Punch Shot: Changes needed to Hyundai TOC?

Is there any place you'd rather be right now than Maui, playing against a field of elite golfers for a a $5.7 million purse? Well, it's not all paradise at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in on what, if any, changes are needed to spice up the 2014 debut event.

By JASON SOBEL

This is my fifth or sixth time covering the festivities at Kapalua - and yeah, not being able to keep track is a humblebrag of the highest order - and I've spent a good portion of these visits trying to find a solution to this question.

Well, I've finally figured it out: There's nothing wrong with this tournament.

The No. 1 complaint is that the "big names" don't play this event. Let's be frank, that is basically a reference to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson electing to skip it every year; though this time they've also been joined by Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.

But this entire question is about Tiger and Phil. If they played here annually, we'd never ask, instead considering the TOC a crown jewel to start the year. Well, the truth is, the PGA Tour could hold events this week two minutes down the road from where they each live, and they still might not play. Their prerogative. If they each want to take an extended winter break, they're welcome to. But we shouldn't consider this tournament "broken" just because they're not here. I'm fundamentally opposed to making changes just to possibly appease a few select players - and apparently the PGA Tour is, too.

As far as other issues, I was fine with the Monday finish until it started to coincide with the BCS Championship Game, which defeats the original purpose of avoiding being up against football. I'm fine with a select field of winners only; honestly, the range here can't accommodate a 60-man field as of right now. And I have zero problem with the year (not the season) starting in the Aloha State; it's a great visual for those stuck in snowstorms around the country.

So there you go. There's nothing wrong with this tournament. Trust me, I've spent years trying to figure it out. 


By REX HOGGARD

There is nothing wrong with the Tournament of Champions that a little tweaking and a healthy dose of reasonable expectations can’t fix.

The Kapalua stop has suffered from an identity crisis in recent years primarily because of its position on the schedule and, to a lesser extent, a golf course that is not among the favorites on the PGA Tour.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods hasn’t played the Tournament of Champions since 2005 and it has been more than a decade (2001) since Phil Mickelson made the trip to Maui. If tournament officials are serious about reversing that trend it will take more than a Monday finish and a new spot on the Tour’s wraparound schedule.

To woo the top players on a regular basis, officials should lobby for a more favorable spot on the calendar, say around the end of October or the middle of November when the game’s marquee is heading to or coming home from Asia.

It may also be time for a new ballpark.

The TOC has been played on the Plantation layout since 1999 and it has steadily fallen out of favor. Hawaii is dotted with quality golf courses and a venue upgrade could make it harder for players to pass on Kapalua.

There is no formula for the perfect field on Tour, but the folks in Hawaii could turn the odds in their favor with a little tinkering.


By RANDALL MELL

A Tournament of Champions works well if all your champions actually show up. If Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell were all there this week, it’s a more exciting opening event for the new year. And that’s what you would like to see to start the year, a big-bang event.

The PGA Tour schedule is packed full of more big-bang events than it’s ever had with majors, World Golf Championships and the FedEx Cup playoffs. Give PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem credit for creating so many more big events, for getting the world’s best playing against each other more often. The schedule’s lacking in that there’s no equivalent to Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. If you could sell your stars on playing the Accenture Match Play Championship as the first event of the new year, the PGA Tour would have its big-bang opener, regardless of whether it's actually a "season opener." Of course, golf's season never really seems to end anymore, with no offseason, so maybe there's no sense in trying to celebrate a start, especially during the NFL playoffs.


By WILL GRAY

While it might not be very feasible logistically, I’d like to see a change of venue for the winners-only event – at least occasionally.

The tournament’s current home at Kapalua definitely makes sense weather-wise, and the stability of next week’s Sony Open in Hawaii is also greatly enhanced by having this limited-field event as a nearby lead-in. The fact remains, though, that some of the game’s brightest stars have made it clear they have no desire to start their calendar year on the shores of Hawaii.

So whether a rotation of venues is in order, or if the event needs to return back to the mainland permanently, the event might be able to regain some of the cache it lost to the wraparound schedule by offering a field with fewer winners voluntarily on the bench.

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Spieth, McIlroy to support Major Champions Invitational

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:25 pm

Nick Faldo announced Tuesday the creation of the Major Champions Invitational.

The event, scheduled for March 12-14, is an extension of the Faldo Series and will feature both male and female junior players at Bella Collina in Montverde, Fla.

Jordan Spieth, Rory Mcllroy, Annika Sorenstam, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jerry Pate and John Daly have already committed to supporting the event, which is aimed at mentoring and inspiring the next generation of players.  

“I’m incredibly excited about hosting the Major Champions Invitational, and about the players who have committed to support the event,” Faldo said. “This event will allow major champions to give something back to the game that has given them so much, and hopefully, in time, it will become one of the most elite junior golf events in the world.”

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Rosaforte: Woods plays with Obama, gets rave reviews

By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 16, 2018, 2:15 pm

Golf Channel insider Tim Rosaforte reports on Tiger Woods’ recent round at The Floridian in Palm City, Fla., alongside President Barack Obama.

Check out the video, as Rosaforte says Woods received rave reviews from instructor Claude Harmon. 

