Hyundai Tournament of Champions: Fourth time’s a charm

Christian Petersen

After three aborted efforts to play through Mother Nature, the PGA tour will try for the fourth consecutive day to kick off its season.

High winds blew away Sunday’s attempt at opening the 2013 campaign, so everyone will be back at Kapalua for what was supposed to be the final day of the event. Instead, the field of 30 frustrated golfers will try to play 36 holes on Monday and another 18 on Tuesday for an official 54-hole contest -- shortened from its original 72 holes.

Severe winds and rain washed out Friday’s abbreviated round, no one got on the course on Saturday and gusts of up to 50 mph forced officials to expunge the partial scores of some of the field on Sunday after little more than an hour of play commenced following a four-hour delay. Kinda reminds one of the arrival of a certain "Airplane" Flight 209 "now arriving, gate eight. Gate nine. Gate 10…."


Flight 209 Now Arriving, Gate Eight

Given all that, Matt Kuchar and the other wind-burned 2012 titleholders hoped to start, with clean slates, at 7:10 a.m. local time (12:10 ET) from the first and 10th tees, and finish 36 holes on Monday. If the weather cooperates, they’ll complete the tourney with 18 holes on Tuesday, which would ensure the last man standing upright an official win.

Dustin Johnson, who’s in the field, won the most recent 54-hole tournament, the 2011 Barclays. This week will mark the first time since its inception in 1953 that officials have had to trim the Tournament of Champions to 54 holes.

If organizers have to condense play even further, say to 36 holes, the victor would accrue official FedEx Cup points and tourney prize money, but only 75 percent of the total world ranking points and no invitation to the 2014 ToC (should there be one). The last time that occurred was in 2005, when Adam Scott won the Northern Trust Open, according to PGATour.com's Brian Wacker.

Golf Channel will expand by three hours its broadcast of Monday’s play, which will run from 4 to 11 p.m. ET.

All of this is, of course, contingent on the weather, which was likely to be "borderline," according to Andy Pazder, the tour’s chief of operations.

"Our meteorologist is saying 25- to 30‑mile‑an‑hour winds, which we can play in. It's the gusts that creep up above 40 that have knocked us out," Pazder told reporters after Sunday’s round was wiped out. "We had registered gusts up to 48 miles an hour right before we suspended play today. Somewhere in the low 40s is what puts us out of business, and, yes, Tuesday is in play."

The squalls that nearly reached 50 mph on Sunday wreaked havoc with play -- from Matt Kuchar watching his ball blow several feet off the tee, to winds sweeping Ben Curtis’ ball off the green, and Scott Stallings unable to get his marker down before a tap-in became a 10-footer.

"I lost my hat twice on the driving rain [on Friday] and that was enough. I don't need to worry with the hat anymore. So went hatless and tried to tee off and I was told that it took me seven minutes to actually hit the ball," Kuchar said. "I was ready to hit it, and a gust of wind came and I backed off. Went back to address the ball and another gust of wind. The second gust blew the golf ball off the tee and rolled probably four or five feet back from the tee."

Another factor complicating the proceedings is Thursday’s start to the first full-field event of the season in Honolulu. Logistics will be troublesome, as organizers have to use a barge to transport TV equipment to Waialae for the Sony Open.

"Golf Channel is indicating that they feel reasonably comfortable that they can produce or provide a show on Thursday from Sony," said Pazder, whose immediate attention remained on Maui. "Right now our most important focus is on the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and that's what our decisions are being based upon, which is getting 54 holes in."

As for what happens if Monday brings more of the same, Pazder preferred to put that potential problem on hold.

"Can we save that question for [Monday]?" he said laughingly.


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