KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Geoff Ogilvy has played 10 tournament rounds at Kapalua, enough for him to know without too much thought where to hit the ball and with which club.
The first hole is a 3-wood because driver will go too far down the hill and wind up in the rough. It’s best to play a draw off the 18th tee, allowing the wind to bring the shot back toward the fairway to catch the slope and roll for what seems like miles.
But after what happened late in his second round Friday at the Mercedes-Benz Championship, the tournament’s leader could be starting over.
Ogilvy was in control on the Plantation course, leading by two shots and hammering a tee shot on the 17th hole that went 415 yards into a manageable lie in the fluffy grass, down in the valley of a 561-yard hole with a 100-foot drop in elevation. He had only a pitching wedge left to the green on the par 4, and he expected it to land in the middle of the green and roll toward the hole, just like always.
But when the ball climbed into the air and was held by the wind, something was different.
“The wind changed sometime between the tee shot on the 17th and the second shot on the 17th, and we couldn’t really feel it where we were standing,” Ogilvy said. “My tee shot had gone 400 yards, so it couldn’t possibly have been going that way on the tee shot.”
Trade winds are common off the west coast of Maui. These were the Kona wind, and few players in the 33-man field have experienced that direction. Ogilvy is not among them.
He wound up three-putting the 17th when his ball came up 85 feet short of the pin, his first bogey of the tournament. Then came another three-putt for par on the closing hole, this one from 70 feet, which left him with a 5-under 68, a one-shot lead over D.J. Trahan and a little peeved at himself.
“I’m pretty annoyed at the way I finished, but I’m happy with where I am and how I’m playing,” said Ogilvy, who was at 11-under 135.
Trahan made a 40-foot eagle putt on the 15th and birdied the other par 5 on the back nine for a 66, putting him in the final group. Another shot back was Ernie Els, who twice missed 2-foot putts and dumped a pitch shot into the bunker at No. 14.
“If I made some putts, I could have had a low one, and I knew today was the day to get a low one,” Els said after a 69. “I’m there, but I feel like I could be a lot better. But it’s fine. It’s the first week of the year, and I guess I’ve just got to be patient.”
Davis Love III birdied the last two holes to salvage a 70, leaving him in a large group that was four shots behind, while Boo Weekley took a double bogey on the 18th when he four-putted from 12 feet.
“I pulled the first one, pulled the next one, then I done blew my top,” said Weekley, who had to settle for a 70.
With such a mild breeze for most of the day – rare for these parts – and warm sunshine, several players worked their way back into contention with 36 holes remaining. Adam Scott, Justin Leonard, Camilo Villegas and Stewart Cink were among those who had a 66.
Leonard played with Villegas, and as they were walking down the 17th fairway, the Colombian asked Leonard if he could ever imagine playing the 561-yard par 4 into the wind. Leonard smiled.
“Yeah, I can,” he said, because he’s done just that.
A dozen players in the winners-only field of 33 players are playing Kapalua for the first time. Several others, such as Weekley and Ogilvy, have not been here long enough to experience the Kona wind, which is in the forecast.
“I’m sure it will be a bit awkward,” Ogilvy said. “The clubs off the tees are automatic. If it turns around, you have to start thinking. It’s just going to have to make us not play automatically, so we really have to start thinking about it.”
Ogilvy doesn’t have to think about going an entire tournament without a bogey.
He hit a good putt from 85 feet on the 17th, just 5 feet to the right of the cup. But the par putt spun 360 degrees around the hole for his first bogey of the year.
Worse yet, it eliminated a margin he had built to four shots at the turn with some superb golf. Ogilvy closed out the front nine with five birdies in a six-hole stretch, two of them with delicate wedges. One came at the downhill sixth, from the right rough, a shot that typically rolls off the ridge if it doesn’t land in a spot as small as a trash bin. Ogilvy did just that, with the ball stopping 4 feet away.
Then on the ninth, after gouging a 7-iron out of the rough and over a valley, he trapped his wedge to negate the wind and played just enough spin to leave himself another 4-foot birdie putt.
Trahan kept hanging around, and the long eagle putt got him into the mix.
“A tremendous gift,” Trahan said. “At no point did I expect to make that putt. It had 15 feet of break in it. I was hoping to two-putt, so it was awesome.”