TURTLE BAY CHAMPIONSHIP
Simpson off to flying start
Scott Simpson soared yesterday on his first hole of the year, carding a rare eagle on a par 4.
While he was elated to see his 167-yard 6-iron roll into the cup to start 2006 at 2-under, Simpson knew to not get too excited. Champions Tour rookies like him are actually wily 50-year-old veterans who have seen pretty much everything in golf.
"There's two ways to look at it," the 1987 U.S. Open champion and former Kailua resident said. "It's a great way to start the year, or, it can only go downhill from here."
Then Simpson, already grinning, laughed. He could afford to; the eagle was the start of a 3-under-par taming of the windy Arnold Palmer Course for a first-round 69 at the Turtle Bay Championship.
He was three strokes behind first-round leader Loren Roberts, tied for fourth with Mark Johnson, Kiyoshi Murota and Jim Thorpe. Bruce Summerhays was second at 67 and Don Pooley third at 68.
Simpson said the round was fun, but it wasn't easy.
"It's tough out there. The greens are perfect, but there's a couple downhill, downwind putts," he said. "They get pretty quick."
So quick that playing partner Morris Hatalsky rolled one right off the putting surface on No. 17.
"I don't think he's smiling," Simpson said.
He could be this afternoon, though. Hatalsky finished at even par, and the solid Champions Tour vet had a chance to play himself back into the red numbers today, just like the rest in the field that struggled or scrambled in the wind. One thing Simpson's noticed in his five events on this circuit is the players don't go on tilt as often as they do on the PGA Tour.
"This tour's more relaxed, so it might help the guys who get mad," Simpson said. "Craig Stadler said the only guys who have trouble out here are the ones who think they should still be on the regular tour."
Simpson chuckled again, and quickly added, "I don't."
In two weeks, Simpson will be at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where he reunites with protege Parker McLachlin (the Punahou graduate last seen yesterday tearing up the Nationwide Tour's event in Panama).
Simpson, who caddied for McLachlin at the Sony Open two weeks ago, will play at Pebble Beach with the man who portrayed the game's most famous groundskeeper: Bill Murray, who played Carl Spackler in the film "Caddyshack."
The Champions Tour isn't quite as loose as a round with funny man Murray, but it is less stressful than the round-to-round, week-to-week grind of Simpson's younger days.
"It's different, (but) I don't know if you have to change anything. Obviously, it's different than the regular tour, but it's very competitive, a lot of good players out there," Simpson said. "I really like it out here. It's fun and relaxing. Play goes quicker, there's no cut. I don't see any negatives with it."
He did bogey three holes yesterday, but birdied four with putts ranging from 4 to 20 feet.
"I had a good round today, but I've got a long way to go," Simpson said. "I have zero complaints."
Two other players with local ties, Dave Eichelberger (Oahu Country Club) and David Ishii (Pearl Country Club) shot 1 over, Ishii finishing with a birdie on No. 18.
Stan Souza (Waialae Country Club) shot a 75 after making the field through the Monday qualifier.