Forecast high winds to bring big challenge at Sentry Tournament of Champions
January 02, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- The final three rounds of the Sentry Tournament of Champions is expecting an increase in wind speeds. (Tracy Wilcox/PGA TOUR)
KAPALUA, Hawaii – Jon Rahm was only half joking when he said he’s going to have nightmares tonight in Maui.
The Spaniard was talking about the forecast increase in wind speeds over the final three rounds of the Sentry Tournament of Champions after the opening day was played in beautiful conditions.
While the winners only field was bathed in sunshine and dealt with just the occasional gust on Thursday, the remainder of the tournament is expecting steady winds of around 20 mph with gusts up and around the 35 mph mark.
It meant that a fast start could prove very important. Joaquin Niemann’s 7-under 66 has him one clear of 2018 winner Justin Thomas (67), while Matt Kuchar and Rickie Fowler sit tied fifth after rounds of 68. Rahm is one five players, including defending champion Xander Schauffele at 4 under.
“This first day was really important to get a good score because I know it's going to be windy and it's going to get really hard for the next three days,” Niemann said.
“I played a couple holes on Tuesday, and it was really windy, and I was like, oh my God, this is going to be really tough. I know I just have to stick to your plan, stay patient, you're going to hit a lot of bad shots with that wind because it's going to be tough.”
With the course carrying new firm and fast greens after a rejuvenation, the increase in wind could cause some carnage on the putting surfaces. Kuchar admitted the four-footers would be worrying him the most over the final three rounds and Thomas in fact fired up when asked what the toughest part of playing in high winds was.
“Any time I ever watch golf it frustrates me how it's never talked about, the wind and putts,” Thomas said.
“Today it blew 10 miles an hour, and it affects putts. It's plain and simple. So when it blows 25 to 35, you'll have putts that are supposed to break a foot right to left and they'll go the other way. There's no putt that's a gimme when it's like that.
“But everyone has to play with it, so I'm just going to have to be patient and hopefully just kind of time it all right.”
While Rahm half joked of nightmares, Fowler was ready to embrace the challenge. He has three top six finishes in the event in his three previous starts, but has yet to get a victory.
“I love playing in the wind. I feel like this golf course also allows you to use your imagination,” Fowler said.
“In the wind you've got to have some imagination on shot shape and hit your windows and when it's blowing over 10 or 15, you can't really hold it up against the wind, so you kind of have to play with it and let the wind move your ball. Judging that properly is always fun for me.
“I'm going to still try to wear out fairways and greens if I can. From what I've seen in years past, as long as it's not hard enough to where it's keeping us off the golf course, the TOUR usually does a good job of setting it up to where it's still playable. It just kind of brings out the ball-striking.”