By: Fred Albers, PGA TOUR.COM Correspondent
There are some tired golfers leaving Hilton Head Island tonight. Playing in the wind is not just physically tiring, it is mentally exhausting. With 30 mile per hour winds, players were in danger of suffering lacerations when tossing grass into the air to determine their direction. Golf became a guessing game, wondering how hard the wind was blowing, from what direction and how it would affect every shot. Players usually trust the tops of trees to indicate wind direction but swirling gusts made that a futile exercise. If a golfer could keep a shot’s trajectory below the treetops, he could shelter the ball from the wind but that was a difficult task. It was “Kapalua” windy and if Harbor Town’s greens had severe undulations, it might have been impossible to play golf on Sunday.
Gust: There is always an element of luck in any golf tournament and Webb Simpson got a badly timed gust of wind in the playoff. His putt from off the green, appeared to run just a couple feet by the cup when a gust of wind whipped the ball another five feet. Simpson missed that par putt and McDowell won the tournament. Players tried to time putts between gusts of wind but that's truly a guessing game.
Irish eyes: On a perplexing day to play golf, Graeme McDowell seemingly had the right answers. He is 10th on TOUR in hitting fairways this year and has a low penetrating ball flight, both great attributes in windy conditions. McDowell also has a short, compact putting stroke that is perfect when it blows. It was a frustratingly difficult day to play golf and yet the Ulsterman managed to keep smiling. He played 17 bogey-free holes on Sunday before missing a 13-footer on the 18th. McDowell led the tournament in scrambling this week. Attitude on the PGA TOUR often goes hand in hand with accomplishment.
Yardage: Yardage was all about commitment on Sunday. Players and caddies factored in the severity of the wind and the direction but it was the golfer’s responsibility to trust that number. It’s very difficult to say a shot is playing 200 yards but also trusting that number enough to hit an eight iron down wind. Players had to pick a number and trust the yardage enough to commit to that shot.
Scoring: Only two holes on the golf course played under par in the final round. The second and fifth holes, both par 5s, played to stroke averages of 4.63 and 4.89 respectively. Every other hole was over par with the 14th leading the way at nearly half stroke over par. There were 12 balls hit into the water at that 170-yard par 3. There was balanced scoring with three players, Jeff Maggert, Scott Brown and Casey Wittenberg, shooting 80 while only Luke Donald, Russell Henley and Graeme McDowell shot in the 60s. All three carded scores of 69.
Time: At 4:46 p.m., there were three important golf shots that took place, all in a 60 second span. Graeme McDowell made a long par putt at the 13th. One hole back, Charley Hoffman bogeyed the 12th while Webb Simpson made birdie. A birdie, a par and a bogey resulted in those three golfers creating a 3-way tie for the lead at 9 under.
Fashion: It was tough to keep everything in place during the final round. Hats were routinely blown off players’ heads and a chasing game ensued. Perhaps, Charley Hoffman was affected more than most. He wears his hair long in back and those golden strands kept blowing in the breeze and slapping against his neck. For future reference, on windy days, I suggest Hoffman consider gathering his long hair into a “bun” and follow the lead of the always-fashionable Marcel Siem who tucks his hair with a bobby pin.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.