Wiser heads will realize that golf is an outdoor sport. It’s not a disgrace when weather causes problems. It’s a miracle it doesn’t happen more often.
The issues on Maui go beyond weather.
The PGA Tour is going to a wraparound season in the fall, meaning the real season-opener will be in October at the Frys.com Open. There already will be six tournaments in the books before the Tournament of Champions next January.
Is that a problem? Not when you consider that for 33 years, the Tournament of Champions was held after the Masters.
“We are not terribly concerned about it,” said Steve Shannon, vice president of marketing for Hyundai. “I think there is that aspect of it’s the start of the year, so even if it’s literally not the first PGA Tour event, there’s something about the start of the year, and there’s something about this location.”
Still to be determined is what he meant by location _ Kapalua specific or Hawaii in general?
Kapalua tends to get the brunt of the bad weather. There can be what the locals call “pineapple showers” along this portion of the coast, while only 20 miles away there is abundant sunshine and less wind. Still, the Plantation Course is the only course in Hawaii that Golf Digest ranks among the greatest 100 courses in America (No. 97). It’s unlike any course the PGA Tour plays all year with dramatic changes in elevation and stunning views of the Pacific, such as humpback whales breaching and surfers at Honolua Bay.
The bigger concern is getting more players to come, though that’s been an issue for years now.
Woods hasn’t been back since 2005, when he started taking uninterrupted breaks in the winter. Phil Mickelson stopped coming a decade ago, suggesting the wind and slope allowed bad habits to creep into his swing. Adding to the list of absentees is Europe producing some of the best players. The European Tour season stretches deep in November, and some players simply want a long break going into the new season.
The 30-man field this year was hardly a disaster, and the leaderboard going into the final round featured a top five of Dustin Johnson, Stricker, Masters champion Bubba Watson, FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker and former PGA champion Keegan Bradley. A lot of tournaments would love to have a leaderboard like that.
Years ago, an idea was tossed around to expand the field by offering a two-year exemption to the Tournament of Champions and include all past champions of the event, with the idea of getting Els and Sergio Garcia to the event because they didn’t win the year before. Sure, having them at Kapalua would have helped. But the biggest mistake golf can make is to change rules around any one player, even a player like Tiger Woods.
Besides, Els and Garcia both won on the PGA Tour last year and were eligible to start the year in Kapalua. Neither of them showed up.