Forecasted strong winds have players bracing for tougher test the rest of the way at Kapalua

January 03, 2020

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KAPALUA, Hawaii — The quirkiness of the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort—with its sloping fairways and hard-to-read greens—tends to produce a brand of golf seldom seen the rest of the year on the PGA Tour. It’s entertaining stuff as players execute a variety of shots.

It’s about to get more entertaining starting Friday at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Wind is coming. Maybe not the gusts up to 30-35 miles per hour some have been bracing for, but for the second round, winds might gather up speeds of more than 20 mph. That’s still enough to make for vastly tougher scoring conditions, especially on new greens that have been firmer than past years.

And they’re expecting more of the same on Saturday and Sunday, with winds forecasted around 25 mph.

The wind usually is a factor on Maui, and the Plantation Course was designed to allow for steady trade winds out of the south. But the heavier stuff makes a significant impact. It was on the minds of players after the first round Thursday, when Chile’s Joaquin Niemann took the lead with a seven-under 66.

“I’m going to maybe have nightmares,” said World No. 3 Jon Rahm when asked about the weather forecast, which also called for some rain that will make the newly renovated Plantation Course play a bit longer.

Rickie Fowler, who opened with a 68, was more ready to embrace the challenge.

“I’m going to still try to wear out fairways and greens if I can,” he said. “I think, from what I’ve seen in years past, as long as it’s not hard enough to where it’s keeping us off the golf course, the Tour usually does a good job of setting it up to where it’s still playable. It’s going to be tough, and there’s going to be some easier holes, there’s going to be some harder holes. But yeah, I love playing in the wind. I feel like it just kind of brings out the ball-striking. This golf course allows you to use your imagination and even more so in the wind."

According to Justin Thomas, who won at Kapalua in 2017, the key on Friday will be how to handle putting. Sure, you have to strike it well, but getting it in the hole takes on another level of calculations.

“Any time I ever watch golf it frustrates me how it’s never talked about, the wind and putts,” Thomas said after shooting 66 on Thursday. “Today it blew eight miles an hour, whatever it was, 10 miles an hour, and it affects putts. It’s plain and simple. So when it blows 25 to 35, you’ll have putts that are supposed to break a foot right to left and they’ll go the other way. There’s no putt that’s a gimme when it’s like that. You could hit a putt from this far and it’s dead straight, but if the wind picks up you’re going to miss it. But everyone has to play with it, so I’m just going to have to be patient and hopefully just kind of time it all right."

Wind often is a story at this tournament. It appears that it will be for the remainder of this edition, too.