Punch Shot: Does the Hyundai need a makeover?

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 8, 2013, 1:00 pm

The Hyundai Tournament of Champions has taken its lumps recently, and we're not talking about the weather mess. Critics say the event is more notable for who doesn't play than who does. Some believe it needs to change it's criteria, its spot on the calendar, its location. We asked our writers if the winners-only event needs a makeover.

By RYAN LAVNER

No.

I understand the logic behind beefing up the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. After all, what kind of season opener doesn’t feature its four best players? 

The NFL trots out its best matchup of Week 1 on Wednesday, four days early. MLB and the NBA always have star-studded opening days. But the year’s first event at Kapalua has never been defined by its field strength, nor should it. The winners-only Tournament of Champions – which next year will serve as the seventh event in the Tour’s wraparound schedule – is about the start of a new year, at a beautiful location, and optimism abounds. Why make it more complicated than that?

More money won’t get players to curtail their winter breaks. (The FedEx Cup and late-season money-grabs already provide ample opportunities for guys to pad their bank accounts.) Increasing the field size only dilutes the product. There’s no other suitable date. You could change the venue . . . but then, you know, the players wouldn’t have a no-cut, guaranteed-money start to their year on an island in Hawaii. That won’t fly.

Tiger, Phil and Rory may never start their seasons in Kapalua. That’s OK. Four days in paradise with a winners-only field competing on a unique and fun layout – sorry, but that product never gets old.


By REX HOGGARD

It’s not a format change that the Hyundai Tournament of Champions needs so much as it is a change of scenery.

With apologies to Maui and idyllic images of towering peaks and cobalt blue horizons, the TOC fell out of favor when Tiger Woods, who last played the opener in 2005, and Phil Mickelson, a Kapalua no-show since 2001, decided that early January qualified as the off-season.

For all the high-profile players who made the trip to this week’s TOC – a list that includes two of last year’s four major champions (Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson) as well as the 2012 FedEx Cup champion (Brandt Sndedeker) – it is the list of no-shows (Woods, Mickelson, world No. 1 Rory McIlroy, No. 2 Luke Donald) that suggests it’s time for an extreme TOC makeover.

The Tour’s transition to a split-calendar schedule this fall is the perfect time for the circuit to redefine its opening day and give the game’s top players fewer reasons to say no.

It’s time to move the TOC back to the mainland, perhaps southern California – where it was played before moving to Kapalua in 1999 – and outside the holiday shadow and into a more accommodating date.

If the TOC isn’t going to be the true season opener, (that honor belongs to October’s Frys.com Open next season) make it a must-play stop with a venue and a date (say, February) that is impossible for golf’s top players to ignore.


By RANDALL MELL

No, there’s nothing wrong with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions’ concept or format. There’s nothing wrong with an event that rewards winners from the previous year. The problem is the tournament’s timing.

The PGA Tour’s schedule is strong, but there’s a weak spot, and it’s the season opener. The majors, the World Golf Championship events, The Players Championship and the FedEx Cup give the Tour strategically spaced big events throughout the year. There’s good pacing. What’s lacking is a big-bang start. The PGA Tour lacks a highly anticipated start like Major League Baseball’s Opening Day, something to excite golf fans about a new year’s beginning. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions isn’t it and never will be, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a worthy place for the event on the schedule.

The ideal big-bang start would come in late January, the week before the Super Bowl, with the NFL playoffs quiet. The ideal big-bang start would come with the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship as the first event of the year. Granted, with the new wrap-around schedule actually beginning in the fall, it wouldn’t really be a season opener, but it would feel like one with all the game’s biggest stars gathering for the new year’s first event. Slide the Hyundai Tournament of Champions to the week after.


By JASON SOBEL

For all its faults – the most elite players failing to show, an ultra-small field – I've always been a fan of the Hyundai event. There's something special about watching the season unfold in paradise (usually) while much of the country is snowed in.

But there's one aspect of the tournament that has always bugged me. With players only eligible who won the previous season, the no-cut, guaranteed-money event provides too much of an advantage for prior success.

Think about it: Such rewards are akin to letting a Major League Baseball team start the season with a 5-0 record simply because it made the playoffs in the previous year.

This situation is only going to be exacerbated next year, when the TOC will no longer serve as the season opener. It is going to be incredibly awkward when the PGA Tour already has tournament winners from the 2013-14 season, then has only winners from the 2013 season competing in a midseason cash-grab.

