With new wraparound schedule, Kapalua has a different vibe

By Jason SobelJanuary 3, 2014, 3:08 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – The opening tee shot here at the Plantation Course takes place from an elevated tee box, looking down the barrel of a right-to-left sloping fairway with a wide swath of Pacific Ocean in the background and the island of Molokai behind it.

Over the years, the first of these tee shots struck during the Hyundai Tournament of Champions has traditionally been the first tee shot of the PGA Tour season. As such, it is preceded by a ceremony featuring a Hawaiian blessing and musical entertainment in the form of a large man tenderly playing a small ukulele.

On Friday, it will all happen again. The stunning view. The blessing. The large man and the small ukulele. It will represent tradition, the first tee shot of the new season.

Except this time, it won’t be.

This time it will be the 40,879th tee shot of the season.

That’s real math right there, totaled up on a real calculator after six real tournaments were contested during the months of October and November last year. It’s all part of the new wraparound schedule which has the PGA Tour going the way of the NBA and NHL with its season unbounded by the limits of a calendar.

Hyundai Tournament of Champions: Articles, videos and photos

And yet, something about this tee shot will still feel a little different.

Maybe that’s because the first 40,878 weren’t part of any ceremonies.

While the festivities at Kapalua no longer mark the official start to the season, the schedule can’t prohibit its competitors from at least considering it the unofficial start. Maybe it will take a few years for the feeling of continuation rather than commencement to sink in; maybe it will never happen. But for now there’s an overwhelming sense that the new year is a time of fresh beginnings and hopefulness as opposed to everybody simply picking up where they’ve left off.

“I haven’t played much of the wraparound schedule,” Jason Dufner explained, “so looking forward to playing here and Sony next week and kind of getting my season started.”

“Obviously, it's a change in the schedule overlapping the calendar year,” added Adam Scott. “I haven't given it a lot of thought, but there are always changes and they are made for the better, I guess, of the Tour, and we'll just see.”

Nothing against the late-2013 triumphs of Jimmy Walker, Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk and Harris English – each of whom are in this week’s field – but nine months from now we’ll likely have trouble remember in exactly which season their wins occurred.

Take the case of Johnson, in particular. He won twice in 2013, but in two different seasons – all of which still leaves him a bit befuddled.

“It's tough, especially if it's a new year,” said Johnson, this week’s defending champion. “I haven't won in 2014, but I have won in the 2014 season. Doesn't quite make sense to me yet.”

As if to prove how little sense it makes to him, he continued.

“Well, it's the first year of it, so it's still this is like the first tournament of the year,” he said. “You know, I'm sure after this year once you get used to it, it will feel normal. But as of right now, yeah, I mean, it's kind of – well, it's the new year. It's the first tournament of the year. So if you look at it as a calendar year, it is the first tournament of the year.”

That certainly clears things up, doesn’t it?

But hey, we can excuse the players for more than a little confusion when there’s pomp and circumstance prior to the season’s 40,879th tee shot.

When the Hawaiian blessing is read and the large man tenderly plays his small ukulele on Friday, it will no longer officially represent the start of a new season. Even the schedule, though, can’t stop the competitors from thinking about it that way.

Newsmaker of the Year: No. 1, Justin Thomas

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 1:00 pm

He won a major, captured the FedExCup and was named the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year. It should come as no surprise that Justin Thomas holds the top spot on our Newsmakers list for 2017.

Thomas entered the year ranked outside the top 20, and few might have pegged him for a transcendent campaign. But he kicked off January with a win in Hawaii, added another before leaving the Aloha State and never looked back.

Thomas’ seminal moment came in August when he captured the PGA Championship at Quail Hollow for his breakthrough major title. One month after greeting Jordan Spieth behind the final green at Royal Birkdale, this time it was Thomas’ turn to have friends stick around to snap pictures with the trophy that signaled his arrival among golf’s upper echelon.

Full list of 2017 Newsmakers of the Year

In addition to racking up the hardware – five in total, including the inaugural CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in his first start of the new wraparound season – Thomas dazzled with style. His runaway win at the Sony Open included an opening-round 59, and his third-round 63 at Erin Hills marked the first time anyone had ever shot 9 under on a U.S. Open venue.

Thomas’ consistency was rewarded at East Lake, when a runner-up finish at the Tour Championship netted him the season-long title and $10 million prize. It was in the subsequent press conference where he shared the goals list he had written into his cell phone in February, having ticked off nearly every one. It showed a dedicated attention to detail as well the tactical approach with which Thomas had steered his rapid ascent.

Heading into a new year, he’s now very clearly entrenched as one of the world’s best. And as his career progresses, it’s likely we’ll look back at 2017 as the point where Thomas first transformed great potential into eye-popping results.

