Kapalua's greens place premium on lag putting

Kapalua's greens place premium on lag putting

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Kapalua's greens place premium on lag putting

KAPALUA, Hawaii – When the 34 players tee it up in Friday’s first round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the driver will be the least of their concerns.

Instead, the focus will be on the large and grainy Bermudagrass greens of Kapalua Resort’s Plantation Course that likely will determine the final leaderboard and winner of the $1.14 million first-place prize.

Since the TOC moved to the Plantation Course in 1999, the sprawling greens on the 1991 Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design (No. 16 on Golfweek’s Best Resort Courses list) have yielded a total of 1,659 three-putts. That’s 104 per tournament, or 26 per round.

Considering it’s a smaller, winners-only field – 31 players on average during the past 16 years – the average of 3.4 three-putts per man during the week is lopsided compared with other Tour events. The worst putters on Tour averaged less than one three-putt per round in 2014.

“I would say Augusta would be the first on my list,” TOC defending champion Zach Johnson said of courses that extract as many three-putts as the Plantation Course. “I don’t know how many times I three‑putted last year here, but it was probably three to five. I remember the year I won the Masters (2007), I three‑putted six times – three times on one hole. So granted, they’re totally different greens, obviously speeds. peed is the element in both, but totally different speeds.”

In winning last year at Kapalua, Johnson had four three-putts on greens that average 7,120 square feet. That tied Stuart Appleby (2006) for the most three-putts by the champion.

“I just think some of the greens here are 50 (feet) deep, 60 deep sometimes,” Johnson said. “You feel like, Oh, yeah, I hit a green in regulation. Well, 75 feet, up a tier, down a tier, into the grain, down grain.”

In the 16 years at the Plantation, only two winners – Ernie Els in 2003 and Appleby in 2005 – played the 72 holes without a three-putt.

“There’s so many slopes and slopes you don’t really see because the course is pretty much on a cliff,” Tim Clark said. “You look uphill, and it’s actually downhill. I do remember having a few three-putts just because it’s hard to judge the speed on the longer putts. Some of these holes, you’re going to leave yourself 30-, 40‑footers. You’re not always going to be close around the hole.”

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