said. “Now, would they schedule a Tournament of Champions in Hawaii? I don’t know, I doubt it. It would be problematic. The only way to do it would be before those playoffs start.”
On Sunday, competition began four hours late because of the conditions. Winds were gusting to 48 mph just before the horn sounded to call off play at 12:21 p.m.
“Somewhere in the low 40s is what puts us out of business,” Pazder said. “We felt at the point where we suspended play, conditions were worse than they were on Friday when we suspended play.”
No tour event has finished on a Tuesday since the Booz Allen Classic in 2006.
“Anybody that goes out there and plays in 40-mile-an-hour winds – probably nobody plays at home in
40-mile-an-hour winds. Why would you? Pretty self-explanatory,” said Bill Haas, who is in the field for a third straight year.
“And it’s unfortunate because I think all of the fans back home were all calling us wusses and, ‘Why aren’t you playing?’ Well, it’s not our decision; it’s the rules officials’ decision and we are just doing what they say.”
Gary Planos, the Tournament of Champions chairman from 1999 to 2010, said the event is taking an unusual hit.
“The expectations of coming here are very high, it’s a beautiful place, and we normally present beautiful conditions,” the 37-year Kapalua resident said. “I don’t know how long it will take to heal this bruise.”
In the event’s previous 14 years on Maui, play had been moved up to an earlier time for weather concerns on two occasions, but never been even delayed.
“I have seen worse weather that has happened, but not strung out in extended fashion like this,” Planos said. “It is the worst stretch I have seen for playable golf conditions.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org