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Stock Watch: Spieth searching for putting form

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 16, 2018, 1:50 pm

Each week on GolfChannel.com, we’ll examine which players’ stocks and trends are rising and falling in the world of golf.

RISING

Patton Kizzire (+8%): By today’s accelerated standards, he’s a late bloomer, having reached the Tour at age 29. Well, he seems right at home now, with two wins in his last four starts.

Rory (+7%): Coming off the longest break of his career, McIlroy should have no excuses this year. He’s healthy. Focused. Motivated. It’s go time.

Chris Paisley (+5%): The best part about his breakthrough European Tour title that netted him $192,000? With his wife, Keri, on the bag, he doesn’t have to cut 10 percent to his caddie – she gets the whole thing.

Brooke Henderson (+3%): A seventh-place finish at the Diamond Resorts Invitational doesn’t sound like much for a five-time winner, but this came against the men – on a cold, wet, windy, 6,700-yard track. She might be the most fun player to watch on the LPGA. 

New European Ryder Cuppers (+2%): In something of a Ryder Cup dress rehearsal, newcomers Tommy Fleetwood and Tyrrell Hatton each went undefeated in leading Europe to a come-from-behind victory at the EurAsia Cup. The competition come September will be, um, a bit stiffer.



FALLING

Jordan’s putting (-1%): You can sense his frustration in interviews, and why not? In two starts he leads the Tour in greens in regulation … and ranks 201st (!) in putting. Here’s guessing he doesn’t finish the year there.

Brian Harman’s 2018 Sundays (-2%): The diminutive left-hander now has five consecutive top-10s, and he’s rocketing up the Ryder Cup standings, but you can’t help but wonder how much better the start to his year might have been. In the final pairing each of the past two weeks, he’s a combined 1 under in those rounds and wasn’t much of a factor.

Tom Hoge (-3%): Leading by one and on the brink of a life-changing victory – he hadn’t been able to keep his card each of the past three years – Hoge made an absolute mess of the 16th, taking double bogey despite having just 156 yards for his approach. At least now he’s on track to make the playoffs for the first time.

Predicting James Hahn’s form (-4%): OK, we give up: He’d gone 17 events without a top-15 before his win at Riviera; 12 before his win at Quail Hollow; and seven before he lost on the sixth playoff hole at Waialae. The margins between mediocre play and winning apparently are THAT small.

Barnrat (-5%): Coming in hot with four consecutive top-10s, and one of only two team members ranked inside the top 50 in the world, Kiradech Aphibarnrat didn’t show up at the EurAsia Cup, going 0-3 for the week. In hindsight, the Asian team had no chance without his contributions. 

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Langer not playing to pass Irwin, but he just might

By Tim RosaforteJanuary 16, 2018, 1:40 pm

Bernhard Langer goes back out on tour this week to chase down more than Hale Irwin’s PGA Tour Champions record of 45 career victories. His chase is against himself.

“I’m not playing to beat Hale Irwin’s record,” Langer told me before heading to Hawaii to defend his title at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai. “I play golf to play the best I can, to be a good role model, and to enjoy a few more years that are left.”

Langer turned 60 on Aug. 27 and was presented a massage chair by his family as a birthday gift. Instead of reclining (which he does to watch golf and football), he won three more times to close out a seven-win campaign that included three major championships. A year prior, coming off a four-victory season, Langer told me after winning his fourth Charles Schwab Cup that surpassing Irwin’s record was possible but not probable. With 36 career victories and 11 in his last two years, he has changed his tone to making up the nine-tournament difference as “probable.”

“If I could continue a few more years on that ratio, I could get close or pass him,” Langer told me from his home in Boca Raton, Fla. “It will get harder. I’m 60 now. It’s a big challenge but I don’t shy away from challenges.”


Bernhard Langer, Hale Irwin at the 1991 Ryder Cup (Getty Images)


Langer spent his off-season playing the PNC Father/Son, taking his family on a ski vacation at Big Sky in Yellowstone, Montana, and to New York for New Year’s. He ranks himself as a scratch skier, having skied since he was four years old in Germany. The risk of injury is worth it, considering how much he loves “the scenery, the gravity and the speed.”

Since returning from New York, Langer has immersed himself into preparing for the 2018 season. Swing coach Willy Hoffman, who he has worked with since his boyhood days as an as assistant pro in Germany, flew to Florida for their 43rd year of training.

“He’s a straight shooter,” Hoffman told me. “He says, 'Willy, every hour is an hour off my life and we have 24 hours every day.'"

As for Irwin, they have maintained a respectful relationship that goes back to their deciding singles match in the 1991 Ryder Cup. Last year they were brought back to Kiawah Island for a corporate appearance where they reminisced and shared the thought that nobody should ever have to bear what Langer went through, missing a 6-footer on the 18th green. That was 27 years ago. Both are in the Hall of Fame.

"I enjoy hanging out with Hale," Langer says.

Langer’s chase of Irwin’s record is not going to change their legacies. As Hoffman pointed out, “Yes, (Bernhard) is a rich man compared to his younger days. He had no money, no nothing. But today you don’t feel a difference when you talk to him. He’s always on the ground.”