Golf Buzz

January 4, 2017 - 3:31pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Kapalua
USA Today Sports Images
The 663-yard, par-5 18th hole at Kapalua's Plantation Course yields some of the coolest shots you'll see on the PGA Tour all year long. We'll get to see it again this week when the SBS Tournament of Champions tees off on Thursday.

One of the wildest holes in golf will be on display this week at Kapalua's Plantation Course, home of the PGA Tour's SBS Tournament of Champions.

The hole we're talking about? The rollercoaster that is the 663-yard, par-5 18th.

This hole is, well, just awesome.

The backdrop is magnificent. As you tee it up on the final hole, you're looking out at the Pacific Ocean and the island of Molokai. It's not uncommon to see whales breaching throughout the day in that spot.

RELATED: SBS Tournament of Champions tee times/pairings | Groups to watch at Kapalua

The terrain is dramatic. If you thought the paradise that is Maui was relatively flat, you'd be wrong. The elevation changes at Kapalua can be crazy and no hole out there is more dramatic than the last. It's straight downhill and -- when caught in a downwind situation -- can lead to some of the longest drives you'll ever see.

Tiger Woods blasted a 498-yard drive on the 18th at Kapalua during the 2002 Tournament of Champions, which remains the longest drive in PGA Tour history recorded by ShotLink.

According to our friends at Golf News Net, 11 of the longest drives in PGA Tour history were hit on Kapalua's 18th hole with a remarkable 10 of those coming in 2002.

GNN also has this incredible nugget:

Kapalua's Plantation Course has given up the overwhelming number of 400-yard-plus drives in PGA Tour history. In the history of the PGA Tour's use of ShotLink, there have been 437 drives of 400 or more yards dating back to Casey Martin being the first to do it in 2001. Of those 437 drives of 400 yards or more, 233 were at the Plantation Course. Another 56 have come at Firestone Country Club's South Course, home of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Another 41 came at LaCantera Country Club, former home to the Valero Texas Open. Three courses account for 330 of the 437 400-yard-plus drives in the PGA Tour's history of using ShotLink.

Many of those 233 at the Plantation Course were on 18.

Davis Love III, who recently captained the winning 2016 Ryder Cup USA team at Hazeltine, smashed a 476-yard drive on the hole in 2004.

While watching players absolutely unload at the 18th hole is a thrill, there are other mind-blowing shots that have been struck there, most notably, this driver off the deck by Bubba Watson with his second shot in 2011:

 

 

How good was that?

In 2015, Jason Day thumped the grandstands to the right of the 18th fairway with a wayward approach and got a gift of a bounce from the golf gods that set up an up and down for birdie:

 

 

Patrick Reed has a sweet eagle on No. 18 in the opening round of the 2016 tournament thanks to this approach:

 

 

In last year's third round, Jordan Spieth nearly had a walk-off albatross, missing the hole by inches with a 3-iron from 250 yards out:

 

 

How about this 56-foot eagle putt that Robert Garrigus canned in 2011?

 

 

So, yeah, with shots like those -- more of which we're almost guaranteed to see this week -- we're pretty pumped about golf that matters on TV starting up again on Thursday.
 

January 4, 2017 - 1:19pm
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth
USA Today Sports Images
Dustin Johnson and Jordan Spieth will be the marquee pairing at Kapalua this week. Both players are major winners and both have won at Kapalua.

After a month-and-a-half long layoff, the PGA Tour's 2016-17 schedule resumes this week in paradise -- the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort on the Hawaiian island of Maui -- for the SBS Tournament of Champions.

As the tournament's name indicates, criteria for eligibility of this event requires players to have won on Tour over the last 12 months.

In all, 32 players will be teeing it up this week, with world No. 1 Jason Day headlining and making his first start since having to withdraw die to back discomfort at the Tour Championship back in September.

RELATED: SBS Tournament of Champions tee times/pairings | Bubba debuts pink golf ball

Here's a look at three pairings you'll want to focus your attention on in the first two rounds of the tournament...

3. Justin Thomas and Hideki Matsuyama. Arguably two of the best young players in the game today, both players already boast victories in the new season. Thomas was a repeat winner in October -- his first PGA Tour title defense -- at the CIMB Classic.

For his part, it's safe to say that Matsuyama is the hottest player on the planet going into Kapalua. The Japanese star enters 2017 after closing out 2016 win three consecutive victories, including the WGC-HSBC Champions and the unofficial Hero World Challenge. He's had a stretch of five tournaments with four victories. The 24-year-old, already a three-time PGA Tour winner, could be the breakout star of the new year.

2. Patrick Reed and Jason Day. Remember Patrick Reed's interview a few years back when he said he considered himself a "top-5 player in the world," and we all laughed at his brash arrogance? Though he hasn't reached top-5 status just yet, the joke could be on all of us very soon. The Ryder Cup USA hero begins 2017 as the No. 8-ranked player in the world... and his last two starts at Kapalua have resulted in a playoff win (2015) and a runner up (2016). With a strong finish to the 2015-16 Tour season and that awesome performance at Hazeltine, there's no reason to think Reed won't be a tough customer at Kapalua.

As we already mentioned, Day will be making his first start since the Tour Championship. The current world No. 1 withdrew in his last two starts on Tour back in September because of back problems. Are those behind him now? We'll see soon enough. But it's always exciting to see the Aussie in action, a player who has racked up eight wins on the PGA Tour since February of 2015.

1. Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson. These Ryder Cup USA teammates will be "THE" pairing to follow through the first two rounds at Kapalua, a course where the pair of major champions have a win apiece.

Over the last several years, both players have proven themselves to be contenders nearly every time they tee it up. That should be no different this week. Spieth enters as the fifth-ranked player in the world, while Johnson comes in at No. 3 after a career year on Tour in which he won his first major championship (the U.S. Open at Oakmont).

Kapalua is already a birdie-friendly venue. With these two, the "best ball" number will be crazy, crazy low.