English to arrive on a roll
Harris English might be the hottest golfer in the field when the Hyundai Tournament of Champions begins Friday at the Kapalua Plantation Course, but he is not about to admit it.
“That’s tough, it’s hard to say,” said English, who has two wins in his last 14 official PGA Tour starts and teamed with Matt Kuchar to win the Franklin Templeton Shootout two weeks ago with a record-tying score.
“This (week) is kind of a new start. Everybody has kind of had a break right now and we are getting back after it. I’d like to keep the momentum going as long as I can and just ride it out.”
English, who won the OHL Classic in November and the St. Jude Classic in June, is second on the FedEx Cup points list. He will arrive on Maui on Wednesday because he is in the wedding party for former University of Georgia teammate Hudson Swafford tonight.
“This is my third year on tour and I’m very fortunate to have two wins already,” English said.
“If you would have told me that I would be playing in the Tournament of Champions in Maui at the start of my third year, I would have taken it for sure. This should be a really good experience and I’m playing in one of the best golf tournaments in the world.”
For the first time in its 16-year history at Kapalua, the event will not be the tour season opener. After a schedule shift, it is the seventh event on the 2013-14 slate.
Frank Nobilo, who will share lead analyst duties with Johnny Miller for The Golf Channel’s coverage this week, said the tournament is still vital.
“I always thought January the 1st was an important day for everybody,” Nobilo said in a conference call Monday. “Coming from Australasia, we always played a wrap-around schedule that went from one year into another. A lot of people would think, ‘Well, that’s just one tour,’ but for all the players, generally everybody turns on New Year’s resolutions, and even though the tour has already started, I think Hawaii still has a tremendous importance on the schedule for that very reason.”
Mark Rolfing, an analyst for The Golf Channel who has lived in Kapalua for more than 25 years, said the weather problems that pushed the event to a Tuesday finish after just 54 holes last January could be seen again this week.
“The weather patterns have definitely changed here in Hawaii,” Rolfing said after playing a few holes Monday morning. “I think climate change is really kicking into effect here and when this course was designed 25 years ago, it was designed for trade wind conditions that we expected pretty much 300 out of 365 days every year, and that just hasn’t been happening. We haven’t really had consistent trade winds in the last month or so, and it looks like we’re going to have some opposite winds, some Kona winds later this week for a few days. The golf course is playing quite opposite.”
Course architect Ben Crenshaw will be on site this weekend, Rolfing said, to “get a sense of some issues that really need to be dealt with long-term in terms of the course because the holes are actually going to play backwards when the wind turns around.”
* Robert Collias is at firstname.lastname@example.org