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.

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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.

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Kelly, Sauers co-lead in Hawaii; Monty, Couples in mix

By Associated PressJanuary 19, 2018, 3:52 am

KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii - Fresh off a solid performance on Oahu, Jerry Kelly shot an 8-under 64 on the Big Island on Thursday to share the first-round lead at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

The 51-year-old Kelly, who tied for 14th at the PGA Tour's Sony Open last week in Honolulu, birdied five of his final seven holes to shoot 30 on the back nine at Hualalai. He won twice last season, his first on the over-50 tour.

Gene Sauers also shot 64, going bogey-free amid calm conditions. Thirty-two of the 44 players broke par in the limited-field event, which includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

Rocco Mediate and Colin Montgomerie were one shot back, and Fred Couples, Kevin Sutherland and Kirk Triplett were another shot behind.

Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was in the middle of the pack after a 69.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Web.com Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.