Win No. 1: Title defense at the CIMB Classic

Article: Thomas (64) rallies to defend CIMB title

Win Nos. 2 and 3: The Hawaiian double

Article: Thomas refuses to let disastrous hole derail TOC win

Article: Worst week ever ends with another title at Sony Open

Record Round No. 1: 59 at the Sony Open

Article: Thomas becomes youngest player to shoot 59

Take a look: Thomas’ scorecard from his amazing 59

Record Round No. 2: 63 at the U.S. Open

Article: Thomas sets U.S. Open record with 9-under 63

Temporary Slide: Open MC makes it three in a row

Watch: Thomas loses club, makes 9, misses Open cut

Mr. Major (and win No. 4): PGA champ at Quail Hollow

Article: Thomas joins the club – the major club

Win No. 5: Dell Technologies Championship

Article: Thomas wins the battle of buddies over Spieth

The $10 Million Man: FedExCup champ

Biggest Win of All? Player of the Year

And One to Grow On: Wins at CJ Cup in 2017-18 season

Article: Thomas caps torrid 12-month run with CJ Cup win

Photo Galleries: Best of ...

Best of: Justin Thomas and Jillian Wisniewski

Best of: Justin Thomas through the years

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Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 18, 2017, 12:30 pm
Getty Images

Cabreras win PNC Father/Son Challenge

By Associated PressDecember 17, 2017, 11:36 pm

ORLANDO, Fla. - Angel Cabrera and Angel Cabrera Jr. closed with a 12-under 60 for a three-shot victory in their debut at the PNC Father/Son Challenge.

The Cabreras opened with a 59 at The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club and were challenged briefly by the defending champions, David Duval and Nick Karavites, in the scramble format Sunday. The Argentines went out in 30, and they had a two-shot lead with Cabrera's son came within an inch of chipping in for eagle on the final hole.

They finished at 25-under 199 for a three-shot victory over Duval and Karavites, and Bernhard Langer and Jason Langer. The Langer team won in 2014.

Mark O'Meara and Shaun O'Meara tied for fourth at 21 under with Jerry Pate and Wesley Pate.

Cabrera wasn't even in the field until two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange and his son, Tom Strange, had to withdraw.

Duval and his stepson went out in 28, but the Cabreras regained control by starting the back nine with back-to-back birdies, and then making birdies on the 13th, 14th and 16th. The final birdie allowed them to tie the tournament scoring record.

''This is certain my best week of the year,'' said Cabrera, the 2009 Masters champion and 2007 U.S. Open champion at Oakmont. ''To play alongside all the legends ... as well as playing alongside my son, has been the greatest week of the year.''

The popular event is for players who have won a major championship or The Players Championship. It is a scramble format both days.

In some cases, the major champions lean on the power of their sons for the distance. O'Meara said Saturday that his ''little man'' hit it 58 yards by him on the 18th. And on Sunday, Stewart Cink said son Reagan told him after outdriving him on the opening four holes, ''In this tournament I may be your son, but right now I'm your Daddy!''

Jack Nicklaus played with his grandson, G.T. They closed with a 64 and tied for 15th in the field of 20 teams.

Rose wins; Aphibarnrat earns Masters bid in Indonesia

By Will GrayDecember 17, 2017, 1:59 pm

Justin Rose continued his recent run of dominance in Indonesia, while Kiradech Aphibarnrat snagged a Masters invite with some 72nd-hole dramatics.

Rose cruised to an eight-shot victory at the Indonesian Masters, carding bookend rounds of 10-under 62 that featured a brief run at a 59 during the final round. The Englishman was the highest-ranked player in the field and he led wire-to-wire, with Thailand's Phachara Khongwatmai finishing second.

Rose closes out the year as perhaps the hottest player in the world, with top-10 finishes in each of his final 10 worldwide starts. That stretch includes three victories, as Rose also won the WGC-HSBC Champions and Turkish Airlines Open. He hasn't finished outside the top 10 in a tournament since missing the cut at the PGA Championship.

Meanwhile, it took until the final hole of the final tournament of 2017 for Aphibarnrat to secure a return to the Masters. The Thai entered the week ranked No. 56 in the world, with the top 50 in the year-end world rankings earning invites to Augusta National. Needing an eagle on the 72nd hole, Aphibarnrat got just that to snag solo fifth place.

It means that he is projected to end the year ranked No. 49, while Japan's Yusaku Miyazato - who started the week ranked No. 58 and finished alone in fourth - is projected to finish No. 50. Aphibarnrat finished T-15 in his Masters debut in 2016, while Miyazato will make his first appearance in the spring.

The results in Indonesia mean that American Peter Uihlein and South Africa's Dylan Frittelli are projected to barely miss the year-end, top-50 cutoff. Their options for Masters qualification will include winning a full-point PGA Tour event in early 2018 or cracking the top 50 by the final March 25 cutoff.