In 2013, on a weekly basis, we'll highlight 18 headlines from around the world of golf -- nine that developed throughout the week and preview the upcoming weekend, and nine coming out of the weekend's events on the various tours. High winds led to a ridiculous Tuesday finish in the season opener, but here's this week's Back 9.
No. 10 - Dustin Johnson -- The bomb-and-gouger from South Carolina has now picked up a win in each of his first six seasons on Tour. He's been the most athletic guy on Tour during the span, and possesses the talent to distinguish himself from the rest of the crop of touted young American golfers. He arrived in Hawaii a week early, playing six practice rounds at Kapalua and talking about a potential breakout 2013.
It didn't take long to distinguish himself in a field of last year's winners, cruising to a four-shot win. He had a couple wild tee shots during Tuesday's final round, but for the most part, he held a comfortable multi-shot cushion over his peers. DJ clearly has the game to be a multiple major winner, and has been on the precipice a couple times already. Questions about his short game will remain, but if he puts it all together, there's no reason he can't have a Rory-like dominating breakout season.
No. 11 - Steve Stricker -- The veteran, who completely rejuvenated his career in his 40s with the best stretch of golf of his life, made a strong push to defend his title at Kapalua. At age 45, Stricker announced before the week that he was scaling back in 2013, opting to play in only 10 events on Tour (at the World Challenge in December, there were hints he may play in just one).
While his scorecard certainly didn't reflect it, Stricker struggled to get around the mountainous course on Monday, dealing with nerve pain in his leg. The pain forced him to lay down in the middle of the fairway on several occasions. "It's painful," he told Golf Channel after the round. "It just grabs me at every shot, all the way down the follow-through and shoots a pain down my leg." While Stricker couldn't chase down the long-hitting DJ, he did manage to play the final 35 holes without a bogey to finish in second, two clear of Brandt Snedeker.
No. 12 - False Start -- Could the absurd weather conditions put the stop at Kapalua in jeopardy? The Tournament of Champions had an uncertain sponsorship future coming into the week, and some of the allure is lost when Tiger, Phil, and Rory abstain from making the trip to Hawaii. The wind, which pushed play all the way to Monday, made it a scheduling nightmare for the players, Tour officials, and the sponsor.
But hopefully that won't put the traditional season opener on Maui in a tenuous position in the Tour's rota. The high gusts were an anomaly, not something typically experienced in the past in January at Kapalua. It's not a recurring problem, and hopefully 2013 will be the only time that this event has to contend with those sustained winds. Despite some notable players missing out, it's a perfect place to start -- the limited and loaded field, playing in primetime in paradise while everyone on the mainland watches the season open in the dark and cold. Here's hoping that the schedule and weather problems this year won't change anything.
No. 13 - Bill Haas -- The 2011 FedExCup winner had an atypical outburst of anger on Tuesday after missing a short putt. Haas is one of the more calm and collected players on Tour and not known as one of the hotheads like... say, Tiger Woods or the other Rory (Sabbatini). But he stormed off the green and tried to punt his golf bag into the Maui wind. It didn't go very far, but did provide one of the highlights of the week:
No. 14 - America! -- The top 10 at the ToC featured a cast of American characters who could own the leaderboard throughout 2013. Granted, this was a limited field event that was heavy on American golfers, but these are the names that many expect to rise to the top -- DJ, Snedeker, Bubba, Keegan, Rickie, Kuchar, Webb. The game has never been stronger on a global level, but last year's winners are likely to be this year's winners, and that's certainly a good sign for American golf.
No. 15 - Kyle Stanley, DFL -- The super talented Clemson product is one of the longest hitters on Tour, and likely has multiple wins in his future. But he was one of the young American golfers who could not get it going this week at Kapalua. Stanley struggled at the end of the 2012 season and in his limited appearances during the offseason. He starts 2013 with a last-place finish at the ToC, going 78-80 on the 36-hole Monday march. Yikes.
Stanley will play this week at the Sony Open, with only one day off in between tournaments. As we saw last year, he has the ability to shrug off disaster and quickly rebound. Can he get his game settled in time for a push to repeat in Phoenix?
No. 16 - Repeat Captains -- Watson vs. Monty? Yes please.
Monty on RC captaincy: "Always felt that if I was asked I would do it & that's still the case." Has the feeling of how Watson news went down— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) January 9, 2013
No. 17 - Rory's sponsor switch -- When you're No. 1 in the world, people pay close attention to your every move, including your sponsorship deals and the logos on your bag, hat, and shirt. For weeks, the golf press has anticipated an announcement from Nike, now likely on Jan. 14, that they have signed Rory McIlroy to a new contract, taking over as his equipment and apparel provider. The signs of the impending marriage are everywhere, and this week, Rory dropped longtime sponsor Jumeirah -- another signal that change is a coming.
No. 18 - David Duval snubbed -- The former No. 1 player in the world entered the record books at the former Bob Hope Classic, firing a Sunday 59 in 1999 to win the event and add a page to golf history. The tournament was in danger of becoming history before Humana and Bill Clinton rescued the January event last year, solidifying sponsorship and shortening it from five to four rounds.
But the new group running things did not offer Duval a sponsor's exemption, and he took to Twitter to express his displeasure at the snub, writing, "I guess having the defining moment in the history if the event doesn't matter." That prompted some strong reactions of support, and people immediately started hammering the event for snubbing one of the more popular attendees. Duval later deleted the tweet, and exhorted his followers to not attack the organizers of the Humana. His colleague, John Cook, however, teed off and with Clinton involved, things got political.
With the quick turnaround, Front 9 will be back on Thursday as the Sony Open tees off on Oahu.