A sequel to one of the greatest golf moments of 2010 will be staged Thursday when Graeme McDowell and Hunter Mahan play together in the first round of the PGA Tour season.
The Hyundai Tournament of Champions released the first-round tee times yesterday and McDowell and Mahan tee off on Kapalua’s Plantation Course at 12:10 p.m. Thursday. The first tee time of the season comes at 10:20 a.m., with Rocco Mediate and Arjun Atwal. Geoff Ogilvie, who has won the past two years at Kapalua, plays with Jim Furyk in the final pairing at 1 p.m.
McDowell’s birdie on the 16th hole of the final day of the longest Ryder Cup in history all but clinched a victory for the Europeans in the last match in October. The U.S. Open champion from Northern Ireland won his match with Mahan on the next hole, giving the Europeans the 14 1/2 points they needed to grab the Cup back at rainy Celtic Manor in Wales.
Last month, McDowell completed his 2010 hat trick when he overcame Tiger Woods’ four-shot lead on the final day to win Woods’ Chevron World Challenge. For the sixth straight year, Woods will not be at Kapalua, but this time it is for a different reason: Only the previous year’s winners qualify for the TOC and he didn’t get in after being shut out in a turbulent 2010.
The 34-man field does include the top five from this year’s money list — Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Dustin Johnson and Steve Stricker.
Most of the Kapalua players will head over to Waialae Country Club the following week for the Sony Open in Hawaii, the first full-field event of the season.
» In other local golf news, two-time state high school champion Kristina Merkle took 10th at the Joanne Winter Arizona Silver Belle Championship, yesterday at Arizona State’s Karsten Golf Course in Tempe.
Merkle, a sophomore at Tulsa, was a shot out of first after an opening round 71, but closed with rounds of 78-82. She finished 10 behind champion Alex Stewart, whose 77 shared low-round honors in the field of 109 women between the ages of 13 and 23.
Kauai High senior Kelli Oride (80–233) tied for 19th and Punahou sophomore Kacie Komoto (83–238) got a share of 42nd.