Sergio Garcia hits his tee shot on the par-4 seventh in the PGA TOUR season opener in 2006. (Laberge/Getty Images)
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
The seventh hole of Kapalua’s Plantation course wasn’t exactly a pushover before the decision was made to remove some 70 trees that ran all the way down the right side of the hole.
Now competitors at this week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions will find the long, downhill par-4 far more vulnerable to Maui’s typical breezes.
“It’s completely open,” said Orlando Baraoidan, the Plantation course’s superintendent. “We left a couple of trees for a target, but that’s about it.”
Measuring 516 yards, No. 7 is one of three par-4s on the course featuring downhill slopes that take their distance past the 500-yard mark. A left-to-right dogleg begins at about 240 yards, with a large landing area.
Bombers can take a crack at cutting some of the angle, but the advantage has been nominal on the scorecard. Without the trees, it could become more of a risk/reward play.
With trees also on the left separating No. 7 from the practice range, crosswinds usually got caught in the branches. Now the hole will be susceptible to breezes from any of three directions. The tree removal process began shortly after last year’s event.
“Removing those trees, it’s unbelievable,” Baraoidan said. “It opens up the hole. You’re going to have to deal with wind, because now it kicks in. You’ll have to think about what you’re doing now on that hole.”
In past years, No.7 offered little drama. In the 14 years since the Tournament of Champions moved to Hawaii, only three holes have yielded more pars.
Steve Stricker birdied No. 7 on three of four days last year, but most played the hole no better than 1 under for the week.
On a course where the winning score usually approaches 20 under, competitors usually have simply trying to avoid bogey while focusing ahead on the challenging par-3 eighth and eagle-tempting ninth.
That luxury might not be the case this weekend, though, if the winds have a say.