Legends Return to Maui’s Hallowed Ground

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It’s been years in the making, and it’s ready: Ka‘anapali is back! Slowly, methodically, and with little fanfare, Maui’s jewel of a golf resort has come full circle with dazzling new facilities, its two famed courses modernized for today’s golfer, and two TOURs represented on its famed fairways. Arnie, Jack, and six legendary players from the Champions TOUR tested the Royal Ka‘anapali Course’s might, and Ka‘anapali Golf Resort’s PGA general manager Ed Kageyama was on the scene from shot-to-shot. Here now is Ed’s take on the event, hole-by-hole, as he shows you not only the riveting action, but the holes themselves, as played by the legends of the game.

Ed: This was truly a special event for us here at Ka‘anapali Golf Resort, as it marks the return of the greatest players in the history of the game to the golf resort that put Maui on the map. I’ll be taking you through the tournament hole by hole—let’s get down to the action!

Hole 1

The Second Shot

The 519-yard par 5 opening hole at the Royal Ka‘anapali Course has water lurking along the right from tee-to-green, where Loren Roberts’ drive wound up. But there is plenty of room to the left, and after Jay Haas draws his tee shot into the fairway, Arnold Palmer watches his approach sail to the back of the green—setting up a potential eagle, and an eventual birdie, to tie Jack and Tom—who also birdie from 5-1/2 feet.

Hole 2

The Putt

The uphill, 190-yard par 3 third is tricky, with prevailing winds usually coming straight at you. It is a deep green, sloped from back-to-front, so it can play even longer. During the 2008 Wendy’s Champions TOUR Skins Game, the pin was back-left, which is a difficult placement. So much so, in fact, that a six-footer by Peter Jacobsen to save par was good enough to win two skins and $80,000 for him and his teammate, Fuzzy Zoeller.

Hole 3

The Wedge Shot

Tom Watson needed to play only a short wedge shot after teammate Jack Nicklaus drove a long ball down the right side of the 421-yard par 4 3rd. Watson’s ball came to rest 15 feet from the cup. Nicklaus sank it for a birdie to tie the team of Jacobsen and Zoeller, who had just a six- footer for theirs. Looking down at the green from the fairway, No. 3 is one of the most scenic holes on the Royal Ka‘anapali Course.

Hole 4

The Putt

Gary Player reacts after he sinks his putt on the 421-yard par 4 4th hole to force a carryover between himself and his teammate Loren Roberts, and the team of Arnold Palmer and Jay Haas. Both Haas and Roberts played fine approach shots to this large green, where a commanding view of the ocean and Molokai serve as a backdrop. Arnie made his birdie putt here first.

Hole 5

The Iron Shot

Jack’s huge drive opened the door for Tom Watson’s iron shot into the scenic, beachfront, 474-yard par 4 5th. When it stopped within 20 feet, it set up a much-needed birdie putt for Jack to potentially halve this hole worth a total of $140,000. The pressure was squarely on the Golden Bear’s shoulders, as Jacobsen’s own approach was a phenomenal 6-1/2 feet from the cup. As Jack sends his putt past the hole to the left, Zoeller eyes his line. He strokes the ball, and it finds the bottom of the cup. Zoeller and Jacobsen win three skins as a result.

Hole 6

The Spinning Wedge

Gary Player and Loren Roberts were just short of the green in two shots. The Konas had picked up, and Loren’s second came up just short. Gary, in typical fashion for him, knowing that birdie was a must to tie Jack and Tom, spun his wedge shot to within a foot. Loren tapped in for the bird.

Hole 7

The Hybrid Off-The-Tee

This was the tournament’s hole on day one. The 324-yard par 4 7th is a hole that requires a well-placed tee shot, preferably toward the left side of the fairway. That’s exactly what Loren Roberts did, leaving teammate Gary Player a wedge shot into this deep and undulating green. Player left Roberts with a 10-footer for birdie, and the smooth stroke Loren put on the ball was good enough for the birdie and a $30,000 skin.

Hole 8

The Greenside Chip

Jay Haas helps teammate Arnold Palmer force a carry-over on the 185-yard, uphill par 3 8th. Chipping from below the hole, just off of the green, Haas put his ball about a foot from the cup to make an easy kick-in par to tie Gary Player and Loren Roberts.

