Hyundai Tournament of Champions Q and A

By Jason SobelJanuary 5, 2013, 10:31 pm

KAPALUA, Hawaii – They say the Masters doesn’t really begin until the back nine on Sunday. Here at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, that may be literally true.

We’re officially two days into the PGA Tour season and the season hasn’t officially started yet. If that sounds like a riddle wrapped in an enigma, you clearly haven’t been paying attention to the festivities in Maui – or lack thereof.

After the initial opening round was wiped away just two hours into play on Friday, the scheduled restart never happened on Saturday, with strong, gusting winds canceling the day for good following three one-hour delays.

So … now what? Well, you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers. Here’s everything you always wanted to know about this tournament (but were afraid to ask).

Q: Why didn’t they at least try to play on Saturday?

A: They did try. And tried and tried. First tee time was scheduled for 7:30 a.m. local time, then delayed until 8:30, then 9:30 and finally 10:30 before it was finally called off for the day.


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Q: Well, why didn’t they keep trying?

A: The strongest winds were expected between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. It wasn’t getting any better. Even if the conditions calmed down after that, they weren’t getting in 18. Besides, ever see Bubba Watson after hours of being told to sit still and be patient? It’s a shock he didn’t start hitting balls through the clubhouse windows.

Q: I play in wind all the time! These guys are such babies.

A: That’s not a question.

Q: Fine. I play in wind all the time! Why are these guys such babies?

A: That’s better. They’re not. That isn’t the issue here. Players aren’t whining about the conditions; they were simply unfit for play. Here’s the deal: If you can’t get the ball to stop rolling on the greens, you can’t play golf. Rules officials were testing the greens during the delays. They would drop a ball and watch it roll all the way off the greens – and that was uphill! It’s not as if the players revolted and refused to play. It was the rules officials who made the decision.

Q: Yeah, but those guys are just protecting these spoiled players. Sorry, I mean: Aren’t those guys just protecting these spoiled players?

A: Nope. Just listen to some of ‘em.

“It’s just ignorant. Come out here and see what we’re dealing with,” Zach Johnson said of those who disagree with the decision. “We can’t use an umbrella because of the wind. If it rains with the wind, that is not easy. And like I said, the ball won’t stop on the greens. So if the ball won’t stop on the greens, you can’t play golf. We’ve played in winds, but when you have gusts in the 40s on hills like this, it just makes it almost impossible.”

“We’re willing to play,” Hunter Mahan explained. “But you can’t when the ball is just moving on its own like it was yesterday. Wind is one thing. But on this golf course, that’s where the difficulty sets in. If it can’t stay on the green and it can hit and spin and roll right off into a bunker, I guarantee you people aren’t playing in that. Not in Hawaii on a mountain with greens that have a lot of slope. I play in Texas all the time, where it blows really hard, but it’s not designed the same. Wind doesn’t bother us. This is just a perfect storm of strong tradewinds at the wrong time of year.”

Q: Don’t they play the British Open every year in stronger winds than these?

A: Yes. And if St. Andrews was built into the side of a mountain, not only would balls roll off the greens, they’d never stop.

Q: So now what happens?

A: The opening round of the season is scheduled for a two-tee start on Sunday, with 36 holes beginning at 7:10 a.m. local time.

Q: Will they actually play or is it just going to be more waiting around?

A: The forecast sounds better than the first two days, with 20- 25-mph winds and gusts into the 30s, but nothing like the 45- 50-mph gusts that we’ve witnessed so far.

Q: Are they still going to play 72 holes?

A: No. The intention is to play a 54-hole tournament, with 36 on Sunday and 18 on Monday.

Q: What if delays prevent the first two rounds from being played on Sunday?

A: According to PGA Tour vice president of rules and competition Slugger White, “Tuesday is not out of the realm as yet. But let's get through tomorrow first.”

Q: Why was this tournament slated for a Monday finish in the first place?

