KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) – Another attempt to start the PGA Tour season was blown away Sunday.
Just more than an hour into the opening round of the Tournament of Champions, play was suspended when more 40 mph gusts came roaring down the Plantation Course at Kapalua and left officials no choice but to wipe out yet another round.
Rickie Fowler will hit the opening tee shot of the 2013 season today – for the third time this week.
Andy Pazder, the tour’s chief of operations, said earlier Sunday that the decisions not to play “were not hard” because the wind was severe.
The evidence from one hour of golf was overwhelming.
Matt Kuchar’s golf ball blew off the tee twice before he could even hit his first tee shot. Charlie Beljan played six shots before he reached his first green. Ben Curtis had birdie putts on the first two holes and played them in 5-over par.
The winners-only tournament was supposed to begin Friday, but the round was scrapped by high wind after no one had played more than eight holes. It tried to start Sunday – the day most golf tournaments end – and it was clear early on there would be trouble.
“We need to try to put the show on,” Ian Poulter said. “Hyundai spent a lot of money. We want to play. Fans want to see us play. TV wants to see us play. We’re backed into a corner. I don’t think they understand how windy it really is. Now they’ve seen it.”
It was comical from the start, with Kuchar having to tee it up three times before he could hit, and removing his cap the rest of the way. Jonas Blixt had a 1-foot par putt on the 10th hole and took about two minutes. He had to wait as a cup and someone’s hat blew across the green.
The final blow came at the 12th hole. Scott Stallings had a tap-in and as he approached the ball to take his stance, it blew some 8 feet away.
“It’s crazy. That’s the only way to describe it,” Curtis said. “I’ve never hit two greens in regulation at the start and walked away at 5 over. But hey. At least we had to try.”
And they will try again – 36 holes today, when the forecast is for less wind, followed by an 18-hole finish on Tuesday. That puts a crimp on the next tournament, the Sony Open in Honolulu, which starts Thursday. Pazder had said the Sony Open would have a limited television production because it’s at least a 16-hour trip by barge to get the equipment over to Oahu.
The original plan Sunday was to play 36 holes and then 18 on Monday for a 54-hole event. But when the players arrived, rules officials checking the conditions on the back nine could barely stand up, so the start was delayed by four hours.
There was trouble all over.
Poulter had to back off six times on a 10-foot birdie putt at the 11th hole. Two holes later, he had 138 yards to the front of the 13th, into the wind, and backed off endlessly. He finally hit a beauty, and he posed over the shot until it landed just short of the green and rolled some 30 yards down the fairway.
He hit a 4-iron.
Poulter turned to stare at a half-dozen people watching him, explaining in his own way that a 4-iron typically goes more than 138 yards. Across the way on the 10th hole, a search party was stomping through the native grass trying to find the two tee shots hit by Beljan. He found the second one. The grass was so deep that after the five minutes had ended, a woman found his original ball. She went to show him, and then couldn’t find it.
Beljan took a whack and whiffed. He hammered at it again with a wedge and moved it back to the fairway. He had a 15-foot putt for triple bogey when play was stopped. Even more amazing is that Beljan – one of the biggest hitters in golf – hit 8-iron from 102 yards to about 25 feet. The wind blew the ball 10 feet closer.
As difficult as it was, and as frustrated as the players have been, they all want to play. Now it’s a matter of defining which sport they’re trying to play.
“That’s not golf,” Poulter said. “I don’t know what that is. You saw it. You can’t pull a trigger. You’re taking 20 practice swings because you can’t stand up. I guess what we’ve done is shown everyone it’s unplayable. In some respect, at least we hit a couple of shots. Three days of sitting in the hotel is not good. At least I’ve warmed up for something. I’m just not sure what I’ve warmed up for.”