Final Kapalua Fantasy Notes


Sunday January 8th, 2017

Notes and observations from the final round


Justin Thomas – Another big win
The most important aspect of Justin Thomas three shot win was his refusal to let a combination of a bad shot along with Hideki Matsuyama holing for eagle at 14 to bring him down. One of the things that Thomas has done so well in the last year is being patient. In his 28 starts in 2016 he had the win at the CIMB, but more importantly he was in the top-ten, seven times with four third place finishes. In 2017 in four starts he has two wins, a T-8th and a T-23rd as again he has played solid golf, patience golf as he figures out how to win tournaments. All week long Thomas was was patient, even after taking the 2nd round lead he played a great third round and when he birdied the 13th hole on Sunday, he increased his lead to five over his playing partner and the person closet to him, Matsuyama. When Matsuyama reduced the lead to three with an eagle at 14, and then Thomas hit what he called a “fat-hooked” 4-iron into the hazard on the left of 15, he was in a bit of trouble. In a way Thomas got a bit lucky because Matsuyama had a 14-footer for birdie at 15 which he missed, so when Thomas made double the lead was just a shot. Again Thomas got lucky at 16 when Matsuyama missed a 9-footer for birdie at 16 and when Thomas hit what he said was his best shot of the week, a 214-yard 8-iron that he stuck three feet away, it was just about over and was when Matsuyama three putted for bogey. More importantly for the 23-year-old he was able to celebrate the victory with his parents who made the trip to Maui.


So what did Thomas show us this week?
A lot of things, first he was 2nd in greens hit and combine that with some good driving earned Thomas 1st place in strokes gained tee-to-green. Even though he is just 5’10” and weighs just 145 pounds he showed how long he can drive the ball. He averaged 307.6 yards off the tee on all his drives with nine drives over 350 yards, the longest being a 409 yard bomb on the 7th hole on Sunday.
*Thomas was 3rd in proximity to hole, getting his iron shots to within an average of 31 feet, 1 inch.
*Thomas was good with the putter, he was 4th in strokes gained putting and 1st in putting average. He had 28 one putts which ranked T-3rd and had two three putts. On the tough Kapalua greens he was able to make sure that he got his first putt close and in made 58 of 59 putts from six feet and under. For the week he made 311 feet, 4 inches of putts when ranked 5th so he fit in perfectly with the long list of champions at Kapalua that were not only sharp with their iron play, but also their putting.


So what does this mean for Thomas in the future?
That just like with Jordan Spieth, Jason Day and Rory McIlroy, Thomas has proven a lot at a young age. The win came at age 23 years, 8 months and 10 days making him one of four players in the last ten years with three or more PGA Tour wins before the age of 24. Thomas is also gaining momentum in joining the best players in the world, he is now 12th in the world rankings, last year after the Tournament of Champions he was 35th in the rankings and before the 2015 season he was 122nd in the rankings. Thomas now finds his game at a cross-road. He has shown in the last year that he can be consistent and contend. He almost made it onto the Ryder Cup team last September and will be a shoe-in to make the Presidents Cup team. His next step is to improve his record in important events like majors and WGC events. He has only played in six majors, his best finish was T-18th in the 2015 PGA Championship. In five WGC events his best finish is T-23rd at the WGC-HSBC Champions two months ago. Now one ray of hope, in two Players Championship he finished T-24th in 2015 and T-3rd last year so he got his first taste of being in contention in a really big tournament. Thomas is playing this week in the Sony Open and then in two weeks in the Waste Management Phoenix Open so we will see if he can add some more good rounds and possibly content again. But for the time being Monday will be another big day for Thomas. He attended Alabama for two years and before turning professional in 2013 won six tournaments for the Crimson Tide and was on the team that won the NCAA Championship four years ago. So he will be rooting hard for the tide to continue Thomas good fortune of seeing everything around him win.


