A small gallery watched as Dean WIlson hit from near a cart path on No. 3 yesterday at Kapalua's Plantation Course.
Kaneohe’s Wilson struggles to a 7-over 80
KAPALUA, Maui » Dean Wilson began and ended his day well enough. Now, if he could only figure out those 16 holes in between.
The Kaneohe resident's tap-in birdie on the last hole gave him an 80 in his opening round yesterday at the Mercedes-Benz Championship. The fact he only played the Plantation Course for the first time last Friday might have had something to do with his 7-over finish. Local knowledge of the sprawling par-73 course helps, especially on the greens.
Half of Wilson's shots were spent knocking it around the smooth, but tricky surfaces that often left him shaking his head in disbelief as he three-putted five times, twice from 20 feet. His poor putting left him with two double bogeys, including one on the par-5 15th.
"Yeah, it was a tough day out there," Wilson said. "The weather is tough. I didn't handle the greens very well. I three-putted five or six times, so I struggled."
He and playing partner Corey Pavin spent a lot of time over their shots trying to wait out the wind that howled through most of their round. When they teed it up at the 663-yard par-5 18th, the twosome in front of them had already cleared the green.
"If I played the course, maybe I would get to know the greens better, I guess," Wilson said. "It was tough out there trying to judge the grain, the slope and the wind. I don't know if I know the course any better.
"I just didn't get the putts on line. We took forever to play. We just couldn't keep still it was blowing so hard. Corey struggled a bit. He's a small guy and that wind was blowing us around."
Wilson had a small entourage, including his mother, who followed him from the opening hole until the end. Wilson got off to a fast start with a nice two-putt par, but followed that with a three-putt bogey at the second, a double bogey at the third -- thanks in part to an errant drive -- and another bogey at the fourth.
He made one of two birdies for the day at the par-5 fifth en route to a 39 on the front nine. Three bogeys at the par-3 11th, par-4 14th and par-4 17th, coupled with a double bogey at the 15th, had him at plus 8 as he stood at the tee on the famous final hole. A solid drive and great second shot left him with a 15-foot eagle putt that he just missed. Ben Curtis' 81 was the only score worse than Wilson's.
"I'll go hit some putts," Wilson said after exiting the 18th green. "It seems it's the part I struggle with when I come to Hawaii. We don't have grain anywhere on tour like this. You throw in some slopes and wind, and it's a struggle for me. Everyone else seems OK with it, but it's a struggle for me.
"This is just another tournament. I wanted to play well. Corey and I were hitting shots as low as we can. It's tough hitting 5-irons from 140 yards uphill into the wind. Everybody is excited that someone from Hawaii is in the field and they're pulling for me. At least I still have three more days to try to do the best I can."
Only five return: Three-time defending champion Stuart Appleby is one of only five golfers who played in this winners-only event last year. The other four are Vijay Singh, David Toms, Geoff Ogilvy and Jim Furyk. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson both qualified last year, but opted not to play this year again. Mickelson hasn't played here since 2001 and Woods has skipped out two years in a row.
Singh is seeking his eighth top-10 finish at Kapalua. This is the third time in 11 Mercedes appearances that Singh has held or shared the lead after the opening round. He has played in all but one of the Mercedes events since it moved to Maui in 1999. Woods is second with six top-10 finishes here, including winning the tournament in 2000. Furyk is next with five top-10 finishes. He won in 2001.
Furyk has opened eight consecutive Mercedes tournaments with a sub-par round, including yesterday's 2-under 71.
Inside the numbers: The par-4 13th was the most difficult hole in yesterday's opening round with a scoring average of 4.500. There was not a single birdie made by any of the 34 golfers in the field at that hole. Three other holes surrendered only one birdie -- the par-4 third, the par-4 10th and the par-3 11th. Arron Oberholser made the birdie at the third hole, Rory Sabbatini at the 10th and Trevor Immelman at the 11th.
There were only two eagles in the opening round and both were at the par-5 ninth. Will MacKenzie had one and Brett Wetterich managed the other. The easiest hole was the par-5 fifth with a scoring average of 4.471. There were 19 birdies and one bogey.
The scoring average for the opening 18 holes was 74.036. The only higher opening round was a 75.003 in 2000, the year Woods beat Ernie Els in a playoff. Last year, the scoring average for the first day was 70.387.