A: Well, the prevailing feeling was that it helped the final round get out of the shadow of NFL playoff games, which is well intentioned until you consider that the final game would be over before the telecast reached prime time on the East Coast. With a Monday finish, though, it’s backed right up against college football’s BCS Championship game. In this specific situation, it’s certainly hurt to lose an extra 24 hours.

Q: Is there a possibility of a 36-hole event?

A: There are a few PGA Tour executives who are fond of saying, “I don’t deal in hypotheticals.” It’s a valid question, though. Officials will do everything in their ability to play 54. If they can’t, a 36-hole winner would be deemed unofficial and – irony of ironies – wouldn’t qualify for this tournament next year.

Q: Going 36 in one day on this course is brutal. What about splitting up the rounds?

A: In his Saturday media session, White had the following exchange with a reporter:

“Were there any thoughts of 27 and 27?”

“No.”

“Why?”

“Just because.”

“Just because?”

“Because I didn't think about it.”

So … that should clear up that scenario.

Q: Isn’t this a perfect reason for moving this tournament?

A: Huh? This tournament has never seen weather like this. If it was an annual thing, sure. But one brief period of anomaly shouldn’t serve as a death knell for this event.

“All the years it’s been here, they’ve never ever even had to evacuate anyone off the golf course,” George McNeill said. “It’s just not something you can plan on, especially here in Hawaii.”

Q: So who’s more depressed about this – the players or the fans?

A: Might have to go to a playoff to determine this one. As Johnson said, “There’s no winner in this. It stinks for everybody. It stinks for us players, certainly. It stinks for the fans. It really stinks for the rules officials. And it probably stinks the most for the sponsors.”

That’s a lot of stink going around.

Q: That answers pretty much everything. Just one more question: What’s going to become of those 17 fans who were still dutifully sitting under umbrellas on the first tee bleachers after the final announcement was made on Saturday?

A: One of two things. Either they’ll each earn co-PGA Tour Fan of the Year honors or they’ll catch the flu. Maybe both.

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Johnson begins Open week as 12/1 betting favorite

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 5:15 pm

Dustin Johnson heads into The Open as the top-ranked player in the world, and he's also an understandable betting favorite as he looks to win a second career major.

Johnson has not played since the U.S. Open, where he led by four shots at the halfway point and eventually finished third. He has three top-10 finishes in nine Open appearances, notably a T-2 finish at Royal St. George's in 2011.

Johnson opened as a 12/1 favorite when the Westgate Las Vegas Superbook first published odds for Carnoustie after the U.S. Open, and he remains at that number with the first round just three days away.

Here's a look at the latest odds on some of the other top contenders, according to the Westgate:

12/1: Dustin Johnson

16/1: Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose

20/1: Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Tommy Fleetwood, Brooks Koepka, Jon Rahm

25/1: Jason Day, Henrik Stenson, Tiger Woods

30/1: Sergio Garcia, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey, Alex Noren, Patrick Reed

40/1: Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Branden Grace, Tyrrell Hatton

50/1: Phil Mickelson, Ian Poulter, Matthew Fitzpatrick

60/1: Russell Knox, Louis Oosthuizen, Matt Kuchar, Bryson DeChambeau, Zach Johnson, Tony Finau, Bubba Watson

80/1: Lee Westwood, Adam Scott, Patrick Cantlay, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Thomas Pieters, Xander Schauffele

100/1: Shane Lowry, Webb Simpson, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Fox, Thorbjorn Olesen

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Woods needs top-10 at Open to qualify for WGC

By Will GrayJuly 16, 2018, 4:34 pm

If Tiger Woods is going to qualify for the final WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club, he'll need to do something he hasn't done in five years this week at The Open.

Woods has won eight times at Firestone, including his most recent PGA Tour victory in 2013, and has openly stated that he would like to qualify for the no-cut event in Akron before it shifts to Memphis next year. But in order to do so, Woods will need to move into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking after this week's event at Carnoustie.

