Another PGA Tour season began Thursday, with a few significant changes.
It was three weeks before Halloween instead of two weeks after Christmas. The fairways were not 80 yards wide. And it wasn’t a tropical 80 degrees.
Bryce Molder hit the opening tee shot at CordeValle in the Frys.com Open, marking the first time the PGA Tour has gone to a wraparound season after nearly a century of starting in January. The season had opened at Kapalua on the west end of Maui since 1999 with its generous fairways and Pacific wind.
Molder was dressed in rain pants to fight off the morning chill, with temperatures barely climbing above 50 degrees when the round began. He was introduced by Donna Archer, the widow of 1969 Masters champ George Archer, who grew up in the area.
Molder nearly had to hit the opening tee shot twice.
He pulled his drive to the left and spent three minutes searching through high grass and in the creek bed of a hazard. He would have had to return to the tee if he didn’t find his golf ball. Instead, it was located in deep grass near the edge of the cart path. He was able to get free relief and wound up making a 15-footer for par.
The Frys.com Open is the first of six tournaments in the fall — two of them are in Asia — before a six-week break until the season resumes in Kapalua for the Tournament of Champions. The change to an October start was to make the fall tournaments part of the FedEx Cup. The tour risked losing the sponsorship of those events without a change.
Most of the top-ranked players are taking a break after a frantic end to the season — two majors, a World Golf Championship, four FedEx Cup playoff events and the Presidents Cup since the middle of July.
Tiger Woods is not expected to return to the PGA Tour until January at Torrey Pines. Phil Mickelson is playing the two fall events in Asia.
The Frys.com Open includes two players who were at the Tour Championship last month (Gary Woodland, Billy Horschel), and three players who were playing in rainy conditions at the Presidents Cup last week (Hideki Matsuyama, Angel Cabrera and Marc Leishman).
Because the tournament is now part of the FedEx Cup, the winner this week gets an invitation to the Masters.