Second best player in the world right now?
Hard to say that Hideki Matsuyama is the second best player in the world right now. In his last seven starts he has a 5th at the Tour Championship, a pair of runner-ups and four wins. The only problem for him, the two runner-ups are at the hands of Justin Thomas who seems to be the only player that has beaten Matsuyama over the last two months.
Matsuyama kept the good play going as he was 19 under at Kapalua. He was T-3rd in greens hit and second in strokes gained tee-to-green. His iron play wasn’t as sharp as Thomas, Hideki averaged 35 feet, 10 inches and ranked 10th. His putting wasn’t as sharp as Thomas as Hideki ranked 13th in strokes gained putting and 6th in putting average. The good news is that he is played great, the bad news is he is playing in the Sony Open and hasn’t done very well. In four starts he has missed the cut three times and had a T-78th in 2015. in ten rounds he has only broken par twice so you wonder if the course might not be to his liking. So it’s going to take some special effort coming to a conclusion of picking Matsuyama at Waialae, I can’t picture taking him.

One last item on Matsuyama, was very shocked when in my in-box was an email from Srixon golf that said that Matsuyama played this week with a new set of irons, switching to the Saxony Z65 Irons.  Seems he has been using them since his Hero World Challenge win and just stuck them into the bag for Kapalua.  What is weird about this, hard to imagine changing irons in the middle of such a great run of great play.


Talk about spending a quarter of a million on one nine of golf

We hear about these stories all the time, but have to tell you on how William McGirt spent about a quarter of a million dollars in nine holes of golf.  When he made the turn on Sunday, his front nine 32 climbed him to second on the leaderboard and just three shots back of leader Justin Thomas.  But after hitting the 10th green he four putted from 49 feet, something that does happen a lot at Kapalua.  No problem he fought back with making a 7-foot birdie at 11, but then he couldn’t get his 62 yard second shot at 12 onto the green, leaving it short of the green.  Then another disaster struck him, from a tough lie he thinned the shot and it went over the green and into an impossible lie.  After a drop he got his fifth shot onto the green and had to make a 12-footer just to save double-bogey.  From there things didn’t get any better, he bogeyed 14 and then three putted 16 for another bogey and was able to finish up with pars at 17 and 18.  So with his back nine 41, he went from second place (which paid $447,000) to a share of ninth place which paid him $172,333 or about $274,667 if he could of played the back nine in even par.  For McGirt he is off to the Sony Open to hopefully make up for the money he dropped in Maui.


Players with momentum going to the Sony
Jordan Spieth – What as week he had, leading the field with 25 birdies and an eagle. Unfortunately he had two double bogeys and a triple bogey on Friday and after that round thought his chances at winning were going. What was amazing is that after making bogeys at 13 and 14 on Saturday, he was 5 under for the tournament and in 20th spot, 11 shots back of Justin Thomas. After making the bogeys on Saturday Spieth played his next 22 holes in 11 under and was able to get a piece of third place. Spieth’s problem this week was from tee-to-green, he hit 60 of 72 greens and of the 12 greens he missed he was only able to get it up and down on 5 of them. Spieth also wasn’t his best on the greens, he missed two four-footers, a five-footer, a six-footer, a seven-footer and two eight-footers which is rare for him. Still have to be high on him going into the Sony, his final round 65 gives him the momentum to do very well.

Pat Perez – Had another solid week finishing T-3rd including a bogey-free final round of 67. Nothing spectacular about his week other than only making six bogeys but he comes to a course (Waialae) that he has played 53 times with a scoring average of 68.72 and in his last 15 rounds is 35 under. So you may want to pay a lot of attention to Perez.

Jimmy Walker – After shooting an opening round 65 at Kapalua, he could only muster rounds of 70-70-73 to finish T-9th. His final round could of been worst, he birdied his final two holes to give him some momentum. In Walker’s last six starts at Waialae he is 74 under par with two wins. So you have to think that he is in good shape to do some really good things this week at the Sony.


