January 8 2013
Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson played in the final group Tuesday at Kapalua. (Petersen/Getty Images)
By Ann Miller, for PGATOUR.COM
KAPALUA, Maui — Wind and weirdness rocked the first week of the PGA TOUR season.
Dustin Johnson and defending champion Steve Stricker battled it out on the back of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Tuesday’s final round, but the memories of this tournament will go beyond their result.
Since Thursday’s pro-am, played in driving wind and rain at Kapalua’s Plantation Course, this has been “goofy golf,” as Bubba Watson so accurately put it.
Kapalua residents call the rare and crazy weather that delayed the start for three days “pe‘epohaku.” It basically means rain and wind that cause you to “hide behind a rock.”
There were sustained winds of 30-40 mph the first three days, with gusts that got into the 50’s Saturday. The tournament did not start until Monday, when it was scheduled to end. It is the first Tuesday finish since the Booz Allen Classic in 2006.
Friday’s round was suspended and scrapped with the first group through eight holes. Saturday’s 36 holes never got started. On Sunday, lead group Rickie Fowler and Jason Dufner got through five holes before that day was suspended, and scores voided yet again.
Fowler hit the opening drive of the season three times. Golf balls at rest blew off greens. Pins blew horizontal. An entire cheesecake blew out of a food tent, Frisbee-ing down the first fairway.
Matt Kuchar’s golf ball blew off the tee when he tried to tee it up on the 10th Sunday. A few days earlier, the visitor’s bureau took he and his family on a catamaran ride to Lanai in a serene ocean surrounded by whales.
Wind is pretty much a constant here on the side of the West Maui mountains, but this is weird even for the islands. The prolonged gusts made the Plantation unplayable, which had never happened before.
The tournament, which moved here in 1999, was cut to 54 holes over the weekend. It the first time the Hyundai TOC has not gone the full 72 since 1997 in Las Vegas, and only the third time since it started in 1953.
The wackiness had an impact on this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club.
The Golf Channel needs to send its equipment to Oahu by barge, causing complications with Thursday’s first-round broadcast. The 20 golfers playing the Sony Open had to alter travel plans to Oahu.
Defending Sony Open champion Johnson Wagner, who said Sunday that “every 3-footer on these greens takes a year off my life,” was scheduled to play in the Acura Hawaii Pro-Junior Challenge Tuesday afternoon. So were Kuchar and Mark Wilson, who also played Hyundai.
They were replaced by Davis Love III, Fred Funk and Hawaii native Dean Wilson.
Wilson is used to this wind, which is forecast to die way down for Sony. He is also used to the temperature. Through Kapalua’s entire ordeal, the weather barely dipped below 70 degrees.