Shin wins first event of the season
It had been 10 years since Jim Furyk won the season-opening Tournament of Champions, and Byrd reached the same conclusion as most everyone else. Players like Stuart Appleby and Geoff Ogilvy, who combined for five of those wins, had been playing deep into the previous season in Australia. That or the fact Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson stopped coming to Maui.
“I said it was about time for an American to win,” Byrd said. “I just didn’t know it would be me. But I’ll take it.”
Perhaps it was no coincidence that a sudden-death playoff on Sunday came down to Byrd and Robert Garrigus, who won the last two tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule.
Garrigus was in danger of losing his card until winning Disney. In the previous domestic event, Byrd won a three-man playoff in Las Vegas by making an ace in near darkness for perhaps the most stunning win on tour all year.
“There’s definitely some momentum,” Byrd said. “I spoke earlier in the week about how Australians come in here, their game is ready and they come sharp and come hungry and they play well here. And maybe Robert and I, just getting a taste of victory at the end of last year, was enough for us to ride it into this week.”
The way it ended? Not many saw that coming.
Byrd and Garrigus each closed with a 6-under 67 to finish on 24-under 268, and both had a chance to win in regulation.
Garrigus, in the second-to-last group, hit what he described as a “smoke, bullet draw” with a 5-wood to 12 feet on the par-5 18th, and his eagle putt narrowly missed. Byrd couldn’t reach the green against the Kona wind, hit a weak wedge to 18 feet and his birdie putt for the win stopped short of the cup.
Garrigus had the advantage with his length – he has led the PGA Tour in driving distance the last two years. That didn’t help him on the 18th in the playoff, but did on the second extra hole – No. 1, which plays 528 yards downhill but into the breeze.
Garrigus nailed it. Byrd didn’t.
Byrd had a 3-iron left to reach the green. Garrigus had a 9-iron from the rough just beyond the end of the fairway.
It all changed from there.
Both left their shots some below the hole, a fast putt because it goes with the grain growing toward the Pacific. From 50 feet, Byrd played it perfectly, and the ball caught the top part of the cup and left him a tap-in par. Garrigus hit his a little firm and had 3 feet left.
He missed it.
“I just hit that putt too hard,” Garrigus said. “I was trying to take all the break out of it, played straight and I pushed it a centimeter and it hit that lip and didn’t go in.”
Garrigus might as well be called “gregarious.”
Few had a better time on the Plantation Course at Kapalua, whether he was bombing drives, showing off his improved wedge game or hitting putts with his 28-inch putter, in which he stoops and holds a club that barely reaches his knees.
Even by winning in a fashion that can be uncomfortable – not his heroics, but another’s misfortunes – Byrd couldn’t help but notice.
“What a great display of sportsmanship,” Byrd said. “He’s smiling in the playoff, he was probably smiling when he doubled the first hole yesterday, and he was smiling after he missed that putt. My hat’s off to him.”
Pity that the playoff reached a second hole, which was No. 1. Garrigus took double bogey on Saturday, and he made a bogey on Sunday from a fairway bunker.
Then again, the 18th hole wasn’t terribly friendly to Graeme McDowell.
Someone forgot to tell the U.S. Open champion that 2010 is over, for the man from Northern Ireland showed he wasn’t quite ready to leave a dream season. Even though he started the final round six shots back, McDowell played as though he had something to prove.
He made 11 birdies through 16 holes and suddenly was atop the leaderboard, although others still had birdie holes ahead of them. McDowell had a 6-foot birdie putt on the final hole that he hit too hard. If he had made it, McDowell would have been in the playoff.
He had to settle for a 62, matching the Plantation Course record set by K.J. Choi in the third round of 2003. Most frustrating was that he didn’t birdie the 18th hole all week.
“I never looked at the leaderboard,” McDowell said. “I knew the guys were going to go low. I just kept my head down. When I birdied, 14, 14, 15, 16 … I said, ‘Hold on.’
“It was just a fun day out there. This golf course is just ‘green light’ all day.”
Byrd was standing on the edge of the first green as Garrigus faced his 40-foot birdie putt for the win, which would have been unlikely. As Garrigus stood over his 3-footer for par, Byrd already was thinking about his next shot.
And then it was over.
For Byrd, his fifth career victory was by far the biggest. He has never won before July, and this has caused him to reconsider the season. He’s headed to the Masters and U.S. Open with this win. He’ll get in at least one World Golf Championship, maybe all of them.
And to think that three months ago, he thought he might lose his card.
“Pretty overwhelmed,” he said.
Lexi (wrist) WDs from Diamond Resorts Invitational
Lexi Thompson on Friday withdrew from the Diamond Resorts Invitational, citing inflammation in her wrist. Thompson, who teamed with Tony Finau to finish tied for fourth place in last week's QBE Shootout, said she is under strict doctor's order not to hit golf balls until mid-January.
The Diamond Resorts Invitational is scheduled Jan. 12-14 at Tranquilo Golf Club in Orlando, Fla. The field for te 54-hole event includes LPGA and PGA Tour Champions players, as well as celebrities from the worlds or sports and entertainment.
Rose leads Indonesian Masters; Snedeker WDs
JAKARTA, Indonesia - Justin Rose completed the final two holes of his second round early Saturday for a 3-under 69 and a one-stroke lead at the Indonesian Masters.
Rose, who had a first-round 62, was among a quarter of the field forced off the Royale Jakarta Golf Club course after weather delays on Friday.
The Englishman, who bogeyed his last hole, had a two-round total of 13-under 131.
Kiradech Aphibarnrat, who completed his 64 on Friday, was in second place.
Brandt Snedeker withdrew with apparent heat exhaustion on Friday on the 11th hole of the second round. Ranked 51st in the world, he flew to Jakarta looking to move inside the top 50 by the end of the year and ensure a spot in next year's Masters. He has been affected by a rib-sternum injury for most of the season.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 2, Donald Trump
Even away from the White House, President Donald Trump generated plenty of headlines this year.
Trump’s first year in office didn’t dim his enthusiasm for the game, as he made splashy appearances at two big events, tweeted about golf to his more than 44 million followers, teed it up with some of the sport’s biggest stars, including Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Lexi Thompson, and fired a few eyebrow-raising scores. Logging more than 75 rounds since his inauguration, the 3-handicap has only bolstered his reputation as the best golfing president, particularly after his alleged 73 with Sen. Lindsey Graham.
None of his appearances created a bigger stir than when he attended the U.S. Women’s Open. Despite protests and calls for the USGA to move its premier women’s event from Trump Bedminster – the president reportedly threatened to sue – his weekend there went off without incident, as Trump watched the action and hosted players in his private box near the 15th green.
Despite his controversial rhetoric on a variety of national issues, Trump has remained a staunch supporter of women’s golf, and he became the first sitting president to attend the U.S. Women’s Open.
An honorary chairman of the Presidents Cup, Trump also flew to Liberty National for the biennial team event, where he presented the trophy to the U.S. team and dedicated the victory to the hurricane victims in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico.
In late November, amid tweets about the national anthem, Turkey, Egypt and Time Magazine, Trump announced that he was playing a round in South Florida with Woods and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson.
Yes, that too became a headline, just like everything else Trump did in 2017.
Playing with the pros
Tiger, DJ and Faxon
President at the Presidents Cup
Purported round of 73 with Lindsey Graham
Cart on the green
Presence and protests at U.S. Women's Open
Trump golf properties
Reportedly fake TIME covers
Trump apologizes for voter-fraud story
Pros comment on the president
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates. And click here for the full collection of articles.
No. 1: Dec. 18