Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Organizers hoped to grab some extra
television coverage by scheduling a Monday finish for the season-opening
Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
They didn't expect gale force winds to blow for three straight days. Instead
of the tournament finishing on Monday, that was the day the tournament
I say officially because shots had been struck two of the previous three days,
but those rounds were erased due to the conditions. Wind speeds were steadily
blowing over 30 mph and gusting well over 40 mph. You might be able to play
baseball or football in those conditions, but not golf.
Enough with the retro weather forecast, there was actual golf to talk about.
Dustin Johnson was one of the few players that never struck a single shot
until Monday, which turned into a marathon 36-hole day. He shared the lead
after the first round in mid-afternoon, then was three shots clear at day's
He was second in greens in regulation through two rounds, before an
inconsistent final round.
Johnson, one of the longest hitters on tour, was 1-over par on the two front-
nine par-fives. A rarity for him. He birdied both par-fives on the back nine,
His drive on the par-five ninth sailed well right into native grass and what
earlier had been a 5-stroke lead was suddenly down to two after he walked off
with a bogey. He seemed to settle himself with a birdie on the drivable 12th,
but his driver again let him down at No. 13.
Johnson tugged his drive left into a treacherous spot and took two shots to
get out of some thick grass. That led to a double-bogey, which in turn sliced
his lead to one.
The 28-year-old's up-and-down round continued its' see-saw at the 14th. He
bombed his drive in front of the green, then chipped in for eagle.
Game. Set. Match.
Playing partner Steve Stricker was closest to him, but wouldn't be able to
keep up down the stretch.
Johnson clinched his seventh PGA Tour title with birdies at 15 and 18, and won
for the sixth consecutive year on tour. He is also coming off a solid 3-0
record in his second Ryder Cup appearance last fall.
The goal for Johnson now is to break an unusual streak. The previous three
winners of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions failed to win again that
Johnson, with a new set of clubs, has been in Hawaii for two weeks already and
will remain there for the Sony Open, which starts about 43 hours after the
Hyundai ended. Quick turnaround for him and several others.
The last two Hyundai winners haven't finished inside the top 30 at the Sony
Open. Look for Johnson to carry the momentum over this week.
Many expect a big season from Johnson, and his fast start is the first step in
proving those prognosticators right.
SEVERAL BIG NAMES CHANGE EQUIPMENT
In the early 2000s, Tiger Woods re-signed an endorsement deal with Nike that
netted him millions of dollars and eventually led to him switching to all Nike
It was a huge deal at the time because Nike was very new to the golf club
business, and also because Woods had earned 33 PGA Tour titles from 1996-2002
before leaving Titleist irons.
The lucrative move also paved the way for other golfers to start getting paid
millions of dollars from their equipment companies.
Every off-season there is movement among lots of players from one brand to
another. This off-season saw at least five players that won on the PGA Tour
last year changing to new equipment this season.
Nike seems to be the winner in all the movement, as they have added 2012
Phoenix Open champion Kyle Stanley and five-time PGA Tour winner Nick Watney,
as well as Thorbjorn Olesen and Seung-yul Noh, who are both ranked in the top
100 in the world rankings.
The biggest announcement is yet to come for Nike. It is expected that world
No. 1 Rory McIlroy will also start playing Nike's clubs this year.
TaylorMade scored a pair of former major champions in Stewart Cink and Lucas
Glover, as well as 2012 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year John Huh and Ryan Moore,
who picked up his second PGA Tour win last year.
Callaway added Chris Kirk and big-hitting Gary Woodland to their stable of
These were just some of the big moves this off-season. It will be interesting
to see how all these golfers perform this year since we know it takes time to
adjust to new equipment.
* After three days of very high winds, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
finally started on Monday, and ended Tuesday. They squeezed 54 holes in over
two days. My question is this, why schedule the event Friday-to-Monday to
begin with? The television equipment, among other stuff, has to be shipped to
the Sony Open, which starts on Thursday. Why schedule a Monday finish with a
short week ahead of you? Tuesday's final round at Kapalua was played without
scoreboards and standard bearers because that equipment was sent to Honolulu
after Monday's action.
* This year's LPGA Tour schedule is slated to be released this week, and it
will have a new event in the Bahamas. I think every golf writer will jump to
cover that event. Also, it's good news for the LPGA Tour to be adding events.
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