January 4 2013
By Ann Miller, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Friday’s first round of the PGA TOUR season ended before it began for a few golfers in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Now everybody gets a re-start on Saturday in the TOUR's season-opening event.
Officials suspended play twice at windy and rainy Kapalua Plantation Course, then wiped out the first round completely, calling the conditions “extreme.” Gusts were measured at 45 mph.
Ten players had yet to post a score and defending champion Steve Stricker never teed off.
“It started off bad and got worse,” said Slugger White, the TOUR's vice president of rules and operations. “It was pretty nasty out there.”
He cited wind gusts that blew a ball off the second green. Asked why the TOUR had gone ahead with the year’s opening round in the morning, he admitted the huge blasts of wind were not expected.
“I don't think you can just not try to play, we're going to try to play,” White said. “Was it bad? Yes, it was bad. But you know, there were times out there where it kind of laid down. We were on the fifth hole and that's one of the highest places we have on the golf course, and it was almost … it wasn't benign, but it was actually not too bad. And that's when we started getting balls rolling on the second hole. We had a ball that was rolling probably like 25 feet.”
They will try to play two rounds Saturday, with the field of 30 starting at 12:30 p.m. ET (7:30 a.m. Hawaiian time) off the first and 10th tees. However, continued poor weather is expected.
“I can honestly say the forecast isn't real good,” White admitted, “but maybe we'll get lucky. That's the hope.”
Of the 30 players in the field, 20 had finished at least one hole. But officials determined that the six players who had yet to tee off would have an unfair advantage by not having to deal with the wind squalls coming off the mountains that forced a suspension of play.
Although it's unusual that exisiting scores are being wiped out, it's not unprecedented. White recalled at least three tournaments in which poor conditions forced a re-start to a round.
"It doesn't happen very often," White said.
Prior to Friday, the last time the TOUR declared "play null and void" and restarted a round came at THE PLAYERS Championship in 2005 (second round).
The last time a round was suspended on the PGA TOUR due to wind came at the 2012 AT&T National (start of round delayed due to overnight wind damage). The third round of the 2012 Humana Challenge was also delayed due to wind.
In making Friday's decision, White said he took input from players, including one who told him that he couldn't even see his ball to putt.
Webb Simpson was through seven holes and leading the tournament at 3 under. The reigning U.S. Open champ, just like every other player in the field, now goes back to even par with a full 72 holes to play.
"It stinks for me," Simpson told the Golf Channel. "I got off to a great start, but it's how it goes. Good news is, I'm playing well. I'll try to carry it into tomorrow."
On the flip side, Scott Stallings was 7 over through four holes and last on the leaderboard. He now gets a re-do.
"Obviously I was thrilled," Stallings said when he heard the news. "It's a tough situation to be in. I hit some bad shots and got some bad breaks. Pretty miserable out there.
"I was the biggest benefactor of the whole deal, but I'd like to know how Webb was 3 under through all that."
Asked if it was the correct decision, Stallings replied: "Absolutely. I couldn't imagine playing actual golf."
Rickie Fowler was in the first group of the day with Jason Dufner and had the honor of hitting the season's first tee shot. Technically, now, that shot doesn't count.
But Fowler said the ruling was the right one.
"It seems like it's a fair move, everybody getting a re-start," Fowler said.