Hyundai focuses on players who did make the trip
KAPALUA, Hawaii – One day after a cold and steady rain had left this corner of paradise saturated, more heartache arrived Wednesday. By midday, sun was but a rumor, the spectacular view of Molokai from the Plantation Course’s first tee was spoiled by annoying cloud cover, and to make matters worse, another stretch of rain swept in and forced folks to scurry inside.
Well, maybe, but all things in perspective. It’s still a most special place to be, this Kapalua Resort on the island of Maui, so much so that it’s very easy to focus on who is here for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and not worry about who isn’t.
“The dynamic is what it is,” said Steve Shannon, vice president of marketing for Hyundai Motor America.
Thirty players will tee it up Friday in the season-opener but Shannon was responding to various stories about the marquee names who chose not to play: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald, Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose.
To players, it’s simple.
“It’s just a tough one. There are tournaments all throughout the year that people miss. So how do you get everybody at every tournament? We just can’t do it,” Bubba Watson said.
To Shannon, it’s part of the landscape.
“The way that golf has changed, how many times they need to play . . . there’s not much we can do about that. But there’s a lot we like about this, and the field still is awfully good. So we don’t have any concerns. There are so many positives about this one.”
The Seoul Broadcasting System signed a 10-year contract as title sponsor of this tournament in May 2009. After the 2010 tournament, however, SBS worked out a deal with Hyundai, which was brought in as title sponsor. That three-year contract is up after this week, but Shannon didn’t sound like a man who was seeking any panic buttons. “We just love it here. We love the field.”
While it remains to be seen what name this tournament will have next year, one thing is for certain: it won’t be the season-opener. Instead, the PGA Tour will go to a wrap-around schedule, starting its 2014 season in October of 2013. Six tournaments will be played in October and November, then there will be a bit of a break before re-starting here at Kapalua.
“I guess in some ways we’ll see,” Shannon said, when asked how he thought that would change things, “but we are not terribly concerned about it. We have pretty good confidence that the PGA Tour kind of knows what they are doing. (Not being the season-opener) won’t diminish it.”
Hunter Mahan agrees. In fact, as a guy who since the “end” of the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup season in October has played competitive golf in Turkey and Thailand and visited Israel on a goodwill mission, Mahan has a prime vantage point to assess the global golf landscape.
“The season doesn’t end in September,” Mahan said. “I mean, it doesn’t really ever end. It just keeps kind of looping over and over and over again.”
Shannon sounded like a guy who was happy to be in that loop, given that it comes with spectacular scenery and tropical warmth, the weather of the last few days notwithstanding.
“We are very bullish,” Shannon said. “We don’t have anything to announce this week, particularly because we are so focused in executing another great event. But we’ve had discussions with the PGA Tour, but we just need to get this tournament behind us and then have some more discussions with them.”