Friday January 6th, 2017

Notes from the second round


So we are seeing more of the folks that we thought would be leading coming through. Do I think that 2nd round leaders Justin Thomas or Ryan Moore will win, no. They are good players, but as I said in my preview, this was going to be a three-man race between Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama or Patrick Reed.
First, we have to talk about Jordan Spieth. He could have had the best round of the day with his 69 in which he made nine birdies, the most he has ever made in a PGA Tour round. But he ruined the effort with a double bogey at 8 and a triple bogey at 17. Shame that he wasted such a great effort, he only missed two greens on Friday, you probably can guess what holes they were. Could Spieth win, maybe. He started the day seven back of the lead and finished the second round seven back. He did show that he could work his way back, before the triple bogey at 17 he was only three shots back of the lead. But he needs a herculean effort on the weekend. One thing that you can book on, Spieth is playing next week at the Sony Open and you can book that he will be in contention on Sunday. He already is talking about how his game is taking shape and even if he doesn’t win this week, next week could be perfect for him.

Hideki Matsuyama had another good day of 68 that could have been better when you consider he missed just two greens. Over the course of 36 holes he has only missed three greens. Just like with Spieth, Matsuyama was on a roll making six birdies in his first 12 holes and was just a shot back of the lead before he was derailed on the 17th hole. A poor drive into the left rough placed him with a dangerous second shot over a barranca, and he didn’t carry it. So he had to take a penalty shot and went on to make double. Matsuyama is hitting the ball well and despite being ranked ninth in strokes gained putting is doing better than people think. Remember he has hit 33 of 36 greens so it’s not surprising to see that he has not made many putts. In 36 holes of play, the 17th hole is the only hole he has drop shots on so watch him over the weekend.

Patrick Reed did have the best round of the day with a 65. He was one of only three bogey-free rounds on Friday as he made seven birdies thanks to hitting 18 of 18 greens. In our first round notes we talked about on how messy Reed’s first round was, the opposite happened on Friday as he couldn’t have hit the ball any better. Putting wise he wasn’t that bad, of the 18 greens he hit, Reed only missed two putts inside of ten feet, so he did pretty well with what his tee to green game provided him. One thing Reed has going for playing Kapalua, in his last ten rounds, he is 54 under par and in those rounds of 180 holes he has only drop shots on just seven holes. Look for him over the weekend.

What about first-round leader Jimmy Walker? The difference from his first round 65 and his second round 70 was putting. In round one he made 122 feet of putts, in round two he was only able to make 51 feet of putts. On the back nine he wasted a lot of opportunities when you consider this. He missed an 8-foot putt for birdie at 11, a 17-foot birdie putt at 12, a 5-foot birdie putt at 13, a 10-foot birdie putt at 15 and then missed a 10 footer for birdie at 16. That was the difference from Walker not shooting another 65 on Friday.

Now, what about the leaders?
Both shot 67 for the second day in a row, but in looking Ryan Moore’s day was a lot better. He hit 17 of 18 green and over the course of 36 holes has only had one bogey, a three-putt on the second hole on Friday. One promising stat that makes you think he can win this week is his putting, he always has been a great putter and showed it on Friday hitting 17 greens and make 98 feet of putts. Hard to believe the round could have been better, he did miss four putts inside 15 feet. For the week he is first in strokes gained tee to green but lags to 7th in strokes gained putting so if he is going to win, he needs to improve on his putting.

