Follow Alan Shipnuck on Twitter KAPALUA, Hawaii — Thank goodness we finally have some golf to enjoy after a brutal off-season defined by scandal and economic woes. There’s no better place to ring in a new year than Kapalua’s Plantation Course, a wildly entertaining canvas that encourages freewheeling artistic expression. Throw in the jaw-dropping views and long broadcast windows and the telecast is nothing less than golf porn.
From a competitive standpoint, most of the focus of the first round will be on how players—and golf balls—react to the new grooves, as the SBS is the first meaningful tournament to be played under the USGA’s new condition of competition. The Plantations short, wiry rough is ideal for creating the flyer lies that strike fear in the heart of Tour pros. With its swirling winds and steep elevation changes, the Plantation already makes distance control difficult, and with the new grooves greatly reducing spin out of the rough we can look forward to all manner of squirrelly shots. Spectators standing behind greens would be wise to don hard-hats.
It will also be interesting to see which players assume a lead role. This SBS may be the easiest PGA Tour event in history to win – only 28 guys in the field, and half of them are just happy to be here. There’s no Tiger or Phil, as usual, but also no Padraig, no Rory Mac, no Vijay, no Ernie, no Sergio, no AK, no Camilo, no… You get the point. With this soft field, Zach Johnson or Stewey Cink could continue their campaign to be recognized as the third-best player in the world, while a Brian Gay or Paul Casey could build on their ’09 breakthroughs.
However it plays out, it will be fun to have some actual golf to kick around,
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