Monday, January 10
The Byrd Man of Kapalua
ALTHOUGH I CONFESS I was mostly watching the NFL playoffs, I’m inclined to say it was a solid start to the PGA Tour season. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort had an exciting finish and its share of side drama. Jonathan Byrd outlasted Robert Garrigus in a sudden-death playoff to take the season opener. It was Byrd’s fifth and most prestigious win, coming in a winners-only field.
After being in jeopardy of losing his PGA Tour card late in the 2010 season, Byrd has won two consecutive starts, both of them in playoffs. Talk about breathing new life into your game and career. Byrd has banked some serious coin and jumped 63 places in the world ranking to No. 58. I don’t think he’ll be sweating his card this year.
“I’m pretty overwhelmed,” the 32-year-old former Clemson University golfer said.
Garrigus blew a long putt by the cup on the second playoff hole and rimmed out the come-backer, which was definitely in the “throw-up” range. Nonetheless the gregarious Garrigus is not down on himself. He likes his start to the 2011 campaign.
“It’s not that big a deal,” said the man who last season shook off a collapse in Memphis and won the Children’s Miracle Network Classic. “I get a nice check [$635,000] and I get to go next week and relax and have some fun.”
Makes sense to me.
I still can’t get over Robert’s putter. It’s 28.5 inches. It looks like he stole it from a kid’s starter set. But, hey, whatever gets the ball in the cup. He made 26 birdies and two eagles, and ranked 11th on the greens. Not a bad week at all.
The opener also had enough subplots to keep it from being a tropical yawner with Tiger and Phil absent. Defending champion Geoff Ogilvy had a freak injury to his right-index finger that forced him to withdraw. Camilo Villegas had a rules infraction that got him DQ’d the day after it went down. Graeme McDowell tore it up on the final 18 and nearly caught Byrd and Garrigus at the finish, signing for a 62.
And Dustin Johnson and Natalie Gulbis are sweet on each other, I read.
A new tour season is underway, golf fans. As they say in those Bud Light spots, “Here we go.”
−The Armchair Golfer