Justin Thomas round of 67 could have been a lot better. He hit all 18 greens and for the week has only missed three greens. His only bogey of the week came on the 15th hole with a three-putt. When you look at Thomas 36 holes of play, there is one bad flaw, and that is his play on the par 5s, hard to believe he is only three under par on the par 5s. Still over the course of the first 36 holes he has probably been the most consistent of the 32 players. He ranks T-1st in greens hit, in strokes gained tee-to-green he is 4th and in strokes gained putting, 3rd. Over the course of 36 holes he has made 168 feet of putts which ranks 4th, so he is making the most of his rounds, and other than his par 5 play things couldn’t be better.
As we all know anything can happen at Kapalua, the good news is the weather has been perfect and will be perfect over the weekend. The players won’t have to contend high winds which is more the norm at Kapalua, but the course is still a bit wet. Still, I think it’s going to take 24 under to win this week, so that means the leaders need to shot another 12-under. One person we didn’t talk much about that is only two shots back, and that is Jason Dufner. He was flawless for his first 35 holes until he hit a poor drive at 18 which cost him a bogey and just like with Thomas, Dufner is 2 under on the par 5s, so he needs to step it up a bit if he wants to win. He hasn’t hit the ball that great, he is 13th in strokes gained tee-to-green but after making 204 feet of putts in the first two rounds, he leads that category and is 2nd in strokes gained putting.


Thursday January 5th, 2017

Notes from the first round


Jimmy Walker
In looking through Jimmy Walker’s career in which he has won six times, his wins have come on courses that demand accuracy off the tee. Just look at the list, he has won twice at Waialae C.C., the first year in 2014 the course was the 3rd toughest driving course on the PGA Tour. He also won the 2014 Frys at CordeValle G.C. that was the 13th hardest course to drive on. The 2015 Valero Texas Open TPC San Antonio was the 12th hardest driving course that year. Last year he won the PGA Championship at Baltusrol which was the 25th hardest driving course on tour. The point is, you look at these wins and the first thing you think about is that Jimmy Walker is one of the straightest drivers of the ball in golf. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. Since joining the tour in 2005 his best ranking in driving accuracy was 126th in 2005 and he only played in 9 events. After that his best was 176th which he has done three separate years. Even strokes gained off-the-tee Walker was 129th last year so in reality driving is his achilles heal.
Golfweek’s Jeff Babineau has written a story to show the idea that Walker has to get a better grasp of things. At home in Texas Walker took the Titleist 917D2 driver which he won the PGA Championship with and shortened the 44-inch driver to 42-inches and in playing with it realized that he could get more drives in the fairway. In talking with Titleist about what he did, they pointed out that the altered club was going to lose some of it’s design properties and balance so they have built him a new 917D2 driver with an Alias Rogue 25 X shaft and the club having a swing weigh of D-1. With the driver in hand he feels that he can hit more fairways even though he may be losing up to 20 yards off the tee in yardage. Now it would be easy to say the driver is the reason Walker is leading the tournament but that isn’t the case since he hit 11 of 15 fairways which ranked T-16th. But the Plantation course has the widest fairways on tour. You can say that his iron play and putting was the reason for his first round leading 65, he was T-1st in greens in regulation with 17 of 16 and made 122 feet of putts which was 2nd best and help him lead the strokes gained putting stat.
The importance of all this is that despite his good first round of an eagle, six birdies and 11 pars we need to think about this for next week because Waialae is the place that we will see if Walker’s plan will work.