Woods is currently ranked No. 71 in the world, down two spots from last week, and based on projections it means that he'll need to finish no worse than a tie for eighth to have a chance of cracking the top 50. Woods' last top-10 finish at a major came at the 2013 Open at Muirfield, where he tied for sixth.


Updated Official World Golf Ranking


There are actually two OWGR cutoffs for the Bridgestone, July 23 and July 30. That means that Woods could theoretically still add a start at next week's RBC Canadian Open to chase a spot in the top 50, but he has said on multiple occasions that this week will be his last start of the month. The WGC-Bridgestone Invitational will be played Aug. 2-5.

There wasn't much movement in the world rankings last week, with the top 10 staying the same heading into the season's third major. Dustin Johnson remains world No. 1, followed by Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm. Defending Open champ Jordan Spieth is ranked sixth, with Rickie Fowler, Rory McIlroy, Jason Day and Tommy Fleetwood rounding out the top 10.

Despite taking the week off, Sweden's Alex Noren moved up three spots from No. 14 to No. 11, passing Patrick Reed, Bubba Watson and Paul Casey.

John Deere Classic champ Michael Kim went from No. 473 to No. 215 in the latest rankings, while South African Brandon Stone jumped from 371st to 110th with his win at the Scottish Open.

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Spieth takes familiar break ahead of Open defense

By Rex HoggardJuly 16, 2018, 3:50 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – As his title chances seemed to be slipping away during the final round of last year’s Open Championship, Jordan Spieth’s caddie took a moment to remind him who he was.

Following a bogey at No. 13, Michael Greller referenced a recent vacation he’d taken to Mexico where he’d spent time with Michael Phelps and Michael Jordan and why he deserved to be among that group of singular athletes.

Spieth, who won last year’s Open, decided to continue the tradition, spending time in Cabo again before this week’s championship.


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I kind of went through the same schedule,” Spieth said on Monday at Carnoustie. “It was nice to have a little vacation.”

Spieth hasn’t played since the Travelers Championship; instead he attended the Special Olympics USA Games earlier this month in Seattle with his sister. It was Spieth’s first time back to the Pacific Northwest since he won the 2015 U.S. Open.

“I went out to Chambers Bay with [Greller],” Spieth said. “We kind of walked down the 18th hole. It was cool reliving those memories.”

But most of all Spieth said he needed a break after a particularly tough season.

“I had the itch to get back to it after a couple weeks of not really working,” he said. “It was nice to kind of have that itch to get back.”

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Harrington: Fiery Carnoustie evokes Hoylake in '06

By Ryan LavnerJuly 16, 2018, 3:45 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – One course came to mind when Padraig Harrington arrived on property and saw a firm, fast and yellow Carnoustie.

Hoylake in 2006.

That's when Tiger Woods avoided every bunker, bludgeoned the links with mid-irons and captured the last of his three Open titles.

So Harrington was asked: Given the similarity in firmness between Carnoustie and Hoylake, can Tiger stir the ghosts this week?


Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


“I really don’t know,” Harrington said Monday. “He’s good enough to win this championship, no doubt about it. I don’t think he could play golf like the way he did in 2006. Nobody else could have tried to play the golf course the way he did, and nobody else could have played the way he did. I suspect he couldn’t play that way now, either. But I don’t know if that’s the strategy this week, to lay up that far back.”

With three days until the start of this championship, that’s the biggest question mark for Harrington, the 2007 winner here. He doesn’t know what his strategy will be – but his game plan will need to be “fluid.” Do you attack the course with driver and try to fly the fairway bunkers? Or do you attempt to lay back with an iron, even though it’s difficult to control the amount of run-out on the baked-out fairways and bring the bunkers into play?

“The fairways at Hoylake are quite flat, even though they were very fast,” Harrington said. “There’s a lot of undulations in the fairways here, so if you are trying to lay up, you can get hit the back of a slope and kick forward an extra 20 or 30 yards more than you think. So it’s not as easy to eliminate all the risk by laying up.”