Walker, Matsuyama Third Rd Overnight Leaders at Hyundai Tournament of Champions

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It was a brilliant day for golf at Kapalua. Sunny skies, high of 80 degrees, normal trade winds WSW at 10 mph…. I sat in the bleachers on 18 and enjoyed watching the birdies being tallied up on this very long par 5. Even defending champion Zach Johnson, who is among the Tour’s shorter hitters, was just off the green in two strokes, putting for an eagle.
 
Rob Sheldon, a club pro and former manager at Kapalua’s golf courses, was sternly overlooking the action as a sort of 18th green guardian… “Hi Rob,” I called to him. He was telling me a lot of the pros were chipping and pitching their third shots at the front-of-green hoe placement and that “I’d be putting those”.
 
A few minutes later, Zach was doing what Rob had suggested and his putt left him over 10-feet short of the hole. A tough little shot to judge rolling over that much fairway, in Johnson’s case, about 20-feet of it, roughly.
 
But like all of these guys, Zack stood over that 10-foot, 8-inch putt and drained it with little emotion or fanfare. Like it was in his wheelhouse, and likely it is.
 
The third round of almost any golf event is a fun day because we all know there is more to come. It isn’t the very beginning, where we have no idea who is going to do what, or what will happen weather-wise or if there will be some controversy to hamper the festivities, but it is well into the event and by now, we usually have some idea who is going to be in the final groups, who we will be watching for.
 
I’m unsure how PGA Tour events on the mainland compare, but I will say that here, in the northwest corner of Maui, they do it well. Hyundai literally had a showroom for their cars built in tent form. Two gals from California were greeters and the shiny new automobiles were on display along with a couched sitting area with flat screen TVs showing the live broadcast. People were sitting there watching the golf as if they were at home! Maui has come a long way.
 
Local merchants rent tent space to grab the eyes of the spectators too, only there aren’t exactly mobs in attendance here. Yes, there are a good 400 or 500 solid here, a wild guess, and probably just enough for the organizers.
 
I wandered into the media room and saw Ralph Minamoto, president of the Maui nor Golf Association sitting with his two fellow volunteers watching the action on TV as well. Maui News reporter Robert Collias came over to say hi, and the people running the show were busy at what they do.
 
The machine that presents this event is the PGA Tour, and it is a conglomeration of many entities… all big and very good at what they do. Golf Channel and NBC Sports teams had announcers set up with camera crews, big defector panels, generated lights… the works just to say their piece about whatever that wanted to talk about.
 
As a bystander, coming to watch golf, it is an impressive sight to see all of this manpower and effort for 34 men swatting a ball around. TV has come a long way from one guy and a mic and maybe a couple of cameras. It’s just something huge, akin to the Superbowl or something. Really, it is at its apex, golf on TV. I have never witnessed anything more spectacular.
 
I went into the interview room where third-round co-leader Jimmy Walker was being asked questions about his round. I have not asked anyone anything in five years and usually Dave Ward is doing the talking, so as I was handed the mic by Ralph, and began to ask my question, my poor heart felt as though it was in a vice. I literally thought I was about to buy it right there in the middle of the thing! Good grief….
 
Q. (Indiscernible) (that was supposed to be “Mark Rolfing”) said yesterday that he felt the course was actually relatively short compared to a lot of courses on TOUR because 17 and 18 and 1 is really where the bulk of the yardage is and they all play downhill, downwind.  I’m just curious how the course feels to you.  Does it feel relatively long?  Short?
 
JIMMY WALKER:  It just depends on the wind, I think.  You know, like today some of the holes that I was thinking were going to play a lot longer didn’t.  You could catch and ride the wind a little bit.  You know, the par‑3s with the exception of two, they seem relatively short, just kind of wind dependent.  But I think the golf course isn’t playing that fast.  The ball doesn’t‑‑ I don’t think it’s rolling.  I think everybody would agree it’s not playing that fast.  So it could be playing a lot shorter, I think.  But it still feels soft out there.  We were picking up some mud.  I almost feel like it either rained last night or they put a little water on some of the fairways.
 
Had I not been nearly doubled over on the floor, holding my near-stopped heart, I would have asked him the question again, as that answer seemed oblique and vague. The wind, as it was reported, was only 10mph and a standard trade. It was hardly howling.But, I was too feeble and so the answer was never truly received.
 
We will go back up there today, Monday, to watch the final round. Those who are far down the leaderboard, they are already mentally gone. Their minds are about packing their bags or moving on. They will be paid no less that some $70,000 for their five days of work, so they will go out on the Monday final round and play with very little to worry about other than catching a ride to their private jets… probably wondering if they will have crab legs or lobster during the red eye back to the mainland no doubt.
 
