Miceli: Rough conditions make for circus in Maui

Webb Simpson walks under an umbrella on the first tee as he waits to start the first round at the Tournament of Champions golf tournament Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, in Kapalua, Hawaii. After a morning of severe wind and rain, tournament officials suspended play and scratched the day.

KAPALUA, Hawaii - Should the first round of the PGA Tour season have started on Friday?

Just reading the weather forecast must have given the PGA Tour officials pause: A 60 percent chance of showers and wind out of the east-northeast at 20-30 mph, with higher gusts.

That forecast may have been fine for ducks or geese, but with the undulating and exposed greens on the Plantation Course, it had to be a bit of a gamble to play a professional golf tournament. In the end, it didn’t work out as the PGA Tour had hoped, causing officials to stop and then wipe out the first round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

“I don’t think you can just not try to play,” said Slugger White, vice president of rules and competitions for the PGA Tour. “Was it bad? Yes, it was bad.”

Maybe, but how do you think poor Webb Simpson feels, playing seven holes in the conditions and shooting 3 under, two shots better than Jonas Blixt and 10 shots better than Scott Stallings?

“It stinks for me,” Simpson said after the round was scrapped. “I got off to a great start, but that's the way it goes. I'm sure they made the decision that's best for all the guys.”

It was clear at some point that what was being played Friday on the Plantation Course wasn’t golf, with balls rolling uncontrollably on and off the greens. But it wasn’t until Carl Pettersson’s approach putts slowed up by the hole and then picked up speed and rolled off the green that officials had to take a hard look at their decision.

“I knew the slope of that green and where the wind was coming with the slope. I knew we had to go past the hole, really, with a tee shot, and I came up just short,” Pettersson said of the par-3, second hole that emerged as one of the problem greens. “It was a good shot; I was only 20 feet away. And I hit a nice putt, and it looked like it was going to stop 2 feet away, and ended up going 25 feet away. Then I thought it was ridiculous. (Rules official) Jon Brendle was there, and I just asked him, 'Are we trying to identify the best player this week, or are we just trying to finish?' ”

Are we trying to identify the best player this week, or are we just trying to finish?

Good question. Pettersson would later say that officials were correct in attempting to play, but once they determined the conditions were unplayable, they should have stopped, which they eventually did.

If anyone was the beneficiary of the postponement, it was Scott Stallings. Stallings struggled partly because of the conditions and partly because his game simply was not very good Friday.

With a new lease on life, the two-time winner will see Saturday morning whether he can better his 7-over start through four holes.

“There's just a lot of stuff out of your control that you can't really be a part of,” Stallings said. “I mean, obviously Webb played great through – he played longer than most everybody, but I mean, there's a lot more guys like myself than him, but when you're standing over balls and the ball can't come to rest, as soon as it gets going, enough is enough.”

Maybe the PGA Tour officials should remember what Pettersson said: “Are we trying to identify the best player this week, or are we just trying to finish?”

They should use that as a motto going forward, because Friday in Maui, Tour officials seemed to lose track of their mission, which is to run a professional golf tournament, not a circus.

They got it right in the end, but they should have gotten it right in the beginning and never started.

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