Ryan Palmer is the defending champion, and the field features four players from among the top 15 in the world, most of whom were at Kapalua last week for the season-opening Tournament of Champions.
Furyk had played four times before he got his PGA Tour card, and he remembers starting his rookie season in 1994 at the Sony Open. His father was with him and stepped away when Furyk took his spot on the practice range. Facing a hard Kona wind, into this face and blowing to the left, he took out a sand wedge and his first shot fat.
“I blew all this dirt and sand up in the air and it just coated the guy next to me, almost like I could hear it hitting him,” Furyk said. “I looked over to see who was behind me, and it was Lanny Wadkins.”
Another shot, same result.
Furyk tried his best to make light of the situation, no matter how mortified he was.
“I said, ‘I guess I’ll aim a little farther right on the next one,’” Furyk said. “He was over his ball, and he looked up and said, ‘That would be nice.’ That was the only conversation.”
Welcome to the tour, kid.
Furyk turned out OK. He now has 16 wins, a major, a FedEx Cup title and he’s closing in on $50 million for his career.
The player getting most of the attention is Lovemark, who won the money list on the Nationwide Tour last year and was part of the three-way playoff in Arizona in 2009 that also featured Rickie Fowler.
Of the American rookies last year, the only guy who won a tournament was Derek Lamely in Puerto Rico, an opposite-field event. Then again, no one paid much attention to Ben Curtis in 2003 in his rookie year until he was holding the claret jug.
Most rookies at least have the experience of having played on the Nationwide Tour. They know what it’s like to look for a good hotel, leave early after missing the cut, and realize that it doesn’t take long for fortunes to change.
Goydos spent a couple of years on the old Hogan Tour, which he said helped _ but only so far.
“The first tournament I played, I remember walking through the locker room and Davis Love was walking in the opposite direction,” Goydos said. “The guy looked 9 feet tall.”
One theory is that rookies are more optimistic because they don’t know what they’re getting into yet.