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2012 PGA Tour Season Opener: Hyundai Tournament of Champions Discussion Thread

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2012 is here and so is the beginning of the PGA Tour season!

Seems like these guys only get a few weeks off.  For international players, most of them PGA Tour members now, they are playing deep into the season on the European Tour. The fourth World Golf Championship – and the only one outside the United States – is in early November in China.  These are the big one, the tournaments that lead into the season finale in Dubai, and there are other tournaments that offer small fields and big purses in South Africa and California that are hard to ignore for the guaranteed money.

Who do you think will come out strong in the first event?  Will Bubba eagle 18 again?

Some stories so far

Who's Missing from Kapalua?

Quote:

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) - The list of who's not at the season-opening Tournament of Champions reads more like a ``Who's Who.''

Missing are three of the four major champions - Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy, who at 22 already is on the very short list of golfers capable of moving the needle no matter where they play.

If that's not enough, three of the four World Golf Championship winners from last year are not at Kapalua, either.

Luke Donald, the No. 1 player in the world, recently returned home from a year-end journey that took him from South Africa to Dubai to Australia. Adam Scott was home in Australia watching his girlfriend, Ana Ivanovic, win her opening match in the Brisbane International as she gets ready for first Grand Slam of the year. Martin Kaymer of Germany is gearing up for his title defense in Abu Dhabi.

So who's left?

A 28-man field of PGA Tour winners, tying the record for the smallest field to start the PGA Tour season on the shores of Maui.

With apologies to PGA champion Keegan Bradley, WGC winner Nick Watney and FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas, the biggest stars at Kapalua might be found in the broadcast booth. Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo have agreed to be co-analysts for the first time.

A year ago, the winners-only field at Kapalua had 19 of the top 40 in the world. Now there are 19 of the top 100. The only two players from the top 10 are Steve Stricker and Webb Simpson.

The PGA Tour no longer starts with trumpets blaring. It's more like a solo on the ukulele.

Then again, this is nothing new.

Phil Mickelson caused a ripple when he stopped coming to Kapalua in 2002. Tiger Woods caused more of a tidal wave when he decided not to play in 2006, and he hasn't been back since (although he hasn't been eligible the last two years).

The tour has toyed with the idea of expanding the field, either by inviting all past winners at Kapalua (Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia, Jim Furyk and Geoff Ogilvy) or by offering a two-year exemption to the Tournament of Champions for PGA Tour winners.

That wouldn't solve the problem. Some would argue that golf has too many exclusive, limited-field tournaments already. This one is worth keeping because there's only one way to stand on the first tee with such splendid, sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean. Winning should still mean something.

It would be easy to suggest these guys are spoiled. How hard is it to fly to a tropical paradise at the start of the year, be treated to a free room at a Ritz-Carlton that hugs the Maui coastline, play in a small field with no cut for a $5.6 million purse and play a course carved out of a mountain that is different from anything they play all year?

But there's more to it than that.

Of the 11 players who aren't at Kapalua, most have a valid reason. Brandt Snedeker, Fredrik Jacobson and Dustin Johnson are recovering from injuries. Kaymer and Clarke aren't even PGA Tour members, and might want to save their starts for later in the year, perhaps closer to the majors or when they can put a couple of tournaments together.

Justin Rose's wife just gave birth to their second child.

And with winners coming from all over the world, respect must be shown to the worldwide game. Padraig Harrington never played in the Tournament of Champions because this is when he traditionally takes his break from a long season. That's the case for McIlroy and Donald. Schwartzel has tournaments in his native South Africa this month.

Graeme McDowell had a blast at Kapalua last year, especially when he shot 62 on the last day and finished third. Coming off a frenetic finish to his 2010 season that took him across oceans, however, he realizes now that he would have been better served taking an entire month off instead of going from Northern Ireland to Hawaii to the Middle East. He never quite recovered.

One culprit for the Tournament of Champions lacking some punch might be the FedEx Cup.

When the concept was pitched to the players in 2005, one of the selling points was that the regular season would end at the Tour Championship in late September, giving players three months off if they wanted.

``That selling point is not there anymore,'' Furyk said.

The PGA Tour now is pushing a plan to start the new season with the Fall Series, which might tempt some players to keep going. But that's only a small part of this big picture. Players still can choose to play whenever and wherever they want.

More than the FedEx Cup, the global nature of the game is shaping golf's new landscape.

There is simply no getting around it. For the international players, most of them PGA Tour members now, they are playing deep into the season on the European Tour.

The fourth World Golf Championship - and the only one outside the United States - is in early November in China. There are strong tournaments leading to the season finale in Dubai, and there are other tournaments that offer small fields and big purses in South Africa and California that are hard to ignore.

The PGA Tour remains the strongest in golf, which is not to say golf revolves around the PGA Tour.

