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Players complain about 'goofy golf' as PGA Tour season gets off to a strange start

Webb Simpson
Christian Petersen/Getty Images
Webb Simpson tried to shield himself from the rain on Friday.

KAPALUA, Hawaii - The view from paradise has turned into the view from the inside of your washing machine. That's been just one of the surprises at the wacky Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course, where balls were getting blown around on the greens and Tour officials made the decision to "scrub" the first round with Webb Simpson leading at 3 under through seven holes.

Scott Stallings was 7 over through four holes and in last place, and a third of the field had yet to post a score on a single hole. All scores will be wiped off the books and players will start from scratch again Saturday, when officials will send them off the front and back nines in hopes of completing 36 holes.

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"It stinks for me," Simpson said. "I got off to a great start, but that's the way it goes. I'm sure they made the decision that's best for all the guys."

Stallings, conversely, was seen jumping around like he'd won the lottery.

The weather has been bad for a few days now, so inhospitable that a few of the pro-am groups quit at the turn on Thursday. It only got worse Friday.

Rickie Fowler hit a solid drive that went only 215 yards. Carl Pettersson's 25-foot birdie putt on the second hole rolled up to the hole and then got blown 25 feet past it, and Scott Piercy, Pettersson's playing partner, threw up his arms.

"I knew it was going to happen, too," Pettersson said. "The group in front of us was having some issues on two, and we had to wait a good 10 minutes. I hit a nice putt. It looked like it would be two feet away and it ended up 25 feet away. Then it was just ridiculous. I saw [Tour rules official] Jon Brendle and said, 'Are we trying to identify the best player this week, or are we just trying to finish?' "

It couldn't have been a less auspicious start for the 2013 season.

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"It started off bad and got worse," said the Tour's senior rules official on site, Slugger White. "We aren't really looking for these gusts up to 40 miles an hour."

For safety reasons the walking standard-bearers were not allowed on the course in the high winds. They were sent home just after 10 a.m.

Mark Rolfing, who lives on Maui and is part of the Golf Channel announcing team at the Hyundai TOC, said he's never seen worse weather here in 22 years.

Once they were safely indoors, players began tweeting prolifically.

Simpson: "I feel like I'm in a hurricane. ... My umbrella is breaking."

Bubba Watson: "This isn't golf. This is goofy golf."

Ian Poulter retweeted that, adding, "Perfect then."

It's been a goofy week, full of more strange tidbits of news than anyone could have predicted, given the Hyundai's relatively tiny 30-man field.

At first everything seemed to be predictable enough: Nike announced it had signed Kyle Stanley and Nick Watney. United lost Jonas Blixt's golf clubs, and the Swede had to practice with whatever he could scrounge up at Kapalua. Yawn.

But then Watson shared that he's suffered from panic attacks, like Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Classic winner Charlie Beljan. Three times, Watson said, he felt so anxious he checked himself into the hospital. Twice it began with chest pains; once it was an odd feeling down his leg. Each time, doctors said there was nothing wrong with him and sent him home. They said they could give him medication to quiet his mind, but Watson said he'll never take it, and later told Golf Magazine the chest pains may have been acid reflux.

Then came Beljan himself, saying he actively dislikes food, so much so that he's eaten the same Subway sandwich every day for the last eight years. (You can just hear the snooty epicureans sniff: "Well, no wonder he doesn't like food.") He also confirmed a report that his failure to eat anything for about 20 hours may have contributed to his second-round panic attack in the second round of the Children's Miracle Network last November, after which he spent Friday night in the hospital. Maybe Beljan should start following Ian Poulter on Twitter; at 1:15 p.m. Friday, with players waiting out the storm, the Englishman tweeted a picture of his lunch.

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For a day or so it seemed the Hyundai TOC was going to turn into a full-blown oral history of the anxiety attack. Then defending champion Steve Stricker announced he is semi-retired, effectively immediately, even though he's playing some of the best golf of his life at 46. He'll play only around 10 times in 2013.

Rickie Fowler disclosed that he played the second half of last season with a lower back injury that began bothering him at the U.S. Open in June. The news had nothing to do with panic attacks or Subway sandwiches, but was noteworthy in that it helped explain Fowler's absence from the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Then came Friday's aborted round one, which was painful for everyone, and death for all but the hardiest, titanium-reinforced umbrellas. To scrub a round, wiping all scores off the board, is rare, White said, but not unprecedented. The rules committee has made similar decisions to wipe the slate clean at Tour events in Atlanta; Grand Blanc, Mich.; Castle Pines, Colo.; and at the Players Championship in Jacksonville, Fla. -- the home of the PGA Tour.

"We'll go two tees tomorrow starting at 7:30 and try to play 36 holes to catch up," White said. "I can honestly say the forecast isn't real good, but maybe we'll get lucky. That's the hope."

 

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