Wind gets ridiculous at Hyundai

By Jason SobelJanuary 7, 2013, 2:39 am

KAPALUA, Hawaii – What has taken place here on the idyllic, bucolic island of Maui goes way beyond weird or strange. It’s miles past frustrating. We’re talking Lost meets Groundhog Day set in the Twilight Zone.

Let us review three days trapped in this space-time continuum.

Take 1.

This is how the 2013 PGA Tour season was supposed to begin: Rickie Fowler hits the opening tee shot of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at 10:35 a.m. local time on Friday. And it did – only to be postponed because of heavy winds 131 minutes later and eventually wiped away altogether.

Take 2.

This is how the 2013 PGA Tour season was supposed to begin: After a one-day deferment, 30 winners from last year get the tournament back on track by playing 36 holes on Saturday. Except conditions were even worse, so after three straight one-hour delays, the entire day was canceled.

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Take 3.

This is how the 2013 PGA Tour season was supposed to begin: Exactly 48 hours and 35 minutes after the initial opening tee time – and following what was already a four-hour delay on Sunday morning – the first round would finally get under way. But that lasted only 71 minutes before more gusting winds caused yet another suspension and yet another day that was completely wiped from the books.

We’ve seen a handful of Monday finishes over the years. Brace yourself for what is believed to be the first-ever Monday start.

Three days into the season, the season still hasn’t begun. Hollywood scriptwriters couldn’t come up with something this improbable, especially in a tropical locale renowned for its weather.

It isn’t for lack of trying. The brief period of golf that was played on Sunday was comically entertaining at best, downright embarrassing at worst and completely bizarre any which way you look at it.

There was Matt Kuchar, trying to start his season on the exposed 10th tee. Hatless – because it blew off twice during his pre-round range session – he watched his ball blow off the tee and needed to consult a rules official before even making a swing.

“I was told that it took me seven minutes to actually hit the ball,” he later said with a laugh.

There was Ben Curtis, hitting his first two greens in regulation – which only resulted in a double bogey-triple bogey start.

“I hit it 25-30 feet left of the pin and we were walking halfway down and my caddie said, ‘Hey, your ball is moving,’ and it rolled about another five feet,” he explained of his travails on the 11th. “I get over it for the third time and this time I see it's going to move and it started to move a foot, two feet, three feet and just started picking up pace and off the green it went, 25 feet or so.”

There was Charlie Beljan, who never even completed a hole.

“I hit two in the left garbage, because on my backswing the wind was hitting me 40 miles per hour,” he said. “Then I swung as hard as I could and the ball didn’t come out, then I hit a beautiful little shot onto the green and it rolled about 20 feet and all of a sudden, I’m waiting for Tommy [Gainey] to hit and my ball starts rolling to six feet from the hole.”

There was Scott Stallings, whose experience may sound unique, but was pretty common for this day.

“I drove it pretty close to the green on 12,” he maintained. “I putted it to about 10 feet. I missed the putt and went to tap it in, but it started rolling and I ended up having further for par than I did for birdie – and then my hat blew in the hazard!”

We’re now left with the chalk outline of a once prestigious tournament that has more than a little let’s-just-get-it-over-with-already feel to it.

Next up: Monday’s schedule is for 36 holes followed by 18 more on Tuesday, which would still render this an official – albeit shortened – event.

Slugger White, the PGA Tour’s vice president of rules and competition, sounded cautiously optimistic in expressing hope that this schedule could remain as planned, even though more wind is expected to blow through the Plantation Course.

“The forecast is a little bit better. We have got wind blowing out there about 48 miles an hour right now,” he explained Sunday afternoon. “It would be sustained [Monday] for probably 20, 25, gusting into the high 30s.”

For yet another day, 30 elite players will return to the course in hopes of finally getting started.

This is how the PGA Tour season is supposed to begin.

Take 4.

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Kim's missing clubs show up at sporting goods store

By Will GrayMarch 22, 2018, 1:58 pm

More than a month after they were lost on an American Airlines flight, the clubs I.K. Kim used to win last year's Ricoh Women's British Open turned up on the sale rack of a California sporting goods store.

Kim's clubs became lost in late January when she flew from Miami to San Diego, with the airline suggesting she simply rent a new set. A few weeks later, Kim shot a "What's in the bag" television segment which according to a Golfweek report caught the eye of three good samaritans in the San Diego area.

The three men recognized Kim's clubs for sale at a local Play It Again Sports, with the major winner's tools listed at $60 each. The store even had Kim's tour bag, complete with her LPGA player badge. Kim filmed the reunion with her bag - containing wedges and a few hybrids, minus the head covers - at the Carlsbad police station:

Kim was back in southern California this week for the Kia Classic, where she'll begin play Thursday morning at Aviara Golf Club in Carlsbad.

