Season opener could change locations

By Associated PressJanuary 11, 2009, 5:00 pm
2007 Mercedes Benz ChampionshipKAPALUA, Hawaii ' The stunning contrast of green grass, blue Pacific and the occasional white splash of a humpback whale gave way to dreary clouds Sunday morning for the final round at Kapalua.
 
Perhaps it was only fitting.
 
After 11 years of the winners-only field at the Mercedes-Benz Championship being pampered with butler-drawn baths in their free room at the Ritz-Carlton and playing a Plantation course with spacious fairways and sharp changes in elevation ' unlike any other style they play the rest of the year ' the future at Kapalua suddenly is cloudy.
 
PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem was as vague as the Sunday view when he said this week that we are looking at some options in terms of what is the best future for this tournament.
 
That was as far as he went, so its not clear who is looking for change, only who isnt.
 
We want to continue at Kapalua, said Gary Planos, the tournament chairman and senior vice president at Kapalua. But were not sure whats going to happen in the future.
 
If the players had a vote, speculation probably wouldnt last long.
 
The best part of winning the Honda Classic for Ernie Els was a return trip to Kapalua, where he set the tournament record (31 under) in 2003 during a week of pristine conditions. Even though his putter has been a problem this week, its tough for Els to say it has been a bad week. He spent one morning in the ocean with his son, Ben, teaching him to body surf.
 
Rory Sabbatini was here this week, even though he didnt qualify. He loves the place so much he comes to Kapalua on vacation.
 
We all want it to stay here, Davis Love III said. Theres a few players that dont like coming here, but for the most part, this is a great place for us to come. I love coming here and I would hate to see it leave.
 
The Plantation course can be an acquired taste ' with so much elevation, 400-yard drives can be the norm ' but it offers wide fairways that can be ideal for players trying to knock winter rust off their game.
 
This is a perfect place to start, Geoff Ogilvy said. Its quite easy to hit a lot of fairways.
 
Ogilvy is among those who took up joint membership on the European Tour this year, and one reason was a variety of courses that he believes the U.S. tour lacks. He finds it odd that a move from Kapalua is being discussed.
 
After Florida, you probably play the same golf course 20 times in a row, Ogilvy said. But to play such an extremely different setup, its a cool place to start.
 
The Mercedes moved to the western tip of Maui in 1999 after 30 years at La Costa Resort north of San Diego, which could get cold and soggy. Tiger Woods won a 54-hole event in 1997 in a playoff on the one hole that was above water. Three years later, he won a playoff against Els at Kapalua in what remains their most epic duel.
 
Woods hasnt returned since 2005 for reasons that had to do more with his family and the calendar than the golf course and how he was treated. His season-ending charity event has been moved so late in December that Woods felt he needed time off. He is lobbying to have the Chevron World Challenge moved to the week after Thanksgiving.
 
Whatever the case, his absence is a bigger blow to this tournament than when he skips the first playoff event.
 
What hurt the perception even more was the absence of the next three guys behind him in the world ranking. Phil Mickelson played only the first three years at Kapalua. He wants time off to spend with his family, but its no secret he is not a fan of Kapalua and the wind, saying it gets him into bad swing habits.
 
Padraig Harrington is from Ireland and takes January as his one month away from golf. Sergio Garcia is a past winner at Kapalua, but the schedule didnt work for him. He lives in Spain and plays next week in Abu Dhabi.
 
The Tour is said to be looking at Wailea, about an hour to the east on Maui, where the weather is more predictable. It might have more options for Mercedes clients to play golf, but it doesnt have the caliber of course that Kapalua offers. Players often criticize the Tour for not playing on the best courses available; this could be one of those example.
 
I love coming here, said Stewart Cink, one of four players on the Tours policy board. I like playing here. I think this is a fun course to play. Its different and a challenge in its own way. I would not want to move it. But its a business decision, Im sure.
 
Some players believe the Tour is looking at a move to the mainland to make it easier to travel.
 
If youre trying to get one or two players, youre going to have to move it to San Diego or Orlando, said Justin Leonard, referring to Mickelson and Woods. And even then, I dont think those guys would play. Its nice to start here.
 
