Those who have played the Coore-Crenshaw Plantation Course at Kapalua in Maui know that the overall elevation change of over 400 feet presents players with exposed places on the course where normal winds can play havoc with the flight of the ball.
An elite field of 30 winners of the 2012 PGA sanctioned events are playing the opening event of the 2013 season at Kapalua in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in winds that will crease your forehead. What is usually a low impact event with guaranteed paychecks, no cuts, and four days in the paradise of Hawaii has turned into an excruciating endurance test with wind and rain canceling the opening round three days in a row.
Holes like one and two, eight, nine, ten, eleven, twelve, thirteen, seventeen, and eighteen sit with the barest exposure to the wind. All of these holes have severe elevation transitions as well wind influence which makes finding ballast and maintaining balance during a swing a supreme challenge. There were hats separating from their owners and doing the mamba 150 yards down the fairway.
The crying and whining over the weekend was vitriolic with guys standing over putts only to watch a sudden gust blow the ball from under their feet right off the green. Sideways rain made keeping bodies and equipment dry an impossible task. Baby draws were turning into snorgeling duck hooks without warning. This was not what these guys had visualized when they stepped off the plane last week anticipating four days of leisure and a fat check.
Finally on Monday, the scheduled final day for the event, the players hoofed 36 holes up and down the severe inclines of this course in winds gusting over 50 m.p.h. setting up a final 18-hole showdown on Tuesday to make this a 54-hole official tournament. They should have been handing out purple hearts to the caddies for whom it was the Myth of Sisyphus hauling the freight up and down these hills.
In spite of all the verbal grousing these guys are professionals and they can play some amazing shots under the wind. You don’t see this many three-quarter swings at a three-day Dave Pelz golf school. The bigger hitters seemed to be able to best mitigate the wind effect. Bombers like Dustin Johnson, Keegan Bradley, Bubba Watson, Tommy Two Gloves, and Nick Watney dominate the leader board with two notable exceptions, the putting geniuses of Steve Stricker and Brandt Snedeker.
Dustin Johnson hit it green side 410 yards downwind at 12, drove the green 300 yards into the wind at the 14th, and hit a 275 yard fairway metal into the wind to reach the par five 15th in two. One last five iron to five feet on the 603-yard 18th to make eagle and set the pace for two rounds with a 11-under score. This is far from over, especially if the wind dies down tomorrow. Dustin is going to have his hands full on Tuesday trying outrun the show ponies looking over his shoulder.
As is always the case in Hawaii, the reak bonus is having Mark Rolfing doing the coverage. His knowledge of these islands and the type of golf it takes to be successful here is a breath of intelligent wind on the Golf Channel broadcasts.