Jim Herman
At the Shell Houston Open we learned the story of Jim Herman and the reason why he was wearing a Trump shirt as he became the biggest longshot to win on the PGA Tour in 2016. With the victory he was able to fulfil one of his fantasy’s in life, return to Kapalua and play in the tournament of Champions.
Dave Shedloski in Golf Digest relates the story on how it seems that 12 years ago when he was on his honeymoon which was a cruse through the Hawaiian islands, the boat docked in Kaanapali which is down the road from Kapalua and Jim talked his wife Carolyn in letting him play the plantation course. Herman remembers the day in September of 2005, he shot around par and made eagle at the 12th hole. His wife was riding on the cart and despite the day being so wonderful he was saddened with the thought of how out of reach it was for him to be a member of the PGA Tour and playing in the Tournament of Champions.
Herman had given up trying to make it on the PGA Tour, the previous year he was not having much success on mini-tours and one day reached a low when he tried to get some money out of an ATM and found there was no money in his checking account. In 2006 Herman took a assistant professional job at Trump National Bedminster in New Jersey and right after played with his boss Donald Trump. Herman recalled that he played very well that day and Trump told him “What are you doing here? Why are you working? You should be on Tour.” The talk gave him the inspiration and confidence to finally get through and make it onto the Web.Com Tour in 2008. In 2011 he made it to the PGA Tour and after another year on the Web.Com Tour in 2012 made it back to the PGA Tour in 2013 and has played on that tour every year, finally getting his breakthrough victory last year in Houston at the age of 38.
Herman said how much of a dream it was playing in the first round, every year he would watch the tournament on TV and remember his round back in 2005 on the Plantation Course. He is really enjoying his return to Kapalua, flying first class to Hawaii, picking up a tournament courtesy car and pulling into the same parking lot in better shape than he was back in 2005 and thinking the worst that could happen his making last place money of $60,000.
Herman will probably do better than that after his first round 67 places him T-2nd two shots back of first round leader Jimmy Walker. Herman hit 16 of 18 greens in his bogey-free round of six birdies. Herman is still wearing a Trump Bedminster logo shirt and has played with the President-elect several times last year including a round two days before Christmas at Trump International in West Palm Beach. Herman was also suppose to play with Trump before his flight to Maui but was pulled off the course for some important other business. Herman will also treasure one important moment in two weeks, he is the only player in the field that received an invitation to attend Trump’s inauguration and will be there to enjoy the moment.


Ryan Moore
After shooting a first round 67 to find himself just two back of first round leader Jimmy Walker, it has hit home that Ryan Moore may be a force on the PGA Tour in 2017. Moore has been on the PGA Tour since 2005 and even though he has five wins, is not a household name. He is one of the most consistent players on tour, earning over $25 million. His big problem, his wins are in tournaments that don’t have the marquee value of others and in 45 majors and Players Championships, he has never contended, his best finish was T-9th in the 2006 PGA Championship. He came onto the tour with the best of resumes. In 2004 he won the NCAA title, the U.S. Public Links, the Western Amateur and the U.S. Amateur. Moore played on the Walker Cup team in 2004 but didn’t play in any other team event until he was one of Davis Love’s last minute wild card picks after Moore lost the playoff to Rory McIlroy. With the pick Moore played in the Ryder Cup and became the winning point in his win over Lee Westwood could turn out to be the push he needs to do well in more marquee events. A win this week in Kapalua would be a good start.
Talking about starts Moore got off to a crazy start in the first round when he holed a 117 yard wedge for an eagle at the third hole. Two holes later he made another eagle with a 13 foot putt on the fifth hole. Moore went bogey-free adding birdies at the par 5 9th and 18th hole as he played the par 5s in four under. Another thing Moore did good was hit lot’s of greens, he was T-3rd hitting 16 of 18 greens as he placed first in strokes gained approach green and also first in strokes gained Tee-to-Green.
This is Moore’s fifth start in the SBS Tournament of Champions and he will be looking to better his best finish of T-6th in 2010


So what happened to …
Jordan Spieth
After all of the good things we said about him on this course he goes off and shots a 72, his worst score ever. As they say you live by the edge of the sword and Spieth’s problem was his putter as he only made 3 of 9 putts from 3 to 15 feet in. With the poor putting he ranks 26th (our of 32) in strokes gained putting. He also may of hit 15 of 18 greens, but he only had four putts inside 10 feet for birdie. The good news his 72 doesn’t knock him out of contention, he is only 7 back and if he can shoot a 65 on Friday he will be right back in it.

Bubba Watson 
He also shot a 72 as the pink ball didn’t help his tee to green game. He only hit 9 of 15 fairways and 14 of 18 greens. His putting was downright terrible as he ranked 31st in strokes gained putting. Watson made three birdies but also had two bogeys and needs to have a good second round as to not be too far back.

