By Rodney S. Yap
Mother Nature reared its ugly head at Kapalua Friday in the form of violent wind and rain, forcing PGA TOUR officials to wipe out the first round of the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Gusting winds up to 35 mph and massive squalls caused play to be suspended twice in the first 2 and a half hours of the round, eventually making the Plantation Course unplayable before any players had completed the first nine holes.
The first round will now start over on Saturday at 7:30 a.m. Hawaii time with players going off two tees. The PGA Tour is hoping to play 36 holes on Saturday, despite reports of more poor weather ahead.
“I think the forecast is not favorable tomorrow, for lack of a better word,” said PGA TOUR rules official Slugger White. “But we’re going to try. We don’t know what the future will bring until the morning and we’ll just go forward from there.”
Reigning US Open champion Webb Simpson was leading through seven holes at 3-under par, giving him a two-stroke advantage over second-place Jonas Blixt and a three-stroke lead over a group of players at even par.
“It stinks for me,” said Simpson. “I got off to a great start, but that’s how it goes. I’m sure the Tour decision was best for all the guys. Good news is I had a great start and I’m playing well. I’ll just try and carry it over into tomorrow.”
At the other end of the leaderboard was Scott Stallings, who at 7 over through four holes will now get to rewrite his scorecard.
“Obviously I’m thrilled. This is a tough situation for the Tour to be in,” Stallings told the Golf Channel. “It was just really hard out there. I hit some bad shots and got some bad breaks and really wasn’t playing very good. It was pretty miserable.
“I was the biggest benefactor of the whole deal, but I’d like to know how Webb was 3 under through all that. I mean that was unbelievable playing.”
Asked if he thought it was the right decision, Stalling said: “Absolutely. I was talking to Bubba (Watson) in the clubhouse and he was saying how he was having trouble hitting range balls, I can’t imagine playing actual golf.”
Several notables, including Watson and Dustin Johnson, had yet to tee off.
The tournament, which pits a field of champions from last year’s tour against each other, ends Monday, and has a purse of $5.6 million up for grabs.
The National Weather Service is forecasting a good chance of rain for rest of the tournament.