by Kevin Sylvester
I drew a very tough assignment to start 2019 for PGA Tour Radio—Hawaii. Hold your groans. It’s hard work adjusting to the time zone (5 hour difference), gorgeous weather, and incredible views the Plantation Course has to offer at Kapalua. And to top it off, I have to play the golf course today to see exactly what the players dealt with. Now, hopefully, you understand the challenges I’ve face in the first week of the two week assignment.
-Xander Schauffele put on a show in the final round of the Sentry Tournament of Champions to snatch victory away from Gary Woodland. He tied the course record of 62 (par 73 track), holing out two eagles en route to his 4th victory. This was after he bogeyed the first hole. It was incredible to witness. Usually, when I witness the winner from inside the ropes it’s because I’m walking with him, providing the soundtrack of victory. I witnessed this from slightly afar, assigned to the final group of Gary Woodland and Rory Mcllroy.
It was a great assignment. I had one of the biggest stars in Mcllroy, and the leader in Woodland. I had followed Woodland through the first 3 rounds, thus feeling vested in him. It made what happened, numbing. Woodland was playing great, entering the final round with a three stroke lead, and five up on Schauffele. All he needed to do, as everyone figured, was go out and shoot -4 or -5 and he should win. That’s what he did, but didn’t win thanks to the X Man’s record tying day.
Woodland saw it all happening ahead of him, and did is best to keep pace. He watched Schauffele make birdie on the difficult 17th and matched him with a great approach and 11 foot make of his own. It came down to the 18th, and a birdie to force a playoff. His pitch from 47 yards didn’t feed to the hole as planned and left him nearly the same distance and line of the putt he made at 17. However, there were two slight differences. One, the putt had a little more break, and the grandstands were full of spectators watching with anticipation. The pressure was intense. Make it and you continue in a playoff. Miss it and you lose. The putt appeared on a good line as it rolled towards the hole, but then it started leaking right 2 feet from the cup. It missed. It was numbing to Woodland, and frankly to me.
The tough part was interviewing him minutes after it happened. I didn’t know what to say. He played great all week, did what usually wins on the PGA Tour on a Sunday with the lead, and walked off the 18th a runner up. He was gracious in defeat, but it may take awhile for it to wear off.
-Rory Mcllroy failed to win for the 7th time being in the final group on a Sunday. That seems weird for a guy of his caliber. He played fine, but he needed better. A lot of golf media whisper that it’s the putter, or he needs a better caddie, and other factors. I think, that’s golf. He’s trying to win, and even tried to make something happen on the back nine by going for the green on 14 off of the tee. He pulled it into the high grass over the green and make bogey. I applauded that move because he wanted to win and needed to make a big move if he was going to catch playing partner Woodland.
Rory had great success early, winning Majors and many other tournaments. He’ll win more, but when you look at the depth of great players now, it may be harder than ever to win.
-The energy snack of choice of PGA Tour Players—PBJ. I saw several players packing peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their golf bag for each round at Kapalua.
-Maui is absolutely gorgeous. It has so much to offer. Great beaches, fresh food, hiking, rainforest, mountains, biking, snorkeling, whale watching, and so much more. I went hiking in the West Maui mountains on a waterfall trail. It was a great experience and the guide pointed out all of the plants and trees that were growing wild all around us. Sugar cane, ginger root, coffee, bamboo, and mango were in abundance, and assisting us while climbing in our hike.
The drive to the summit of Haleakala, the dormant volcano 10,000 feet above sea level is a must do and see. Many visitors get there at 3:00 am to catch the sunrise. You need a special pass to access the Summitt between 3-7 am. I didn’t have one of those, but got there at 7:30 and it was still breathtaking. The drive up and down the volcano was tedious at times. Switchback after switchback at slow speeds. The Drive down offered incredible views and plenty of time to see them as you have to do it in low gear to avoid brake failure.
It think snorkeling is one of the best things you can do. The water is warm and clear and you’re guaranteed to see all kinds of marine life. The big attraction are the green sea turtles that populate the reefs around the island. I saw them at the three different beaches I snorkeled at in Maui and it didn’t get old. I also saw a sea urchin up close, as well as eels, and scores of tropical fish. Thankfully, no sharks.
-Needing room in my suitcase, I may be leaving the golf shoes I wear for work in Hawaii. The darn things gave me the biggest blister I’ve had in a while, and I’m not sure why. They’re not new, and generally comfortably, but the damage has been done. I’ve worn them for a year, and only for work on PGA Tour Radio, but they seem to have gotten loose on me. Why do you care? Because maybe you’re hanging onto your golf shoes too long too. It’s hard to let go, but I think I need to.