So what's the solution? I'm not sure there's a perfect one, but the Tour could do worse than to borrow from the LPGA. Throughout its season, the top three players at every tournament not already qualified receive exemptions into the season-ending Titleholders field. If nothing else, the PGA Tour could reward more players with a similar plan.

Getty Images

Garcia leads as Valderrama Masters extends to Monday

By Will GrayOctober 21, 2021, 3:52 pm

Weather continues to be the enemy at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters, where Sergio Garcia remains in front as the tournament heads for a Monday finish.

European Tour officials had already ceded the fact that 72 holes would not be completed this week in Spain, but players were not even able to finish 54 holes before another set of thunderstorms rolled in Sunday afternoon to once again halt play. Garcia remains in front at 10 under, having played seven holes of the third round in even par, while Lee Westwood is alone in second at 7 under.

Officials had previously stated an intention to play at least 54 holes, even if that meant extending the tournament to Monday, given that this is the final chance for many players to earn Race to Dubai points in an effort to secure European Tour cards for 2019. Next week's WGC-HSBC Champions will be the final event of the regular season, followed by a three-event final series.


Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters


Garcia, who won the tournament last year, started the third round with a four-shot lead over Ashley Chesters. He balanced one birdie with one bogey and remains in position for his first worldwide victory since the Asian Tour's Singapore Open in January.

Westwood, who has his son Sam on the bag this week, made the biggest charge up the leaderboard with four birdies over his first eight holes. He'll have 10 holes to go when play resumes at 9:10 a.m. local time Monday as he looks to win for the first time since the 2015 Indonesian Masters.

Shane Lowry and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano are tied for third at 6 under, four shots behind Garcia with 10 holes to play, while Chesters made two double bogeys over his first four holes to drop into a tie for sixth.

Getty Images

Austin wins Champions tour's playoff opener

By Associated PressOctober 21, 2018, 9:35 pm

RICHMOND, Va. -- Woody Austin knew Bernhard Langer was lurking throughout the final nine holes, and he did just enough to hold him off.

Austin shot a 3-under 69 for a one-stroke victory Sunday in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Langer, the defending tournament champion and series points leader, made the turn one shot off the lead, but eight straight pars kept him from ever gaining a share of the lead. Austin's birdie from 6 feet on the closing hole allowed him to hang on for the victory.

''It seemed like he couldn't quite get it over the hump,'' Austin said about Langer, who also birdied No. 18. ''I'm not going to feel bad for the guy. The guy's kind of had things go his way for the last 12 years. Now he sees what it's like to have it happen.''

The 54-year-old Austin finished with an 11-under total for three rounds at The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course. He won his fourth senior title and first since 2016, and said windy and cool conditions that made scoring difficult played to his advantage.

''I was happy to see it. I really enjoy a difficult test,'' he said. ''... I enjoy even par meaning something. That's my game.''

Langer closed with a 70. The winner last week in North Carolina, the 61-year-old German star made consecutive birdies to finish the front nine, but had several birdie putts slide by on the back.


Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic


''I made a couple important ones and then I missed a couple important ones, especially the one on 16,'' Langer said. ''I hit three really good shots and had about a 6-footer, something like that, and I just didn't hit it hard enough. It broke away.''

Austin dropped a stroke behind Jay Haas and Stephen Ames with a bogey on the par-3 14th. He got that back with a birdie from about 5 feet on the par-4 15th and then got some good fortune on the final hole when his firmly struck chip hit the flag and stopped about 6 feet away.

''I always say usually the person that wins gets a break on Sunday,'' he said. ''That was my break.''

The 64-year-old Haas, the second-round leader after a 65, had a 74 to tie for third with Fran Quinn (69) and Kent Jones (70) at 9 under. Haas was bidding to become the oldest winner in the history of the tour for players 50 and older.

''Disappointed, for sure,'' Haas said. ''Not going to get many more opportunities like this, but it gives me hope, too, that I can still do it.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 move on to the Invesco QQQ Championship next week in Thousand Oaks, California, and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Getty Images

After Further Review: American success stories

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 21, 2018, 8:35 pm

Each week, GolfChannel.com takes a look back at the week in golf. Here's what's weighing on our writers' minds.

On the global nature of Koepka's rise to No. 1 ...

Brooks Koepka is an American superstar, and a two-time winner of his national open. But his rise to world No. 1 in, of all places, South Korea, emphasizes the circuitous, global path he took to the top.

After winning the CJ Cup by four shots, Koepka was quick to remind reporters that he made his first-ever start as a pro in Switzerland back in 2012. He cracked the top 500 for the first time with a win in Spain, and he broke into the top 100 after a good week in the Netherlands.