The last day of the event comes and goes so quickly and it is somewhat of an anticlimax. For spectators, they park miles away, shuttle in on busses, and walk to the 18th or maybe the 11th holes to watch. In hours, the show is over and the tents are being taken down. The circus has come and gone.
 
Play for the final round begins in about four minutes, and we have a bit of a drive, so I leave you with the Tour’s official release from the third round:

 

2015 Hyundai Tournament of Champions
(8th of 43 events in the PGA TOUR Season)
Kapalua, Maui, HI
January 9-12, 2015                                  
Purse: $5,700,000 ($1,140,000)
The Plantation Course, Kapalua Resort                                                  
Par/Yards: 36-37—73/7,452
Third-Round Notes – Sunday, January 11, 2015
Weather
Sunny skies, high of 80 degrees, WSW 10 mph
Third-Round Leaderboard
Hideki Matsuyama         70-66-66—202   (-17)
Jimmy Walker               67-68-67—202   (-17)
Patrick Reed                 67-69-68—204   (-15)
Sang-Moon Bae            66-69-69—204   (-15)
Brendon Todd               69-67-69—205   (-14)
Russell Henley              65-70-70—205   (-14)
The third-round leader has gone on to win the Hyundai Tournament of Champions 23 of 30 times, the most recent being Steve Stricker in 2012. The third-round leader has won three of the seven PGA TOUR events so far in the 2014-2015 season.
Hideki Matsuyama
Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, in the field thanks to his victory at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide Insurance, shot a third-round 7-under-66, his second consecutive 66, and is tied for first with Jimmy Walker after 54 holes at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The 132 total is the lowest consecutive two-round score of Matsuyama’s career.
This is the second time that the 22 year-old has led or shared the lead through 54 holes of a PGA TOUR event. He finished T10 at the 2014 Crowne Plaza Invitational last year in the only other occasion.
R3 at a glance: 13 of 15 fairways, 16 of 18 greens, 26 putts
R2 at a glance: 11 of 15 fairways, 16 of 18 greens, 28 putts
R1 at a glance: 7 of 15 fairways, 15 of 18 greens, 31 putts
At 22 years, 10 months and 19 days old, Matsuyama would not be the youngest winner in Hyundai Tournament of Champions history. Tiger Woods won the event in 1997 at 21 years and 13 days of age.
This is Matsuyama’s first trip to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The last player to win this event in their first appearance was Daniel Chopra in 2008.
With his win at the Memorial last year, Matsuyama became the fourth Japanese-born player to win on the PGA TOUR, joining Ryuji Imada (2008 AT&T Classic), Shigeki Maruyama (2001 Greater Milwaukee Open, 2002 HP Byron Nelson Championship, 2003 Wyndham Championship) and Isao Aoki (1983 Sony Open in Hawaii).
Jimmy Walker
2014 Sony Open in Hawaii winner Jimmy Walker is at 17-under-par, tied for the lead with Hideki Matsuyama after a third-round 67. Walker is making his second start at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, finishing T21 last year with rounds of 73-73-67-72.
R3 at a glance: 12 of 15 fairways, 15 of 18 greens, 27 putts
R2 at a glance: 10 of 15 fairways, 14 of 18 greens, 29 putts
R1 at a glance: 9 of 15 fairways, 17 of 18 greens, 32 putts
Walker is making his fourth start of the 2014-15 Season, with a T4 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open his best outing.
Last season, Walker enjoyed his best season on TOUR, finishing No. 7 in the FedExCup standings, with wins at the Frys.com Open, Sony Open in Hawaii and AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
This is the second time in Walker’s career that he has led or shared a lead through 54 holes. He won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am after his only other third-round lead.
Walker is trying to become the fifth player to win both the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open in Hawaii while both events are being contested in Hawaii. Last year, Zach Johnson became the fourth player to win each of the PGA TOUR’s Hawaii events Jim Furyk (1996 Sony; 2001 Tournament of Champions),  Ernie Els (2003-04 Sony; 2003 Tournament of Champions), Vijay Singh (2005 Sony; 2007 Tournament of Champions), Johnson (2009 Sony, 2014 Tournament of Champions).
Five other players won the Sony Open and the Tournament of Champions when it was played in California — Jack Nicklaus (1974 Sony; 1963-64, 1971, 1973, 1977 Tournament of Champions); Lee Trevino (1968 Sony; 1981 Tournament of Champions); Lanny Wadkins (1988, 1991 Sony Open, 1982-83 Tournament of Champions); Paul Azinger (1991 Sony; 1990 Tournament of Champions) and Mark O’Meara (1985 Sony; 1996 Tournament of Champions).
