KAPALUA >> Jim Furyk wanted nothing more than to be in Kapalua for the start of the new year on the PGA Tour. His left wrist refused to cooperate.
Furyk hasn’t played since he walked off the course in the first round of the BMW Championship on Sept. 17 with what turned out to be a bone bruise on his wrist. He wound up missing the Presidents Cup, and took the rest of the year off to make sure it was fully healed.
But it’s taking longer than he expected.
After hitting balls for a few days, he noticed a little soreness and questioned whether he could play an entire week.
“It’s not 100 percent,” Furyk said Tuesday from his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. “I don’t want to get out there and play and show up just to show up. I’ve been hitting balls since early December, but I wasn’t going to be as strong as I needed to be. To push it and try to get there early didn’t seem like the right move. In my mind, it’s not the right way.”
Furyk hasn’t been to Kapalua in five years. He ended the longest drought of his PGA Tour career by winning the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head in a playoff over Kevin Kisner.
In previous years when Furyk didn’t win, he typically started his year at the AT&T Pebble Beach National.
Now that’s the goal.
“First and foremost, I want to be healthy and get stronger,” he said. “It’s been a long, long layoff. In a perfect world, I think I’d be ready for Pebble and LA, but I know I’m going to be rusty. I’d like to play those two and evaluate where I’m at. It would be nice to go into March and hit the road running.”
Considering how the last three months have gone, he’s not sure what to expect.
“That bone bruise, from what I’ve learned about it, is real tricky,” he said. “They didn’t put a cast on my wrist because they felt it would get too stiff. It’s going to take some time. The doctor said this could be great in two to three threes, or it could be two or three months. It’s frustrating because there’s nothing I can do.”
GWAA AWARDS: Jordan Spieth completed his sweep of all the awards when the Golf Writers Association of America voted him male player of the year.
Spieth, whose five wins in 2015 included two majors and led to a record $12 million in PGA Tour earnings, previously won PGA Tour player of the year (voted by players) and the points-based award from the PGA of America.
He received 98 percent of the GWAA vote.
“It’s a great way to end a very special year,” Spieth said.
Lydia Ko won the female player of the year, and Jeff Maggert won the vote for senior player of the year.
Ko won with 56 percent of the vote over double major winner Inbee Park. Ko won her first major at the Evian Masters to go along with four other victories, and she won the Race to the CME Globe. She also won the points-based LPGA player of the year award.
Maggert won two majors on the Champions Tour, including the U.S. Senior Open, and two other titles. He won the award with 70 percent of the vote over Bernhard Langer.
They will be honored April 6 at the GWAA’s annual awards dinner in Augusta, Georgia.
“I’m looking forward to the dinner, especially if Jordan is there,” Maggert said. “He’s my little guy’s idol. And my daughter loves him, too. Maybe they can get an autograph.”
NEW TATTOO: Rickie Fowler showed up at Kapalua with a new tattoo packed with plenty of meaning.
It likely won’t be seen by the public because it’s on the underside of his left bicep and covered by the sleeve of his shirt. He showed it proudly over the weekend. It’s three words written in Japanese — the name of his grandfather, Yutaka Tanaka.
Yutaka is Fowler’s middle name.
TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPION: Woody Blackburn is believed to have his own footnote in the history of the Tournament of Champions.
He has one individual title in his PGA Tour. He has made two appearances in this winners-only event.
The Tournament of Champions, which began in 1963 in Las Vegas, wasn’t always the season opener. In 1985, it was held in May at La Costa a few weeks after the Masters. Blackburn won the Andy Williams San Diego Open at Torrey Pines that year in a playoff, and that got him into the Tournament of Champions, where it finished 11th.
The PGA Tour then decided to move the event to the start of the year, and it took all the winners from 1985.
Blackburn returned to the Tournament of Champions the next January and finished 30th in a 31-man field.
LONG TIME: Brad Whittle, the caddie for Russell Knox, had a lucrative end to his season. Knox not only won the HSBC Champions (worth $1.4 million), he flew to Mexico and lost in a playoff, making $545,600.
That’s nearly $200,000 for Whittle in two weeks, and while the money was great, being on a winning bag leaves a good taste — especially when it had been more than 20 years since Whittle experienced winning.
“That was a long time,” Whittle said.
How long? He was working in 1994 for David Frost when he beat Greg Norman in the Greater Hartford Open. Whittle also has been the caddie for a major champion. His previous win was with Wayne Grady at Shoal Creek in the 1990 PGA Championship.
RETURN TO FITNESS: Chris Kirk kept busy the last two months of the year off the golf course. The 30-year-old from Georgia is back in the gym.
“I always worked out in college and my first five years as a pro,” Kirk said. “It’s been lacking in the last three years since I had kids.”
Kirk has been spending time at SPARC, a sports performance center Athens, and is in the early stages of a program that is more geared toward the back end of his career than the 2016 season.
Recent history is enough to give him pause.
“When I stopped working out, I had the best year I ever had,” Kirk said with a laugh. “Then the following year I started working with Scott (Hamilton) and got my golf game efficient and I had that huge season a year ago. This year I played well, I just didn’t putt quite as well and my ball striking was so-so for the standard I set for myself. But I started thinking, ‘What am I going to be like 10 years from now?’
“Where I’m at now is fine,” he said. “But I need to start going in the other direction instead of further away from being fit.”
DIVOTS: Brooks Koepka (formerly Titleist) and Tony Finau (Callaway) are among 10 players who have signed with Nike. … Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has listed Jordan Spieth at 6-1 for winning two majors this year, and 100-1 to win the Grand Slam. It has Rory McIlroy at 15-2 to win two majors and 150-1 to win all four, and Jason Day at 12-1 to win two majors and 250-1 for a sweep of them. … Lance Bennett, who formerly caddied for Matt Kuchar, is now with Bill Haas through at least the West Coast Swing. … Fourteen players are making their debut at Kapalua. That includes Padraig Harrington of Ireland, who was always taking a long winter break when he previous won on tour.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The wraparound season has produce this anomaly: The Tournament of Champions has two rookies in the field — Emiliano Grillo and Smylie Kaufman, who won in the fall.
FINAL WORD: “I thought the U.S. Open would make me happier. It made me happy, but you start looking forward to the next thing, and then you get lost.” — 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.
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