Tour Tracker: Tournament of Champions
Friday, January 6, 2012
KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Aloha, 2012!
The new PGA Tour season gets under way Friday with the opening round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, a 27-man, winners-only event played on the hilly Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort.
In recent years, the Tour’s season-opener has become more noteworthy for the stars who don’t show up than the ones who have. No exception this year, with no Luke, no Rory, no Phil and no Tiger. Nonetheless, it’s an easy opportunity for last year’s winners to get a head start in 2012.
Of the 27 players in the field, 12 are in the field for the first time, including 2011 PGA champ and Rookie of the Year Keegan Bradley.
Lucas Glover withdrew Friday after paddleboarding earlier this week, giving the Tournament of Champions its smallest field in more than a decade.
The four-round tournament concludes Monday in an attempt to circumvent the NFL playoffs.
The first group tees off at 3:35 p.m. EDT Friday.
Check back often for updates and observations from the opening round of the 2012 PGA Tour season:
• . . . And we’re off. First group off the tee in 2012 is the pairing of Michael Bradley (Puerto Rico) and Bryce Molder (Frys.com). The weather is, as you would expect, paradisiacal: 75 degrees, 10-mph winds. The Plantation Course played as the easiest track on Tour in 2011, and these conditions should make scoring very favorable.
• Johnson Wagner doing his best Geoff Ogilvy impersonation, sporting a robust, dark brown mustache for the season-opener. Hasn’t shaved since Thanksgiving, he said. “I’m rockin’ it for a while,” he says in a Golf Channel interview. “See if it brings me some good play on the West Coast swing this year.”
• It’ll be interesting to watch Ben Crane early this season. Late in 2011, the McGladrey Classic winner announced that he had a torn labrum in his hip. He hoped to delay surgery until the end of the 2012 season.
• Congrats, Bryce Molder. You have recorded both the first bogey of the year (second hole) and the first birdie of the year (No. 3).
• Only two major champions in the field of 27. Two. And Keegan Bradley, at age 25 the youngest player at Kapalua, is one of them. David Toms the other.
• In the early going -- no, the very early going -- it’s Michael Bradley, Kevin Na and Bryce Molder at the top, at 1 under par. Par 73 at Kapalua, and last year eventual winner Jonathan Byrd shot an opening 66.
• Already there has been a 408-yard drive, by 45-year-old Michael Bradley. Bubba Watson just teed off. And Gary Woodland is 15 minutes away. It'll be fun to see what kind of silly numbers they put up today off the tee.
• Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo in the same Golf Channel booth, giving Kapalua arguably more star power in the TV tower than on the course. No fist fights, so far.
• And Johnson Wagner, winner of last year's Mayakoba Golf Classic, joins the early lead at 2 under par. Wagner is tied with Michael Bradley and D.A. Points. And they said no stars were here!
• Bogey-free Michael Bradley rolls in a 25-footer for birdie at the 13th to take the lead by himself at 3 under par. Bradley won last year's Puerto Rico Open.
• Michael Bradley continues to roll, making another birdie at the par-5 15th. He moves to 4 under and takes a one-shot lead over last year's winner Jonathan Byrd.
• Spoke a bit too soon. . . Bradley and Byrd each pile on another birdie. Bradley moves to 5 under after a kick-in birdie at No. 16 and Byrd adds a birdie at No. 6, his fourth consecutive birdie of the day. Not a bad start at all for the defending champion.
• After eight consecutive pars to start the day, Keegan Bradley dunked his third shot at the par-5 ninth for an eagle. He's 2 under on the round, joining Bryce Molder and D.A. Points in a tie for fourth.
• Jonathan Byrd must feel right at home in Hawaii. He makes birdie at the par-3 eighth (his sixth consecutive birdie) and moves into the lead. Upcoming is the par-5 ninth, which plays as statistically the easiest hole on the course. Six straight birdies is a career-high for Byrd and his last three birdies have all come from putts of over 26 feet.
• Webb Simpson is picking up where he left off last year. He made an eagle and three birdies on the front nine, turning in 4-under 32. He's in solo third behind Michael Bradley and Birdie Machine Jonathan Byrd.
• Byrd's birdie streak comes to an end at six, but it's an abrupt one. At the par-5 ninth, Byrd chunks his third shot (out of a fairway bunker) and ends up making a bogey. Byrd has a chance to start a new streak, but misses a 10-footer at the tricky tenth. Michael Bradley is already in the house at 5-under 68.
• After bogeying two of the past three holes, Jonathan Byrd gets back on track with a short birdie at the par-4 13th. Also back on track is Bubba Watson, who made double bogeys at Nos. 8 and 9. Bubba has put up three birdies since and sits at 1 over on the day.
• The defending champ isn't the only one pouring in birdies today. Scot Martin Laird made three bogeys in his opening round, but he offset them with eight birdies at Kapalua to salvage a 5-under 68 to tie Michael Bradley for the clubhouse lead.
• A leaning, pleading Jonathan Byrd rolls in another birdie at the par-4 16th, his fourth putt of the day over 25 feet. He now has the lead by himself at 6 under. No question about it. . . he likes this place.
• A good sign for the Americans: Steve Stricker in his post-round interview said he is absolutely 100 percent healthy after losing feeling in his left arm at the end of last year. He said he is confident that he will be able to avoid surgery. He certainly looks comfortable on the course, making eight birdies in his opening-round 68.
• Jonathan Byrd is in a familiar position – out front at Kapalua. Byrd made eight birdies in his opening-round, shooting 6-under 67.
Webb Simpson isn't able to make a birdie at the par-5 finishing hole, but he is among a four-way tie for second place at Kapalua, finishing off a 5-under 68 at the Plantation Course. Also at 5 under: Michael Bradley, Martin Laird and Steve Stricker.