It took 188 starts on the PGA TOUR for Jimmy Walker to win for the first time (2013 Frys.Com Open in the first event of the 2013-2014 season). A victory on Sunday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions would be his fourth in his next 30 tournaments.
Walker has one bogey in his first 54 holes this week coming on the 17th hold during the second round.
Patrick Reed
The 2014 Humana Challenge and World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship winner Patrick Reed shot a third-round 5-under-par 68 and is tied for third, two shots off the lead entering the final round.
This is Reed’s second appearance at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He finished T14 at the event last year.
With a victory, Reed would have four PGA TOUR wins at the age of 24 years, 5 months and 8 days. He would join Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia as the only players in the last 20 years to record 4-plus wins at 24 years or younger.
Player ages when they won for the fourth time
Tiger Woods – 21 years, 3 months, 15 days (1997 Masters)
Rory McIlroy – 23 years, 3 months, 9 days (2012 PGA Championship)
Sergio Garcia – 24 years, 5 months, 5 days (2004 Buick Classic)
In all three of Reed’s victories, he held or shared the third-round lead. He has yet to win in come-from-behind fashion.
Reed has yet to bogey a hole on the back nine in three rounds and has birdied the 18th hole all three days.
R3 at a glance: 10 of 15 fairways, 14 of 18 greens, 27 putts
R2 at a glance: 8 of 15 fairways, 13 of 18 greens, 29 putts
R1 at a glance: 8 of 15 fairways, 17 of 18 greens, 29 putts
Sang-Moon Bae
South Korea’s Sang-Moon Bae joins Patrick Reed at T3, two strokes off the lead and the pair will play in the penultimate group for the final round. Bae won the first event of the 2014-2015 season at the Frys.Com Open and ranks No. 2 early in the FedExCup standings.
R3 at a glance: 12 of 15 fairways, 16 of 18 greens, 31 putts
R2 at a glance: 10 of 15 fairways, 16 of 18 greens, 31 putts
R1 at a glance: 11 of 15 fairways, 17 of 18 greens, 29 putts
Bae is making his second consecutive start at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions after finishing T21 in 2014.
Bae finished the 2013-2014 season ranked No. 122 in the FedExCup standings without recording a single top-10 finish in 24 starts. He has two top-10 finishes in just three events (1st– Frys.com Open, T5 – CIMB Classic) so far in the 2014-2015 season.
Zach Johnson
Defending champion Zach Johnson started the round in a four-way tie for first place after rounds of 68-67. After an even-par 73 in the third round, he now sits six strokes off the lead. After hitting all 18 greens during the second round, Johnson hit just 13 greens in regulation on Sunday.
Johnson is seeking to become the first repeat winner of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions since Geoff Ogilvy won in 2009-10. Since the event moved to Kapalua in 1999, Stuart Appleby is the only other player to win back-to-back, doing so in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
Miscellaneous Notes
Five of the top six players on the leaderboard heading into the final 18 holes are in their 20s. Hideki Matsuyama (T1, 22 years), Patrick Reed (T3, 24 years), Sang-Moon Bae (T3, 28 years), Russell Henley (T5, 25 years) and Brendon Todd (T5, 29 years).
First-time participants at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions: Brendon Todd (T5), Robert Streb (T7), Hideki Matsuyama (T1), Ben Martin (T11), Brian Harman (T30), Seung-Yul Noh (T15), Matt Jones (T11), Steven Bowditch (T25), Nick Taylor (T27), Chesson Hadley (T18), Matt Every (T27).
First-time participant Kevin Stadler withdrew during the third round due to a hand/wrist injury.
Bogey-free rounds:
R1: Russell Henley (65), Robert Streb (67), Patrick Reed (67), Jimmy Walker (67), Matt Kuchar (68), Kevin Streelman (69), Brian Harman (70)
R2: Sang-Moon Bae (69), Ben Crane (67), Brendon Todd (67), Robert Streb (69), Jason Day (69)
R3: Jimmy Walker (66), Patrick Reed (68), Hunter Mahan (69), Billy Horschel (70)
Scoring Averages at the par-73 Plantation Course:
               Front 9                       Back 9              Total                 Cumulative
R1:          34.353                       35.118              69.471              —
R2:          34.618                       35.735              70.353              69.912
R3:          34.576                       35.818              70.394              70.069
John Byrne
John Byrne
Founded the Maui Golf Review in 1995.
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