PGA TURTLE BAY CHAMPIONSHIP
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii golfer David Ishii plays in his only Champions Tour event of the year this week at Turtle Bay.
Wind and rain greet pros at Turtle Bay
The Champions Tour's first full-field event tees off tomorrow
» Turtle Bay tee times.
» Miyazato to play event at Ko Olina.
WHEN THE RAIN started blowing sideways during yesterday's pro-am at the $1.5 million Turtle Bay Championship, Ben Crenshaw and his amateur partners decided the best place to be was the clubhouse. They lasted about five holes.
David Ishii and his amateurs played all 18 in a little more than 5 hours as the weather remained uncooperative for most of the day as the Champions Tour prepares for tomorrow's first full-field event of the 2006 season.
MasterCard Championship at Hualalai winner Loren Roberts believes if somebody gets into double digits under par, he'll walk away with the $225,000 first-place check. Considering his final round on Sunday at the MasterCard was 11-under 61, that should give you a pretty good idea what the conditions were like at the soggy Arnold Palmer course.
Not that that should surprise anyone who has played at this event since it moved here in 2000. The trades love to vacation at the Turtle Bay Resort, giving the 78 seniors set to tee it up tomorrow beginning at 8:40 a.m. something else to think about. They can only hope the conditions are better
than they were yesterday.
They also have to hope Hale Irwin isn't at the top of his game as he prepares to defend his title for a sixth consecutive time. Irwin is the only winner of this event in the 21st century. He has whipped the par-72 course in the wind and the rain, and has tamed it when the kinder, gentler Kona breezes have visited these 18 North Shore holes.
But he is facing perhaps his sternest test, as 28 of the top 30 money winners from a year ago are here to enjoy the Hawaiian Islands experience, including Roberts, Crenshaw, Champions Tour rookie of the year Jay Haas, player of the year and 2005 top money winner Dana Quigley, Tom Watson, Gil Morgan, Craig Stadler, Tom Kite, Curtis Strange and Don Pooley, who went 24 under at the MasterCard last week and lost to Roberts.
There is also a formidable local contingent led by Ishii. Joining him will be Waialae's Stan Souza, Oahu Country Club's Dave Eichelberger and former Kailua resident Scott Simpson, who was recently a caddy for Parker McLachlin at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Simpson and Ishii, who both had success at Waialae through the PGA Tour years, are making their debut at this local event. Simpson joined the Champions Tour in September, playing in four events. His best finish was a tie for 18th. Simpson would like nothing better than to have a good showing in the state he once called home.
Ishii is also looking for a good performance after failing to make the senior circuit at the national qualifying tournament last year. Ishii not only braved the wind and rain yesterday, he spent some time working on his game at the range after the pro-am.
While Ishii is comfortable in his surroundings at Waialae, the Palmer Course is a different set of greens. Waialae's putting surfaces are fairly flat and are on the same slope. Out here, the greens undulate more and are difficult to read. It's taking Ishii a little time to adjust and the weather yesterday didn't help any.
"It was windy, and every so often we got a huge downpour," Ishii said of his pro-am experience. "It was fun. I had nice amateurs today. We finished. I heard afternoon groups were going to play only nine holes.
"I'm playing not bad. But out here the wind is a factor. The greens, to me, aren't that easy to putt. The greens go off in different ways. I feel like I'm playing all right, but like today, I started bogey, bogey, bogey, bogey. And I thought, 'Hopefully, I don't play like that in the tournament.' It's not easy when you get into that wind and rain."
This will be the only Champions Tour event Ishii plays. He has plans to compete in eight senior events in Japan and will give the Champions Tour qualifying school another go this year. He caught the mumps in Japan about six weeks before the qualifying tournament.
"I was out for three weeks," Ishii said. "In the tournament I wasn't hitting the ball that well. After I came back from the mumps, I didn't strike the ball too solidly. The first week after the mumps, I played in Japan and I was horrible. Then I went to the qualifying and I did all right, but the wind was really strong. A lot stronger than this.
"I have to win to get an automatic exemption on the Champions Tour. But I'm just going to go out, no expectations, just try to do the best I can, have fun, enjoy. I know I'll make the cut as long as I sign the card."
Ishii is still feeling the sting of missing the cut at the Sony Open by one shot. The 1990 United Airlines Hawaiian Open winner wishes he could have found one more birdie in his bag.
"Just missing the cut at the Sony by one, it was tough, but the regular tour is so hard because so many players shoot under par, shoot the same score," Ishii said. "Playing on the weekend the last day is a lot better than just playing two days. So this will be fun."
Japanese phenom Miyazato to play here
HONOLULU » Ai Miyazato, who secured an LPGA Tour card for this year with a record 12-shot margin of victory at last month's qualifying tournament, will play at the Fields Open in Hawaii, tournament officials said yesterday.
The $1.1 million Fields Open is a new golf tournament to be played Feb. 23-25 at the Ko Olina Golf Club.
Miyazato, 20, has won 12 times on the women's pro tour in her native Japan, including six times last year.
Hawaii phenom Michelle Wie, 16, has already committed to play in the tournament.
The event is sponsored by Fields Corp., a Tokyo-based maker of pinball-like games called pachinko that are popular in Japan.
Last month, Miyazato finished 12 shots ahead of Libby Smith and Lee Ann Walker-Cooper at the LPGA qualifying tournament in Florida, the largest margin of victory at LPGA Q-school since it began in 1973.
Miyazato had no trouble on the Legends course, building a seven-shot lead after three rounds and expanding that to 12 shots going into the final day.
A week before the Fields Open, Turtle Bay will host the SBS Open.
Turtle Bay Championship
At Turtle Bay Palmer Course
Tomorrow's tee times
8:40 a.m.: Bill Longmuir, Mitch Adcock, Kiyoshi Murota
8:51: Hajime Meshiai, Rick Karbowski, Massy Kuramoto
9:02: Bobby Wadkins, Mike McCullough, Keith Fergus
9:13: Morris Hatalsky, Andy Bean, Scott Simpson
9:24: Hubert Green, Howard Twitty, Dan Pohl
9:35: Dave Eichelberger, DeWitt Weaver, Danny Edwards
9:46: Ed Dougherty, Jerry Pate, Tom McKnight
9:57: Allen Doyle, Dave Barr, Gary Player
10:08: Tom Purtzer, Raymond Floyd, Ben Crenshaw
10:19: Bruce Summerhays, Isao Aoki, Jim Colbert
10:30: Mark McNulty, Gil Morgan, John Jacobs
10:41: Ron Streck, Tom Kite, Jim Ahern
10:52: Des Smyth, Larry Nelson, Vicente Fernandez
11:03: Dick Mast, Pat McGowan, David Ishii
11:14: Scott Masingill, Jack Ferenz, Stan Souza
11:25: Leonard Thompson, David Ishii, Mike Sullivan
11:36: Walter Hall, Bob Eastwood, Brad Bryant
11:47: James Mason, Hugh Baiocchi, Curtis Strange
11:58: Joe Inman, Graham Marsh, R.W. Eaks
12:09 p.m.: Jay Sigel, Rocky Thompson, Lonnie Nielsen
12:20: Loren Roberts, Jim Thorpe, Bruce Lietzke
12:31: Jay Haas, Bob Gilder, Don Pooley
12:42: Tom Jenkins, Mike Reid, Craig Stadler
12:53: Bruce Fleisher, Fuzzy Zoeller, Tom Watson
1:04: David Eger, Dana Quigley, Doug Tewell
1:15: Mark Johnson, Wayne Levi, Hale Irwin