Moving to the mainland also would leave the Sony Open in Honolulu on an island, such as it is.
 
The wild card in all this is Mercedes. Its sponsorship expires in 2010 After 11 years of the winners-only field at the Mercedes-Benz Championship being pampered with butler-drawn baths in their free room at the Ritz-Carlton and playing a Plantation course with spacious fairways and sharp changes in elevation ' unlike any other style they play the rest of the year ' the future at Kapalua suddenly is cloudy. as does the Tours contract with Kapalua ' and the automaker has been quiet this week in casual conversations with tournament and resort officials.
 
Finchem said it wasnt only Kapalua under review.
 
The way we like to believe you will get better is to constantly challenge what you are doing and ask the question, Can you do it better? he said. It doesnt necessarily mean we will do anything particularly different.
 
Most players would tell him its pretty good as it is.
 
But maybe in these economic conditions, its not always about the players.
 
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  • Happy Thanksgiving: Biggest turkeys of 2017

    By Grill Room TeamNovember 23, 2017, 3:00 pm

    Thanksgiving brings us golf's biggest turkeys of the year. Donald Trump, Grayson Murray and a certain (now-former) tournament director headline the list. Click here or on the image below to check out all the turkeys.

    Tributes pour in for legendary caddie Sheridan

    By Randall MellNovember 23, 2017, 2:54 pm

    Tributes are pouring in as golf celebrates the life of Greg Sheridan after receiving news of his passing.

    Sheridan, a long-time LPGA caddie who worked for some of the game’s all-time greats, including Kathy Whitworth and Beth Daniel, died Wednesday in Indian Rocks Beach, Fla., at 63. He was diagnosed in July 2016 with brain and lung cancer.

    Sheridan worked the last dozen years or so with Natalie Gulbis, who expressed her grief in an Instagram post on Wednesday:

    “Greg…I miss you so much already and it hasn’t even been a day. 15+ seasons traveling the world you carried me & my bag through the highs and lows of golf and life. You were so much more than my teammate on the course…Thank you.”

    Sheridan was on Whitworth’s bag for the last of her LPGA-record 88 titles.

    “When I first came on tour, I would try to find out how many times Greg won,” Gulbis told Golfweek. “It’s a crazy number, like 50.”

    Matthew Galloway, a caddie and friend to Sheridan, summed up Sheridan’s impressive reach after caddying with him one year at the LPGA Founders Cup, where the game’s pioneers are honored.

    “Best Greg story,” Galloway tweeted on Thanksgiving morning, “coming up 18 at PHX all the founders were in their chairs. Greg goes, `Yep, caddied for her, her and her.’ Legend.”

    In a first-person column for Golf Magazine last year, Gulbis focused on Sheridan while writing about the special bond between players and caddies. She wrote that she won the “looper lottery” when she first hired Sheridan in ’04.

    “Greg and I have traveled the world, and today he is like family,” Gulbis wrote. “Sometimes, he’s a psychologist. Last year, my mom got sick and it was a distraction, but he was great. When I used to have boyfriend issues and breakup issues, he was my confidant. In a world where caddies sometimes spill secrets, Greg has kept a respectful silence, and I can’t thank him enough for that. He’s an extension of me.”

    Four months after Gulbis wrote the column, Sheridan was diagnosed with cancer.

    “The LPGA family is saddened to hear of the loss of long-time tour caddie, Greg Sheridan,” the LPGA tweeted. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and players he walked with down the fairways. #RIP.”

    Dean Herden was among the legion of caddies saddened by the news.

    “Greg was a great guy who I respected a lot and taught me some great things over the years,” Herden texted to GolfChannel.com.

    Here are some of heartfelt messages that are rolling across Twitter:

    Retired LPGA great Annika Sorenstam:

    LPGA commissioner Mike Whan in a retweet of Gulbis:

    Golf Channel reporter and former tour player Jerry Foltz:

    Christina Kim:

    LPGA caddie Shaun Clews:

    LPGA caddie Jonny Scott:

    LPGA caddie Kevin Casas:

    LPGA pro Jennie Lee:

    Fitzpatrick one back in 2018 Euro Tour opener

    By Associated PressNovember 23, 2017, 1:37 pm

    HONG KONG – S.S.P. Chawrasia had six birdies and a bogey Thursday for a 5-under 65 and a one-stroke lead at the Hong Kong Open, the first event of the 2018 European Tour season.

