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Friday, September 19, 2014         

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34 champions step up to tee to start PGA Tour season

By Ann Miller

POSTED:


KAPALUA, Maui » Opening its season in Hawaii provides the PGA Tour with a "wish you were here" golfing postcard that often can only be described as "you just had to be there."

Where else but Hawaii could surfing and golf be compared in analytical terms?

What tropical landscapes aside from Kapalua's Plantation Course -- 80 degrees and buffeted by 25-mph winds -- would have something in common with now-snowy Northern Ireland?

What other tournament features 80-yard landing areas, radical elevation changes, massive greens and a streak of foreign champions that dates back a decade. The last American to win here was Jim Furyk (in 2001). He also stands out as the last champion not known for going deep on a course that plays into the big hands of golf ball mashers.

It might all make sense when the Hyundai Tournament of Champions tees off tomorrow, but much of the fun since this elite event moved here in 1999 has involved the nonsensical.

How could Ernie Els go 31 under par in 2003? How could a course that covers 7,400 yards over 240 sloping acres be the tour's easiest in relation to par (at 3.116 under) in 2010?

How could two-time defending champion Geoff Ogilvy average a birdie every third hole the past two years? Maybe more mind-boggling, the Australian is a flawless 110-for-110 inside five feet on the Plantation's big-breaking greens, and has converted a combined 710 feet of putts.

His explanation is that he grew up with "sweeping breaks" in Melbourne.

"That's something like in Australia or Augusta-type thing," Ogilvy says. "It's visualizing that the putt can actually break 15 feet. If you have not putted a lot on greens that have those big breaks, maybe it's hard to do, I don't know. I like the obviousness of the slopes and the grain."

Ogilvy's 2010 was disappointing after Maui, which he attributed to welcoming the family's third baby in four years, and "overgolfing." He has played just three times the past 12 weeks, all in Australia, winning once and getting a second.

He is ready for Hawaii, where he already has surfed and will now try to match fellow Aussie Stuart Appleby's three-peat from 2004 to 2006.

Golf and surfing are not all that different, Ogilvy insists. Every day is different, and every "course." Weather has a huge impact. Warm-water surfing is very different from cold water, just as Bentgrass and Bermuda greens offer diverse challenges.

The introspective Ogilvy also appreciates the beauty of places like Kapalua and Cypress and Shinnecock, and knows "a lot of surfing is just sitting on the back of your board and enjoying the place you're at," whether you are with friends or on your own.

Uncommon comparisons don't end there. U.S. Open champ Graeme McDowell made a case for courses in his Northern Ireland home sharing similarities with the Plantation.

The core of his case was Kapalua's big breezes --- "probably some of the strongest winds I've played in quite a while."

Actually, that was most of his case.

"The only other thing that's like Ireland is that it's green, very green," said McDowell, voted Player of the Year by the Golf Writers Association. "They serve beer in bars here, and that's probably the only similarities."

Gates open at 7 a.m. today and 24 of the 34 golfers will play in a pro-am at 7:30 a.m. in a shotgun format off of every hole. There will be practice rounds in the afternoon.

At 2 p.m., Keali'i Reichel and Jake Shimabukuro will start up the 2011 FedEx Cup Kick-off. There will be a Long Drive Contest at the 18th with Robert Garrigus, Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson, who went 1-2-3 in driving distance last year on tour. They will be joined by 2009 RE/MAX World Long Drive champion Jamie Sadlowski.

The Pro-Celebrity Charity Challenge, with Furyk, Anthony Kim, Johnson, McDowell, surfer Kelly Slater and others is also today, with the Golf Channel going live from 3 to 5 p.m.

 

Notes

» Geoff Ogilvy extended his win streak at Kapalua Sunday, capturing the inaugural Pro/Celebrity/Junior Shootout on Family Fun Day, which officially opened this tournament.

Ogilvy won with Team Maui. He played with state high school champion Cassy Isagawa, a Baldwin senior; Lahainaluna's Aaron Kunitomo; junior golf supporter Pard Erdman; and Kanekoa Texeira, who pitches for the Kansas City Royals.

Isagawa had all 3s in the three-hole shootout, at Nos. 1, 2 and 9, sinking a 15-foot eagle putt on the final hole to give Maui the win at 4 under par. The day was a benefit for the Hawaii State Junior Golf Association.

» Title sponsor Hyundai is introducing its Hyundai Equus luxury sedan with this event, and yesterday at Kapalua, EA Sports introduced "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters." The new PlayStation game includes detail of Augusta National accurate to two millimeters, according to a spokesperson.

The game also has historical Masters Moments and Tiger at the Masters. It allows players to climb the world ranking -- complete with pressure-point heartbeats -- get caddie advice and interact with other enhancements as they play. It is available March 29.

» What: Season-opening PGA Tour event featuring 34 of the 2010 champions

» Where: The Kapalua Plantation Course (Par 36-37--73, 7,411 yards)

» When: Tomorrow-Sunday, starting at 10:20 a.m.

» Pro-Am: 7:30 a.m. today.

» Purse: $5.6 million ($1,120,000 first prize)

» Defending champion: Geoff Ogilvy (22-under-par 270)

» Admission: Free all week

» TV: Golf Channel, live, 12:30-5 p.m. tomorrow-Saturday, 1-5 p.m. Sunday

» Fan Zone: 8:30 a.m. every day

 

SPECIAL EVENTS

» Today: FedEx Cup Kick-Off starting at 2 p.m., including Keali'i Reichel and Jake Shimabukuro, trick-shot artist Dan Boever, Long Drive Contest and Pro/Celebrity Charity Challenge.

» Tournament days (tomorrow-Sunday): 5 p.m. concerts with Gail Swanson (tomorrow), Jimmy Mac & the Kool Kats (Friday), AnDen (Saturday) and George Kahumoku Jr. (Sunday).






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