Golf is unlike other sports, and it's silly to try to pattern it after the other leagues.

This is not opening day. It's not the Daytona 500.

These days, golf has different starting points to the season. The first tournament is for winners only at Kapalua. The first network TV event is at Torrey Pines. The first tournament with a super strong field is in Abu Dhabi. The first major is the Masters. All are respectively attractive to hard-core fans, casual fans and eventually the mainstream.

For now, there are 28 players who chose to begin their season on Maui. It's not a bad place to start.

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Frazar almost quits the game, now he's playing at Kapalua

Quote:

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Christmas arrived a day early in Dallas at the home of Harrison Frazar .

His wife walked into the house holding the mail that Saturday, fighting back tears as she handed him an envelope from Augusta National, both of them knowing it could be only one thing: His invitation to play in the Masters .

“We went into my office, closed the door, opened it and read it,” Frazar said. “And we had a good cry.”

It was sure to be an emotional moment for Frazar, a 40-year-old who took a job in commercial real estate when he left the University of Texas because he didn’t think he was good enough to play golf for a living. It became even more meaningful considering Frazar was on the verge of walking away from the PGA Tour last year.

Frazar is among 12 players at Kapalua who will make their debut in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions when it begins Friday. Most of the others are in their 20s, just getting started.

What makes this amazing to Frazar is that just seven months ago, he was ready to quit.

Coming off a shortened 2010 season because of surgery to his right shoulder and left hip, Frazar was standing on the tee at the Bob Hope Classic when he began to wonder what he was doing out there.

“I felt empty,” he said. “I began to doubt my skills, my heart, my body, my mind, my own self-worth. I doubted everything.”

He went three months without making a cut. The harder he tried, the worse it would get.

At a dinner during Colonial arranged by friends, a power figure in business and sports marketing – Frazar didn’t say who – dangled an attractive job offer. Two days later, another group of businessmen asked him to consider another job.

Frazar began to realize golf might not be in his future, that it was time to move on. Among those he consulted was Justin Leonard , a former Texas teammate and one of his best friends.

“I remember he told me about one of the offers, and I told him it sounded pretty good,” Leonard said. “I’m pretty close to him. And I could definitely tell he was pretty beat up.”

Frazar was so serious about retiring from golf that he mapped out an exit strategy.

He finally made the cut at the Byron Nelson Championship and tied for 14th. A week later he qualified for the U.S. Open, but he didn’t want his career to end at such a big, busy week.

“I wanted Hartford to be my last tournament,” Frazar said. “I told my caddie, ‘I’m not going to Memphis. I’m going to play the Open, and then go to Hartford and that will be it.’ He told me I was crazy, that I was hitting it good. So I went to my son’s Little League game, thought about it and said, ‘I need to go to Memphis.”’

It turned out to be the best decision of his career.

Frazar felt a load lifted when he made up his mind to retire, and he felt at ease with himself. Maybe that’s why he played well at the Nelson and qualified for the U.S. Open. But when he was 3 over through four holes at the St. Jude Classic , Frazar felt himself slipping into his old pattern of getting down on himself.

“I told my caddie, ‘Don’t talk to me about another shot. Just give me yardage to the flag.’ I’d had it with trying to be perfect. I was going to pick a shot, stand up and hit it,” Frazar said.

What happened next was a blur.

Without realizing it, Frazar was only one shot out of the lead going into the final round. He had a one-shot lead on the final hole when he pulled a 7-iron into the water and had to scramble for bogey. Frazar wound up winning with a par on the third extra hole.

After 14 years and 354 tournaments produced nothing, he was a PGA Tour winner. More than the check of just over $1 million, he received a two-year exemption on Tour, a spot in the Tournament of Champions on Maui and that coveted invitation to the Masters.

Frazar never made it to Hartford for his farewell.

“Life had taken a 180-degree flip,” he said. “When I least expected it, I suddenly had a whole different set of issues.”

Retirement from the PGA Tour no longer was one of them.

“Not for two years,” he said with a smile.

His coach, Randy Smith, was giving lessons at Royal Oaks when Frazar worked his way into contention. Smith headed for his office, locked the door and watched the final hour alone, nearly breaking his hand against the desk when Frazar went into the water on the 18th.

When it was over, Smith tried calling him four times and couldn’t leave a message without his voice choking.

“He was beat up. He was worn out,” Smith said. “He felt resigned to the fact that’s what he was going to do, and he felt comfortable about the people he was going to get involved with. He was going to give it everything he had and play free.

“It was not a matter of holding on, because there was nothing to hold onto.”

The perks were immediate. Frazar made it to the British Open for the first time in his career. He played Firestone for the first time. He flew to Shanghai for the World Golf Championship.