    Playing in sunny but breezy conditions at the Hong Kong Golf Club, the greens had the players struggling to gauge the approach.

    ''Very tough conditions today,'' Chawrasia said. ''It's very firm greens, to be honest. I'm just trying to hit the second shot on the green and trying to make it like a two-putt.''


    Full-field scores from the UBS Hong Kong Open


    Shubhankar Sharma and Matthew Fitzpatrick (both 66) were one shot behind, while seven others were tied for fourth a further stroke behind.

    ''Hit it great tee to green,'' Fitzpatrick said. ''I think I had like seven or eight chances inside 15 feet, and on a day like today when it's so windy and such a tough golf course, with how tight it is, yeah, it was a good day.''

    Justin Rose, who won the title in 2015, shot was 2 under with five birdies and three bogeys.

    ''I think the course played a couple shots harder than it typically does,'' Rose said. ''I like this course. I think it offers plenty of birdie opportunities.''

    Masters champion Sergio GarciaRafa Cabrera Bello and defending champion Sam Brazel (69) were in a group of 16 at 1 under.

    Day, Spieth chasing Davis after Day 1 of Aussie Open

    By Jason CrookNovember 23, 2017, 6:50 am

    The PGA Tour is off this week but a couple of the circuit’s biggest stars – Jordan Spieth and Jason Day – are headlining the Emirates Australian Open, the first event in The Open Qualifying Series for the 2018 Open at Carnoustie. Here's how things look after the opening round, where Cameron Davis has opened up a two-shot lead:

    Leaderboard: Davis (-8), Taylor MacDonald (-6), Nick Cullen (-5), Day (-5), Brian Campbell (-4), Lucas Herbert (-4), Stephen Leaney (-4), Anthony Quayle (-4)

    What it means: Spieth has won this event three of the last four years, including last year, but he got off to a rocky start on Thursday. Playing in the windy afternoon wave, the world No. 2 bogeyed his first two holes but rebounded with birdies on Nos. 4 and 5. It was more of the same the rest of the way as the 24-year-old carded three more bogeys and four birdies, getting into the clubhouse with a 1-under 70. While it certainly wasn't the start he was hoping for, Spieth didn't shoot himself out of the tournament with 54 holes left to play, he has plenty of time to claw his way up the leaderboard.


    Full-field scores from the Emirates Australian Open


    Round of the day: With Round 1 in the books, the solo leader, Davis, is the easy pick here. The 22-year-old Aussie who turned pro last year, came out of the gates on fire, birdieing six of his first seven holes, including four in a row on Nos. 4 through 7. He did drop a shot on the ninth hole to go out in 30 but rebounded with three more birdies on the back to card a 8-under 63. Davis, who was born in Sydney and played this year on the Mackenzie Tour in Canada. He will attempt to get his Web.com Tour card next month during qualifying in Arizona.

    Best of the rest: Making his first start in his home country in four years, Day started on the 10th hole at The Australian Golf Club and made four birdies to one bogey on the back side before adding four more circles after making the turn. Unfortunately for the 30-year-old, he also added an ugly double-bogey 6 on the par-4 eighth hole and had to settle for a 5-under 66, good enough to sit T-3. Day, who has dropped to No. 12 in the world rankings, is looking for his first win on any tour since the 2016 Players Championship.

    Main storyline heading into Friday: Can the upstart 22-year-old Davis hold off the star power chasing him or will he fold to the pressure of major champions in his rearview mirror? Day (afternoon) and Spieth (morning) are once again on opposite ends of the draw on Friday as they try to improve their position before the weekend.

    Shot of the day: It’s tough to beat an ace in this category, and we had one of those on Thursday from Australian Brad Shilton. Shilton’s hole-in-one on the par-3, 188-yard 11th hole came with a special prize, a $16k watch.

    Quote of the day: “Just two bad holes. Pretty much just two bad swings for the day,” – Day, after his 66 on Thursday.