Jason Day
After making birdies at 13, 15 and 16 Day ruined his round with a bogey at 18. Day struggled with his game in which he didn’t have many up close birdie putts. He hit 10 of 15 fairways and 15 of 18 greens. For him to contend he needs to be a bit sharper with his iron play.

Patrick Reed
Too many bogeys he made three to six birdies in his first round 70. Just like with Day and Watson, Reed wasn’t very sharp with his iron work and needs to improve that.


Wednesday January 4th, 2017


As of Monday the course was very soft with 10 inches of rain falling in the month of December and 4 inches In the week before the tournament. Since Sunday the sun has been out, but without any wind the course as of Wednesday was still soft. Players are use to a fast course, with hard fairways and greens, so they have had to practice to change up their game for a different course. As of today the forecast for the four days on the tournament is for clear and sunny skies, but very little wind so the course will play differently.

Jason Day

When he walked off the golf course at the tour championship, he was suffering from back pain.
He took the next three months off, rehabbing the back by only picking up a golf club twice, more Importantly he needed the break mentally because he was running on low after the year.
In reviewing things he realized last year because of his good play he took on a lot more commitments which wore him out. So the time off helped him mentally re-charge himself and come out this week and handle the pressure . He’s hungry again, feeling good, and ready to go. He feels that he will do very well at Kapalua, that there isn’t much rust in his game. Day got back into the game around Thanksgiving time practicing in Columbus. He feels lucky that the weather was pretty good in the beginning, but started getting cold. He arrived early to Kapalua and that time help get rid of the rust in his game.
He realizes that over the course of the last couple of years he has endured shortened seasons with his back and thumb problems. So he is trying to shorten his swing and he is finding it tough to accomplish.
Day also talked about the pace of play and how the trend is toward speeding things up. But Day doesn’t care so much about speeding up his game. Matter of fact he wants to get back to what made him good. If that means having to back off five times, then I’m going to back off five times before I have to actually hit the shot. It’s not a disrespect on the pace of play but he feels for golfers that are trying to win it’s important to take your time and do it right.
I think Day is going to have a great season, but this week is more about getting back into the groove, a bit like what happened last year when he finished T-10th. I can see it happening again with him finishing around tenth this week.

Hideki Matsuyama
The press industry has taken a big hit in the United States, specially in golf. But you wouldn’t know there was a problem with golf media in Japan by the size of Japanese writers in Kapalua. 20 made the trip from Japan to write about Japan’s rising star Hideki Matsuyama. This begs the question and who has the most pressure on them and I have to think it’s Matsuyama. Since he won the Asia-Pacific Amateur in 2010 which got him into the Masters, the golfing eyes of Japan are watching him. Matsuyama ended his year on a high, starting with his 5th place finish at the Tour Championship. Three weeks later in his home country he won their national championship the Japan Open. The next week he was runner-up at the CIMB Classic and since then he has won every event he has played in. The first was the WGC-HSBC Champions, he was a seven shot winner over Henrik Stenson and Daniel Berger. After a week off he was back in Japan and won the VISA Taiheiyo Masters. He then traveled to Bahamas and won the Hero World Challenge, beating Stenson again by two shots. So it’s easy to see that Matsuyama is the hottest player going into this week. The only thing that worries me, Matsuyama talked about how he was going to work hard in the three weeks before the SBS Tournament of Champions. But one thing led to another and he wasn’t able to practice as much as he wanted to, hopefully this won’t be a problem for him.

Daniel Berger
He has used Taylor-made equipment since he was playing junior golf. In two years on tour Berger did pretty well with the clubs, winning his first tournament in the 2016 FedEx St. Jude Classic and winning just under $7.2 million in 60 events. For 2017 Berger is switching to Callaway and has been practicing with the new clubs most of the winter and is ready to go.