Hole 9

The Par-5 Second Shot

Hole No. 9 is a 485-yard par 5 that seems short, but is tricky. The fairway slopes to the left off the tee, where Peter Jacobsen’s tee shot came to rest after landing in the fairway. That caused Fuzzy to miss the green long and right, taking them out of the hole. Jay put his tee shot in the right rough, leaving Arnie with a tough second shot through the trees. The King pulled it off, and then canned his 20-foot birdie putt to force a carry over.

Hole 10

The Walk

There was a sense of history and camaraderie in the air as the legends of golf walked along the lush fairways at the Royal Ka‘anapali Golf Course. So many events have been won by these champions. To see them here together was captivating. But the game was afoot, and by the time the 10th hole was being decided, the gallery would roar as Jack’s birdie putt went in for three skins and $90,000.

Hole 11

The Bump & Run Shot

After Peter puts his tee shot into the middle of the fairway on the 424-yard par 4 11th, Fuzzy strikes an iron shot that trickles over the hole and winds up in the fringe. Peter knocks it still with a bump-and-run shot uphill and into the grain of these newly refreshed TifEagle greens.

Hole 12

The Bunker Shot

Tom Watson needed to play his approach a bit longer and found the bunker. Jack told Tom: “Don’t worry about it. I’ll hole a bunker shot.” Later, Jack recalled: “I hit one bunker shot yesterday and knocked it 25 yards over the green; it’s the only bunker shot I hit this year. Then, the ball went into the hole and I said, ‘Whew. Keep your mouth shut and act like you meant to do it.’” The shot forced a carry-over to the next hole.

Hole 13

Dialing It In

After Tom Watson drills his tee shot down the middle of the scenic 390-yard par 4 13th, son Steve Nicklaus helps his dad dial in the yardage to this uphill, deceptive green. The slope of the fairway tilts from left-to-right, and the prevailing winds follow suit. Hence, it is a tricky shot, which may be what prompted the Golden Bear to pull his wedge shot approach into the rough just off the green. No blood, though, as the hole was a carry-over.

Hole 14

The Gallery

No. 14 is a downhill, 405-yard par 4, which has a clover-shaped green that is best approached from the right side of the fairway. During the first day of the 2008 Wendy’s Champions Skins Game, the gallery was huge, following the four two-man teams around the hilly slopes of the Royal Ka‘anapali Golf Course. On every hole, throngs of golf fans enjoyed the closest and most hospitable access to the players, who enjoyed bantering with residents and visitors alike.

Hole 15

The Line

Jack and Tom search for the line on the 202-yard par 3 15th’s slippery green, with its tiers and undulations and grain. Judging which factor would have the most effect on the putt was crucial. As Jack stood over the ball and stroked the putt, the gallery stood and watched as it curled in around the lip. Nicklaus and Watson won five more skins and $180,000.

Hole 16

The Sand Save

Loren Roberts had little green to work with and knew he needed to get the team up-and-down for par to force a carry-over. The rough between his bunker and the green was heavy, and the ball was going to hit the downslope when it came down. Somehow, he managed to almost hole it out, leaving his partner, Gary Player, an eight-inch putt, which he made.

Hole 17

The One-Two Punch

The notorious 155-yard par 3 17th has taken its toll on the greatest golfers in the game. But this time, Gary Player wasn’t going to be fooled. His full 9-iron stopped just two feet from the cup. Then Loren Roberts followed up Gary’s good work by canning the putt for a birdie, three skins, and $150,000.

Hole 18

The Last Hole

The 440-yard par 4 18th is arguably one of the toughest finishing holes in competitive golf, and it held up to its reputation when the game’s greats found themselves facing a stiff Kona wind. During their first attempt, a 65-foot lag putt by Fuzzy nearly goes in, and a pulled birdie attempt by Jack forces a playoff.

The Playoff

The playoff is quickly narrowed down to two teams after Loren Roberts pulls his approach O.B., and Jay Haas finds the foliage in front of the green, necessitating a drop and a one-stroke penalty. From then on, it’s all Jack and Tom, Fuzzy and Peter, as both teams find themselves looking at the hole for their third shots from a distance: Peter has a down-grain 35-footer over a little ledge; Tom is in the back bunker staring at water. He blasted out of the sand to 22 feet short of the hole. Peter then lags his putt to within a foot. Jack misses his par-saving attempt to the left. Fuzzy holes out for the par and the win.

Ed: The Royal Ka‘anapali Course ends with such a dramatic finishing hole—the crown of 5,000 gathered along the entire hole to watch as these golfing legends battled it out for the last skin and the trophy. Now it’s time for you to give it a try

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