HONOLULU – The PGA Tour starts its season in Hawaii with a winners-only field. The Champions Tour gets under way this week on the Big Island with a winners-only field, along with a few invitations.
The next move is to get the LPGA back in paradise.
Warren Haruki, who oversees the Kapalua Resort, said it would like to see the LPGA return with a “Tournament of Champions” format. He figures it would be a good fit with Hawaii’s sports theme of bringing only the best to the islands, from the Triple Crown of Surfing on Oahu to the Ironman Championship on the Big Island.
The LPGA has a lawsuit against Kapalua that has not been resolved. It stems from a five-year contract the resort signed to stage a tournament, only to stop after one year when it couldn’t find a title sponsor.
“We’ve been fishing around for a replacement LPGA event,” said Mark Rolfing, now in charge of the PGA Tour’s season-opener in Kapalua and a central golf figure in Hawaii. “If we have an LPGA event, it’s needs to be a Tournament of Champions. We have to find a way to create it. And it’s not like the LPGA (schedule) is totally full.”
The LPGA starts its season in the Far East, and much later in the year than the other U.S. tours. It begins this year Feb. 17 in Thailand, then goes to Singapore. Rolfing can envision a scenario in which a Tournament of Champions is played the week after, on the way back to the mainland.
Even so, the sticking point would seem to be a title sponsor. That’s what led to the premature end of the LPGA event in Kapalua. Rolfing, however, is talking about branding the event so that it becomes more about Hawaii than one resort, or even one island.
“We need an event that moves around Hawaii,” he said. “Having somebody fund an event at one site is difficult. My thought is this could become Hawaii’s event.”
He suggested rotating an LPGA tournament around the islands – Kapalua one year, then perhaps Poipu Bay on Kauai, and Turtle Bay on Oahu, where the LPGA used to play before leaving SBS as a broadcast partner. Organizers have a long way to go, but Rolfing was optimistic about pulling it off.
JESPER’S BACK: A year ago, Jesper Parnevik wondered if a fractured vertebrae would keep him from playing golf again. A Swedish newspaper suggested he would be forced to retire.
Parnevik is pleasantly surprised with his progress.
He competed for the first time in nine months at Disney in the final tournament last year, and opened this year in contention through two rounds until he closed with 73-73 in the 36-hole final to tie for 54th.
So far, so good.
“My back felt as good as I can hope for,” Parnevik said. “According to the doctor, I’ve got about 50 percent functionality, and it’s improving. I’ve very pleased with that.”
Parnevik is happy to be playing golf, although he enjoyed being with his wife and four children.
“Being home that long was good and bad,” he said. “It was good to spend time with the family. The bad news is the bills are coming in, and I haven’t made a dime for two years.”
HAMILTON HALL: Herb Kohler has officially changed the name of the red brick building behind the 18th green at St. Andrews to “Hamilton Grand.” The next step is to convert the Victorian landmark into 26 luxury apartments.
Kohler Co. released its development plans Tuesday for what once was known as Hamilton Hall, a Victorian building that was featured in the film “Chariots of Fire.” It will offer 26 residences of two-, three- and four-bedroom apartments. It will include a penthouse that offers 360-degree views, and a restaurant that will be open to the public.
Kohler, who previously bought and is renovating the Old Course Hotel, held a two-day public consultation with St. Andrews citizens. The name is derived from its two previous uses – the Grand Hotel, which opened in 1895, and Hamilton Hall, a dorm at the University of St. Andrews named after its founder, Thomas Hamilton.
“Our goal is to restore Hamilton Grand and create a dwelling that will make the people of St. Andrews proud,” said Debbie Taylor, president of Kohler’s hospitality and real estate group.
BACK TO WORK: Padraig Harrington is not living if he’s not working.
According to the Irish Golf Desk, Harrington decided to change the move that gets his swing started, and that has led to wholesale changes for the three-time major champion.
Harrington said he has changed the grips on his club and has made his clubs a degree more flat. He has weakened his grip, lowered his hands slightly and pushed them forward. He now is over the ball when he starts his swing, instead of taking the club away from a moving position. He has less of a hip turn, but a bigger coil. That changed the plane in his back swing.
He also has changed his chin position at the top of his swing, to tuck in his head. He thinks that might be how he hurt his neck. And if that’s not enough, he wants his chest down through impact. Oh, and he has changed his putting routine.
The Irishman makes his 2011 debut in the Abu Dhabi Championship.
“I have never been more optimistic about my game, and I truly think the best years are ahead of me,” Harrington said. “I still feel like I am a young man and I am fitter and stronger than I have been at any stage of my life.”
DIVOTS: Jerry Tarde, the chairman and editor-in-chief of Golf Digest, has been selected for the 2011 PGA Lifetime Achievement Award in Journalism. He will be honored April 6 at the Golf Writers Association of America annual awards dinner in Augusta, Ga. Tarde is the first editor of a publication to receive the award, which dates to 1991. … Steve Stricker and Matt Kuchar were the only players to record top 10s in both Hawaii tournaments. … Davis Love III and Steve Stricker have shot all four rounds in the 60s at Waialae each of the last two years without winning.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The winners of the two PGA Tour events this year had a world ranking of No. 121 and No. 239.
FINAL WORD: “If you go overseas—go to China, Korea—they watch Golf Channel, and they like to watch what happens in the U.S. The U.S. tour is still the biggest tour, believe me. Whatever anyone says, that’s just the way it is.” — Ernie Els.