Golf

Wind halts PGA Tour opener, again

Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Loose papers are blown across the 10th green Sunday at Kapalua.
GolfWeek Jeff Babineau
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KAPALUA, Hawaii

You’ve heard of seasons that never end? Welcome to the PGA Tour season that will never begin.

The 2013 campaign endured yet another scrubbed launch on Sunday at Kapalua Resort’s Plantation Course, but not before an hour or so of golf blooper reel shots had been filmed.

Pretty entertaining stuff if you’re not the one who has to swing the club.

Two days after the Hyundai Tournament of Champions was expected to begin here on Maui, 26 of the field’s 30 players managed to get a ball off the tee on Sunday — and that in itself was something of an accomplishment. In fact, it took Matt Kuchar a full seven-plus minutes just to get his ball to balance atop a tee in winds that were gusting to nearly 50 mph.

Start and stop, start and stop, and after three long days of trying, everybody stands shoulder to shoulder at the starting line once again. Thus far, the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions has been the bridge to nowhere. The newest plan is to play 36 holes on Monday off split tees (a challenge if the wind is high again and the pace is slow) and finish a final 18 holes sometime on Tuesday, crowning a winner after 54 holes.

(It would mark the first time since 1997, when Tiger Woods won in a playoff, that the TOC was shortened to 54 holes.)

Hey, if the wind gusts get too high again Monday, when sustained winds are only expected to lighten about 5 mph or so, then who knows — we may start the new year declaring someone a rock, paper and scissors champion.

Through three days, Rickie Fowler and Jason Dufner have played 13 holes on the Plantation Course, all for naught, and players with later times, such as Brandt Snedeker, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson and Bubba Watson, have yet to hit a single shot. Stricker at least got to the first tee this time around, but never got a shot off as a horn suspending play sounded.

“Hey, I just want to hit one bad shot so that it can get wiped out,” quipped Watson. “I’d be happy with that.”

So what if a putt fell at Kapalua and nobody heard it? There was about 40 minutes of semi-sanity and golf on Sunday, and then the real circus began. Cue the early ’90s Greg Norman/TPC Eagle Trace/“carnival golf” soundtrack. Things got pretty bizarre.

Here’s a few of the wild scenes that played out mid-day Sunday at Kapalua, as the trades over the northwest corner of this island got turned up and an exposed former pineapple field turned into a picturesque, rolling golf course became basically unplayable for 30 of the top players on the globe:

• Ben Curtis played two holes, hit two greens in regulation, and stood at 5 over. That’s not a typo. He three-putted the par-4 10th hole, and his tee shot that was at one time on the putting surface at the par-3 11th was blown off the green. A chip and four putts later, he had authored a 6-6 start and was 5 over.

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“I’m 5 over. And I haven’t missed a shot,” he said afterward. “The only thing you can do is laugh.”

• Scott Piercy, who teed off on the par-4 10th, got hit by a gust of wind after he started his swing, made contact with the turf about 8 inches behind his ball and what would have been the opening drive of his 2013 season traveled a whopping 38 yards. (There is not a digit missing in that sentence.)

“People talk about all the long drives that are hit at Kapalua,” he said later. “But what about some of the shortest drives ever hit here?” That one surely would have to rank right in there.

• George McNeill made sure to stand on the side to watch fellow competitor Ryan Moore’s approach at the par-4 third hole. Moore had 110 yards to the pin and hit 8-iron. McNeill watched as the ball climbed to its apex, appeared to hit a wall of wind, and then began retreating backwards in the air. Moore’s shot finished 30 yards short of the green. As in 8-iron, 80 yards. He made bogey. That’s some wind.

• Kuchar couldn’t get a ball to stay on the tee as he tried to start his round on 10. Already he had decided to play without a hat, having had it blow off his head twice already on the driving range. His ball fell off the tee once, he re-teed, then a second gust knocked it off again, this time the ball rolling 4-5 feet before coming to rest. At one point, fellow competitor Jonas Blixt decided to have a little fun and help Kuchar out, kneeling down to hold his golf ball on the tee football-style.

Thus far, Kuchar has played zero official holes, but he has warmed up about five times in anticipation of starting a round.

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“Fortunately, there’s a lot of fun guys to hang out with in the locker room and good guys to spend some time with, so the time passes,” Kuchar said.

Unfortunately, the 2013 season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions has become the Groundhog Day Open. Start. Stop. Start. Stop. Rinse. Repeat. There already have been more wipeouts here this week than atop the swells on the North Shore of Oahu, the surfers’ paradise. Perhaps the winners’ share of FedEx Cup points should simply be given to Mother Nature, and we all call it a day and head to the Sony Open.

PGA Tour official Slugger White, who has logged more TV time this week than Anderson Cooper, perhaps captured it best as he and Tour chief of operations Andy Pazder rode in off the course after play had been suspended shortly after noon, placing the start to the 2013 season into yet another holding pattern.

The two men looked at one other before White broke the silence with a shrug.

“Here we go again,” he said with a sigh.

Yes, here we go again.

Tagged: Matt Kuchar, Charlie Beljan, Ian Poulter, Ryan Moore

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