Koepka languished on the developmental Challenge Tour for a year before earning a promotion to the European Tour, and he didn’t make a splash in the States until contending at the 2014 U.S. Open at Pinehurst.

It’s a testament to Koepka’s adaptability and raw talent that he can handle the heights of Crans-Montana as well as the slopes of Shinnecock Hills or rough of Nine Bridges. And as the scene shifts to China next week, it highlights the global nature of today’s game – and the fact that the best in the world can rise to the occasion on any continent. - Will Gray


On the resurgence of American women  ...

American women are on a nice roll again. Danielle Kang’s victory Sunday at the Buick LPGA Shanghai was the third by an American over the last five events. Plus, Annie Park and Marina Alex, emerging American talents looking for their second victories this season, tied for second. So did American Brittany Altomare. Two years ago, Americans won just twice, their fewest victories in a single season in LPGA history. Overall, women from the United States have won seven times this season.

The Americans are making their move with Stacy Lewis on maternity leave and with Lexi Thompson, the highest ranked American in the world, still looking for her first victory this year. Yes, the South Koreans have won nine times this season, but with four LPGA events remaining in 2018 the Americans actually have a chance to be the winningest nation in women’s golf this year. With all the grief they’ve received the last few years, that would be a significant feat. - Randall Mell

Getty Images

In Buick win, Kang overcame demons of mind and spirit

By Randall MellOctober 21, 2018, 3:33 pm

Danielle Kang beat three of the most formidable foes in golf Sunday to win the Buick LPGA Shanghai.

Anxiety.

Frustration.

Anger.

Kang overcame these demons of mind and spirit to win for the second time on tour, backing up her KPMG Women’s PGA Championship victory last year.

“I’ve been going through a lot mentally,” Kang said.

Kang birdied four of the last eight holes to close with a 3-under-par 69, coming from one shot back in the final round to win. At 13-under 275, she finished two shots ahead of a pack of seven players, including world No. 2 Ariya Jutanugarn (71) and former world No. 1 Lydia Ko (66).

It hasn’t been easy for Kang trying to build on her major championship breakthrough last year. She started the fall Asian swing having missed three cuts in a row, five in her last six starts.

“I had to go through swing changes,” Kang said. “I had the swing yips, the putting yips, everything possibly you could think of.

“I was able to get over a lot of anxiety I was feeling when I was trying to hit a golf ball. This week I just kept trusting my golf game.”

Through her swoon, Kang said she was struggling to get the club back, that she was getting mentally stuck to where she could not begin her takeaway. She sought out Butch Harmon, back at her Las Vegas home, for help. She said tying for third at the KEB Hana Bank Championship last week felt like a victory, though she was still battling her demons there.

“Anxiety over tee balls,” Kang said. “People might wonder what I'm doing. I actually can't pull the trigger. It has nothing to do with the result. Having to get over that last week was incredible for me. Even on the first round, one shot took me, I think, four minutes.”

Kang, who turned 26 on Saturday, broke through to win last year under swing coach David Leadbetter, but she began working with Harmon while struggling in the second half this year.


Buick LPGA Shanghai: Articles, photos and videos


“I was actually very frustrated, even yesterday,” Kang said. “Things just weren't going my way. The biggest thing that Butch tells me is to stay out of my own way. I just couldn't do that. If I had a short putt, I just kept doubting myself. I couldn't putt freely.”

Kang said her anger and frustration built up again on the front nine Sunday. She made the turn at 1 over for the round. She said her caddie, Oliver Brett, helped her exorcise some anger. After the ninth hole, he pulled her aside.

This is how Kang remembered the conversation:

Brett: “Whatever you need to do to let your anger out and restart and refresh, you need to do that now.”

Kang: “Cameras are everywhere. I just want to hit the bag really hard.”

Brett: “Here's a wedge. Just smash it.”

Kang did.

“Honestly, I thank him for that,” Kang said. “He told me there are a lot birdies out there. I regrouped, and we pretended we started the round brand new on the 10th hole. Then things changed and momentum started going my way. I started hitting it closer and felt better over the putts.”

Kang said the victory was all about finding a better place mentally.

“I'm just so happy to be where I'm at today,” Kang said. “I'm just happy that I won.

“More so than anything, I'm finally at a place where I'm peaceful and happy with my game, with my life . . . . I hope I win more. I did the best I can. I'm going to keep working hard and keep giving myself chances and keep putting myself in contention. I'll win more. I'll play better.”