Bubba Watson
He has made a change and will play the Volvik Golf Ball in 2017. He has played the Titleist ProV1x ball for years but when he watch players use the ball during the World Long Drive Championship he tried the ball out and liked it. In a story written by E. Michael Johnson in Golf Digest, he reported how it was love at first swing with the Volvik S4 ball. That and the fact that the folks at Volvik were willing to listen to some of Watson’s ideas including different color balls, so don’t be surprised if Watson matches his Pink Ping driver with a pink ball or even his favorite color lime green for when he plays in the Masters.
As for his chances this week, I don’t like them. Couple of reasons, first switching balls is not something that gets done in a week or two. It’s going to take a bit for him to get accustomed to the ball, this is one of the reasons you don’t see many players changing balls. But the big reason I don’t like him, Bubba has been vocal on how hard it is to read the Bermuda greens at Kapalua and with that his putting has been poor.

Importance on scheduling

As we can see this week, six players decided not to play in the SBS Tournament of Champions. For all six they would of had to travel a long ways from Europe, South Africa and Australia. In 1990 the top-125 off the money list played an average of 26 tournaments a year. In 2016 the top-125 off the money list played an average of 23 tournament for the year. So the average number of events played is down and you can see why six players decided not to play, they didn’t think it was worth the effort to travel around the world. But this is a bigger debate because players have to try and find the right mix for them. Jack Nicklaus in the 70s was the first to really cut back his schedule, rarely playing in more than 15 events a year. The same with Tiger, in 1999 he started cutting back on appearances and has stuck to his schedule, hardly playing a new tournament.
So it’s interesting to see the comments from Jason Day and Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson and what the right mix are for those players. For the first time Johnson will travel in 10 days to play in Abu Dhabi, and will have to restructure his west coast swing, probably just playing in the AT&T Pebble and the Genesis Open.


Sunday January 1st

Six decide not to play at Kapalua  – Also, McIlroy narrows his choices of new equipment, big surprise that both Adam Scott and Sergio Garcia not playing and some reasons why.

Six of the 38 SBS Tournament of Champions qualifiers decided not to play. No big surprise amid Rory McIlroy, Charl Schwartzel, Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett, between the four Stenson, is the the only one that has played in this event and that wasn’t very good when he was 28th in 2008. It’s interesting to note that McIlroy is starting his season a bit early and will play next week in South Africa, probably to continue testing new equipment. For years McIlroy has been a Nike player. But with the announcement in August that the company was getting out of the equipment business it’s led Rory on a search for new clubs. In November after playing in China with a TaylorMade M2 driver, 3-wood and 5-wood, he was back with his Nike Vapor woods and irons at the DP World Championship, so he has eliminated TaylorMade. According to a report in McIlroy was in Dubai recently testing a wide variety of options on equipment and seems to have narrowed it down to playing the new Callaway GBB Epic Sub Zero driver, Callaway Apex irons and will reunite with Titleist to play with the ProV1x ball. He will use Titleist Vokey wedges and switch to an Odyssey prototype putter, a bit of a surprise because he ended the year putting well with a Scott Cameron putter. So that is probably the reason he is playing down in South Africa next week, there is also speculation that McIlroy may not sign an equipment deal in 2007.


As for Garcia, I was a bit surprised that he didn’t decide to play in Kapalua. He won there in 2002 and even though he struggled finishing T-25th in 2003, was T-10th in 2005 and 7th in 2006 the last time he played there. So the thinking was maybe with the happy memories of winning at Kapalua he would play this year. But for the third time (also in 2009 & 2013) Garcia has declined his invitation. In a way it makes sense, he loves spending Christmas at his home in Crans-Montana, Switzerland with his girlfriend, Angela Akins. Garcia posted on his Twitter feed a picture of him and Akins walking around Zermatt, Switzerland with the Matterhorn in the background, so playing golf right now is the furthermost thought. Garcia’s first event of the year will be the Singapore Open January 19th through the 22nd. As of now, it’s the only place he has announced.