And on Christmas Eve, he received his letter from Augusta National.

“Other than winning a major, I think it’s the most coveted thing in golf,” Frazar said. “It’s probably not as big of a deal to the younger guys. They don’t realize how hard it is. But when you’ve tried for 14 or 15 years, it’s a real emotional moment.”

He kept that invitation in a small stack of letters he has received over the years, from former presidents George H.W. Bush, Ben Crenshaw , former Texas coach Darrell Royal, Arnold Palmer and Byron Nelson, who wrote to Frazar after he lost in New Orleans a decade ago, “You learn more from your failures than your successes. Always be honest with yourself and keep your head up.”

Four days after getting the letter, Frazar loaded up his three sons and other family members and headed for Maui. He couldn’t wait to get to Kapalua, and even now, it’s hard to believe how he got here.

“The first day we were here, the kids were out playing in the surf and my wife came up to me and said, ‘Good job, honey.”’

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So much for the off-season.

I love golf, but it'd be nice to have a chance to miss it.

Plus, watching whales splashing about in 80 degree weather pisses me off when I look outside and see snow and know we're months away from playing in even soggy, cool conditions. Jerks. :)

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Originally Posted by iacas

So much for the off-season.

I love golf, but it'd be nice to have a chance to miss it.

Plus, watching whales splashing about in 80 degree weather pisses me off when I look outside and see snow and know we're months away from playing in even soggy, cool conditions. Jerks. :)



Usually this time of the year I am in the same situation haha.  Thanks to unseasonably warm weather this year, we are still golfing here (on winter greens).

As far as the opener goes, I am surprised at the lack of players.  Very small field.  Should be intertesting to see who prevails...

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I guess I'm right between the two of your guys. We've had unusually warm weather, so no snow. Still, the ground is rock solid and it's been windy lately, so no golf for me. I'll probably check out some of the coverage, but I can't say I'm exactly amped up.

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Really small field this year (I count 28 players). I'll be out of town, so I'll have to watch it on the DVR. Interested who will have the longest drive of the tournament Watson or Woodland and how long the drive was (severe downhill fairways) Love Coore/Crenshaw designs--Kapalua Plantation was one of their first collaborations--a real joy to watch pros play this course on the tele. The Plantation course is so extreme, fun, a feast for the eyes.

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Originally Posted by sacm3bill

Why are they doing it Fri-Mon and not Thur-Sun?


The PGA Tour does not want to compete its first tournament of the year against football, so naturally it chose to move the final round from Sunday night (when the NFL doesn't schedule playoff games) to Monday night (when the BCS does schedule the college football championship).

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I decided to go easy on Stricker to start the year and I left him off my fantasy team. (Last year I think I only used him for his 10 back tournaments of the year.) Nice to see him take advantage of that and take a 5 stroke lead into day 4.

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What do you guys think of the Miller/Faldo commentating?  I actually think they work well together, kinda funny when they try to out-analyze each other.

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Originally Posted by mvmac

What do you guys think of the Miller/Faldo commentating?  I actually think they work well together, kinda funny when they try to out-analyze each other.



Or when they completely contradict each other :-)

I think that article about Frazar was interesting, that he just ended up asking for a yardage and played the shot by feel. Almost automatic. Sometimes I think you can play better by just hitting the shot instead of over thinking it.

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Originally Posted by mvmac

What do you guys think of the Miller/Faldo commentating?  I actually think they work well together, kinda funny when they try to out-analyze each other.


Faldo gets on my nerves a bit. Constantly cutting in, talking over the top of people. Be humble about your success and dont think that everyone has to stop because you have something to say because you have a "Sir" in front of your name..

There was a good case of conflicting opinions about Stricker today. One said he had a gift when it come to judging short approach shots while the other said it was hard work..awkward.

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Yup. There was 41 drives over 400 yards at the Hyundai, it's a normal occurence there. Gary Woodland had the longest at 450 yards.

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Originally Posted by colin007

did i hear correctly that bubba had a 427 yard drive in one of the earlier rounds?

Probably. Even short hitters can hit the ball 400 yards on the 18th tee (or some of the other holes).

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Originally Posted by colin007

did i hear correctly that bubba had a 427 yard drive in one of the earlier rounds?



Yup. I saw it, down hill with lots of wind  I believe. Rolled forever.

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Originally Posted by iacas

Probably. Even short hitters can hit the ball 400 yards on the 18th tee (or some of the other holes).


Yeah, 1, 17 and 18 are the holes you can hit it crazy distances.  I think there's another hole on the back nine that some can drive and completely change when there is a strong wind into you, players are hitting mid-long irons

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Note: This thread is 2843 days old. We appreciate that you found this thread instead of starting a new one, but if you plan to post here please make sure it's still relevant. If not, please start a new topic. Thank you!

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