Hyundai TOC Finally Gets Started

It’s a bit ironic that a tournament whose title sponsor is a car company would have trouble getting started, but that’s what happened at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Strong winds (40-50 mph gusts) and some heavy rain pushed the start of the tournament, and the 2013 PGA TOUR season to Monday, the day the tournament was supposed to END. (This tournament was originally scheduled as a Monday finish to avoid TV conflict with NFL playoff games.) If you’re wondering why too much wind is a problem for professional golfers you should consider the course. The Plantation Course at Kapalua is built on the side of a mountain, right on the water. It is extremely exposed to winds. The problems with high winds are many, as Golf Channel.com’s Jason Sobel explains here; but the biggest issue was that golf balls were not stopping or staying put on the greens.

The 30-man field played 36 holes from split tees Monday and will finish with 18 holes Tuesday. To be official, a PGA TOUR event must go at least 54 holes (three rounds). Adding to the irony would have been that if the tournament had only gone 36 holes, the winner would not have qualified for next’s year’s Tournament of Champions, but that’s a moot point now.

After Monday’s 36 hole marathon Dustin Johnson stands atop the leaderboard at -11 (69-66), 3 shots better than Steve Stricker and 4 ahead of Bubba Watson (the course is a par 73). Johnson’s incredible power was on display in the second round, including a 259 yard second shot with a fairway wood into the par 5 15th hole. Now, I know that 259 yards with a fairway wood seems like mere child’s play for a big hitter like Johnson; but consider his shot played uphill into a 20 mph breeze. NBC/Golf Channel commentator Johnny Miller remarked that the shot was probably playing about 290 yards. By the way, Johnson hit it to about 12 feet and 2-putted for birdie.

Although the TOC has long been known as much for who is NOT in the field (Woods, McIlroy and Mickelson) as who IS pegging it in Maui, it seems tournament organizers and sponsors could not have hand-picked a better cast for Tuesday’s final round (wow, that sounds weird…Tuesday’s final round). While Johnson, Stricker and Watson occupy the top 3 spots, Keegan Bradley, Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson and Rickie Fowler are all in the top 10 and poised for a run at the first invitation to the 2014 Tournament of Champions, the first 500 FedEx Cup points of the season and a cool $1.12 million. Golf Channel will have live coverage of the final round beginning at Noon ET.

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