Nothing ever surprises me about Scott, even him not playing this year at Kapalua. In six starts he has four top-seven finishes including a runner-up finish in 2007. After a T-6th last year, the thought was that he would return this year. It seems like a good spot for him, he also likes playing the following week at the Sony Open. But he won’t play and start his season at the Singapore Open, a tournament he has won three times. This is all part of a new routine for Scott in 2017. Adam was very disappointed last year after winning the Honda and then at Doral, he didn’t have a top-15 in any of the four majors. With the birth of his first child two years ago, he has cut back on his schedule and now feels he needs to play more around the majors. So for 2017 he plans on playing more around the majors and in blocks of three so that he will be in better touch with his game. After playing in Singapore, he plans on playing in L.A. for the Genesis Open, then the Honda Classic and then the WGC-Mexico Championship. So it will be interesting to see what happens, when he won the Masters in 2013 he played four straight events between L.A. and the Valspar Championship before taking three weeks off before that Masters.


A player that could do well in 2017, Branden Grace
While all the European players begged out of going to Kapalua, Branden Grace made the 12,000-mile journey from South Africa to Maui. The flight time was over 28 hours, and it was on four different planes. But he did it with his new wife Nieke Coetzee, the two got married at the end of November, ending a perfect year for Grace who won the Qatar Masters and then for the first time on the PGA Tour at the RBC Heritage.
After playing a few years in South African and then on the European Challenge Tour, he joined the European Tour in 2012 and won four times and once on the African Tour. He added two more victories on the European Tour at the start of the 2015 season which got him into the Masters and U.S. Open. He came close at Chamber Bay, finishing 4th and when he finished 3rd at the PGA Championship he gained membership onto the PGA Tour.
Now in some ways, Grace is undervalued when you consider that he has four, top-five finishes in majors and won ten times on the African, European and PGA Tours. The problem that Grace has is consistency and being able to play well in four rounds. In 2016 he was 19th in adjusted scoring average which his strong suit being from tee to green. Last year he ranked 15th in strokes gained Tee-to-Green but needs to work on his game around the green which he ranked 87th last year in strokes gained around the green. He also needs to get more consistent with his putting, last year he was 118th in strokes gained putting and he has a tendency to miss putts in the 3 to 5-foot range. If you look at the weeks he finishes in the top-10, the results on the greens are more favorable and being consistent with the putter is something that could help him in 2017.
So what do I think of his chances this week, pretty good. Remember he is strong from tee-to-green. Another thing in his favor will be the fact that over the last three years he has played his best golf in January and February. But he still will have to be his best on the greens at Kapalua. No matter what, look for Grace to have a break-out year in 2017 and possibly winning a major.


Tony Finau looking forward to playing in Hawaii

Tony Finau is looking forward to the SBS Tournament of Champions. With his Tongan and Samoan ancestry, he is the first Polynesian winner on the PGA Tour. He talked with MauiNews writer Robert Collias on how he has played at the Sony Open in Hawaii three times and loved the support he got from the Polynesian and Hawaiian community and is looking forward to playing in both events. Finau was ranked 3rd last year in driving distance so it will be interesting to see him play on the Plantation Course in which players can bomb away. Despite Finau’s advantage with length, the course is not well suited for the rest of his game. To win at Kapalua, you have to hit it close to the flag and in 2017 Finau ranks T-160th in proximity to the hole. Another key to playing well at Kapalua is putting and Finau ranks 174th in strokes gained putting but even worst he is 225th in 3-putt avoidance, which is not a good sign. Despite all of this Finau is looking forward to the trip but is not sure if his family will be able to go. Tony and his wife Alayna have four children and his 18-month-old son underwent an 8-hour heart surgery a year ago, and the trip may be too long for him. Despite that Finau will still have some family making the trip and sharing in his two-week Hawaiian adventure.

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