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New dad Garcia removes shoes, wins match

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:48 am

AUSTIN, Texas – In one of the day’s most explosive matches, Sergio Garcia rolled in an 8-footer for birdie at the 18th hole to defeat Shubhankar Sharma, 1 up, at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.

The duo halved just nine holes on Day 1 at Austin Country Club, with Garcia going from 2 up through four holes to 1 down with five holes to play.

But the Spaniard rallied with five birdies over his final eight holes and pushed his record to 20-17-1 in the Match Play. He also gave himself his best chance to advance out of pool play since the format began in 2015.

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The victory continued what has already been a memorable week for Garcia, whose wife, Angela, gave birth to the couple’s first child last Wednesday.

“I already feel like I’m a winner after what happened on Wednesday,” Garcia said. “Obviously, it's something that we're so, so happy and proud of and enjoying it as much as possible.”

The highlight of Garcia’s round on Wednesday came at the 12th hole when he took a drop on a cart path. After considering his options, he removed his shoes and hit his approach from 212 yards to 29 feet for a two-putt birdie to halve the hole.

“I have spikes. So if I don't take my shoes off, I'm going to slip. It's not the kind of shot that you want to slip,” Garcia said. “I had tried it a couple of times on practice swings and I was already slipping a little bit. So I thought I would just take my shoes off, try to get a little bit in front of the hole and it came out great.”

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On a wild Wednesday, DJ, Rory, Phil saved by the pool

By Rex HoggardMarch 22, 2018, 12:39 am

AUSTIN, Texas – Call it black Wednesday, but then the one-and-done aspect of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was dulled three years ago with the introduction of round-robin play that assures every player at least three matches in pool play.

Otherwise Wednesday at Austin Country Club would go down as one of the championship’s darkest hours for the top of the dance card. In order, world No. 1 and defending champion Dustin Johnson dropped his Day 1 match, 3 and 1, to world No. 56 Bernd Wiesberger; last week’s winner Rory McIlroy lost to PGA Tour rookie Peter Uihlein, 2 and 1, and Phil Mickelson, the winner of the last WGC in Mexico, dropped a 3-and-2 decision to Charles Howell III.

All told, 11 lower-seeded players pulled off “upsets” on Wednesday, although it’s widely held that the Match Play is more prone to these types of underdog performances than the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.

But if it wasn’t March Madness, it was at the least March Mayhem, particularly for those who shuffled around Austin Country Club in a state of mild confusion.

Although there were plenty of matches that went according to plan – with top-seeded players Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Hideki Matsuyama and Sergio Garcia all winning – it was still a tough day for chalk with three of the top 10 players in the world ranking either losing or halving (world No. 3 Jon Rahm halved his duel with Keegan Bradley) their matches.

At least McIlroy made things interesting after finding himself 5 down through 13 holes. The Northern Irishman played his last six holes in 5 under par to push the match to the 17th hole, but Uihlein closed out the bout with a par.

“If he birdies seven straight on you, hats off to him. It is what it is,” Uihlein said of McIlroy’s late surge. “I felt like if I just kind of kept giving myself a chance, I didn't want to give him any holes. He made me earn it, so hats off to it.”

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Johnson couldn’t say the same thing.

After not trailing in any match on his way to victory at last year’s Match Play, Johnson hit a ball in the water, two out of bounds (on the same hole, no less) and began to fade when he made a double bogey-5 at the 11th hole. Although scoring is always skewed at the Match Play because of conceded putts, Johnson was listed at 9 over through 17 holes before his day came to a merciful end.

“We both didn't have a great day. I think we only made three birdies between us, which is not a lot out here,” Wiesberger said. “Obviously it wasn't his best day. It wasn't the best of my days. I think we both have to do a little bit of work this afternoon.”

Although not as scrappy as Johnson’s round, Mickelson has also seen better days. Lefty made just a single birdie and played 17 holes in even par to lose just his second match in pool play.

But then this event hasn’t exactly been kind to Lefty, who has advanced to the weekend just twice in 13 starts.

“I was fortunate today, obviously, to get past him,” said Howell, who is the second-lowest seeded player to advance out of pool play when he did it in 2017 as the 61st player in the field. “But with this pod play the way it goes now, you never know. You've got to keep playing good. Last WGC we had, he won. So he's never out of it.”

That will be the solace those high-profile players who find themselves on the wrong side of the round-robin ledger now cling to. There is a path back.

Since pool play began, just four players have lost their Day 1 matches and went on to win their group. One of those players is Johnson, who lost to Robert Streb on Wednesday in 2016 but still advanced to the quarterfinals.

But if that helps ease the sting for those who now embrace the Match Play mulligan, it did little to quiet the crowds on what turned out to be a wild Wednesday.