KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) – Chris Kirk kept busy the last two months of the year off the golf course. The 30-year-old from Georgia is back in the gym.
"I always worked out in college and my first five years as a pro," Kirk said. "It's been lacking in the last three years since I had kids."
Kirk has been spending time at SPARC, a sports performance center in Athens and is in the early stages of a program that is more geared toward the back end of his career than the 2016 season.
Recent history is enough to give him pause.
"When I stopped working out, I had the best year I ever had," Kirk said with a laugh. "Then the following year I started working with Scott (Hamilton) and got my golf game efficient and I had that huge season a year ago. This year I played well, I just didn't putt quite as well and my ball striking was so-so for the standard I set for myself. But I started thinking, `What am I going to be like 10 years from now?'
"Where I'm at now is fine," he said. "But I need to start going in the other direction instead of further away from being fit."
NEW TATTOO: Rickie Fowler showed up at Kapalua with a new tattoo packed with plenty of meaning.
It likely won't be seen by the public because it's on the underside of his left bicep and covered by the sleeve of his shirt. He showed it proudly over the weekend. It's three words written in Japanese – the name of his grandfather, Yutaka Tanaka.
Yutaka is Fowler's middle name.
ONE AND NOT DONE: Woody Blackburn is believed to have his own footnote in the history of the Tournament of Champions.
He has one individual title in his PGA Tour career. He has made two appearances in this winners-only event.
The Tournament of Champions, which began in 1963 in Las Vegas, wasn't always the season opener. In 1985, it was held in May at La Costa a few weeks after the Masters. Blackburn won the Andy Williams San Diego Open at Torrey Pines that year in a playoff, and that got him into the Tournament of Champions, where it finished 11th.
The PGA Tour then decided to move the event to the start of the year, and it took all the winners from 1985.
Blackburn returned to the Tournament of Champions the next January and finished 30th in a 31-man field.
BEEN A LONG TIME: Brad Whittle, the caddie for Russell Knox, had a lucrative end to his season. Knox not only won the HSBC Champions (worth $1.4 million), he flew to Mexico and lost in a playoff, making $545,600.
That's nearly $200,000 for Whittle in two weeks, and while the money was great, being on a winning bag leaves a good taste – especially when it had been more than 20 years since Whittle experienced winning.
"That was a long time," Whittle said.
How long? He was working in 1994 for David Frost when he beat Greg Norman in the Greater Hartford Open. Whittle also has been the caddie for a major champion. His previous win was with Wayne Grady at Shoal Creek in the 1990 PGA Championship.
DIVOTS: Brooks Koepka (formerly Titleist) and Tony Finau (Callaway) are among 10 players who have signed with Nike. ... Westgate Las Vegas Superbook has listed Jordan Spieth at 6-1 for winning two majors this year, and 100-1 to win the Grand Slam. It has Rory McIlroy at 15-2 to win two majors and 150-1 to win all four, and Jason Day at 12-1 to win two majors and 250-1 for a sweep of them. ... Lance Bennett, who formerly caddied for Matt Kuchar, is now with Bill Haas through at least the West Coast Swing. ... Fourteen players are making their debut at Kapalua. That includes Padraig Harrington of Ireland, who was always taking a long winter break when he previous won on tour.
STAT OF THE WEEK: The wraparound season has produce this anomaly: The Tournament of Champions has two rookies in the field – Emiliano Grillo and Smylie Kaufman, who won in the fall.
FINAL WORD: "I thought the U.S. Open would make me happier. It made me happy, but you start looking forward to the next thing, and then you get lost." – 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell.
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