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Friday, January 5, 2018

Real Golf at Last!

Defending champion Justin Thomas

Of course, things continued to happen in the world of golf over the holidays. For example:
  • At GC, Sean Foley and Jaime Diaz are in while Michael Breed and John Feinstein are out
  • Tiger announced his first two events of the season on the West Coast instead of in Dubai (a wise choice for his back, I think)
  • Sergio signed a new equipment contract with Callaway, probably the first of many new contracts for the pros
But the resumption of actual GOLF is what we've all been waiting for, and Thursday that became a reality as the Sentry Tournament of Champions got underway. So it's only fair that I post a few personal observations of the first round.

This is the first time in recent memory that the trade winds actually showed up as expected on Kapalua. And with so many young players in the field -- GC said the average age is 29.7, the youngest ever -- their inexperience with those winds, compounded by a little holiday rust, definitely showed. Of the 34 players in the field, only six broke 70. (Remember, par at Kapalua is 73.)

One of those players was Rickie Fowler, who got it to -3, fell back to even, then went birdie-birdie-par-par-eagle down the stretch to finish at -4. Equally impressive was Brian Harman's clean round of -5, given that Harman isn't considered a long hitter.

Likewise, Dustin Johnson didn't play particularly well but also managed a -4 round, as did Si Woo Kim. And Jhonattan Vegas posted a -5 while Marc Leishman topped the field with -6.

At the other end of the scale, Brooks Koepka (+5) and Jordan Spieth (+2) were among the day's strugglers. And defending champ Justin Thomas got it to -2 and fell back to +1 before getting it back to -2 for the day.

None of these players are out of it. The Plantation Course is known for giving up low scores and even Brooks could get himself right back in this thing with a low round today. But it will be interesting to see how quickly these guys can knock off the rust when the view is so distracting.

I'm so glad the game is afoot once again, especially since it means several hours watching Hawaiian scenery. It's cold around here!

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