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Players rave about Plantation Course

Scott, Cink among those getting first up-close look after long time away

Adam Scott chips to the Kapalua Plantation Course’s 18th green Tuesday during his practice round for the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Scott has played here in the Tournament of Champions six times, but the last was in 2014. The tournament starts Thursday. The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photos

Adam Scott has always enjoyed the Kapalua Plantation Course, but perhaps never more than what he has seen lately.

The 40-year-old Australian who is ranked 21st in the world has played here in the Sentry Tournament of Champions six times, but the last was in 2014.

He got an up-close look at the Plantation Course this week and is impressed with the $10 million refinement that it underwent before last year’s event.

“Generally my feeling is the course is in the best shape I’ve ever seen it, by far,” Scott said during a news conference Tuesday. “I can see they have done some work on the golf course and it seems to have all kind of come together very nicely. The condition of the golf course is fantastic. The few small alterations they have made are very good and fit in well, and I’m incredibly impressed with the standard of the golf course.”

He’s glad to be back in the field, which at 42 golfers is the largest it has ever been for this event that started in 1953, breaking the mark of 38 in 1988. It moved to Maui in 1999.

Xander Schauffele chips to the ninth green Tuesday.

“Well, it’s great to be back,” Scott said. “It’s always an event that when you miss it, I kind of regret not coming when I’ve qualified. It’s such a fun week, fun golf course to play, and obviously to be here as a tournament winner is a good feeling. So nice to be back.”

Stewart Cink, 47, hasn’t been here since 2010.

“Well, really excited to be back. It’s always great to start the year in Maui, because it’s Maui, but also it means that you’ve done something that’s worthy of an invite here and it’s been 11 years,” Cink said.

His youngest son Reagan is his caddie this season — they earned their way here with a win at the Safeway Open in September.

“So my family’s in a way different place now than we were then (in 2010) and I’ve got my son Reagan caddying for me, he and (older brother) Connor, they’re in their 20s and so it’s just a different experience, but we’re definitely having a great time and looking forward to the week,” Cink said.

Hideki Matsuyama tees off on the first hole.

When asked how much he remembers from his last stop here, Cink smiled into the camera for the virtual news conference.

“Well that’s a good question. I do remember a lot, I retain a lot of what I learn about the courses when I play them, so it’s been 11 years but I still have a lot of memories here,” he said. “I believe this course got renovated after I was here last time and it got renovated again like last year. So there was about nine or 10 years of golf course that I never saw, period.

“So one thing I noticed yesterday when I played here for the first time since then was that the greens don’t have quite as much slope as they did and they have been re-grassed, obviously, so it’s still pretty grainy … the green speeds aren’t typical for the PGA Tour because of the wind they get here, but the slopes in some of the areas are just not as severe as they used to be. So that’s one of the first things I noticed.”

The subtle changes to the course have been a topic of conversation between father and son.

“I was telling Reagan, as we got to greens, like, ‘You can’t be above this hole,’ “ Cink said. “And then we get up there and you can certainly be above this hole, because it’s not as steep. So that’s the biggest change I noticed. There’s a couple little changes here and there with new tees and a few bunkers in the driving areas that are, they’re in play, but not a huge change.”

Cink likes the changes.

“I think it’s more playable probably for everyday. I know they have had a couple of years where they had wind here at such a high rate that they couldn’t play,” he said. “… I think they did a great job with it and it’s just, putting I think is maybe gotten a little bit easier here than it was back in the day. … It’s a fun course to play and it’s a blast to be here.”

Xander Schauffele is back after a win here in 2019 and a loss in a playoff last season. He is coming off a recent bout with COVID-19.

“The course is in immaculate shape. It definitely looks like not too many people have played on it due to the whole COVID lockdown,” Schauffele said. “So everything is very green, very lush. The greens are in incredible shape.”

Schauffele said scoring could go low this week.

“It’s a little soft, I would say, but I think the greens that were new and replaced were, or are now more settled in and maybe rolling better and a little bit more soft or more relatable to the other greens,” he said. “So I think all in all, the course is looking great and it’s definitely ready for competition.”

* Robert Collias is at rcollias@mauinews.com.

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