Plantation Course is still 1 of Crenshaw’s favorites
HUALALAI, Hawaii » Ben Crenshaw hasn't been back to the Plantation Course at Kapalua that he helped design since they reseeded the greens two years ago, but he still keeps a close eye on the Mercedes-Benz Championship on the PGA Tour.
"No, I haven't been back, but I watched it on TV this year," Crenshaw said after opening the MasterCard Championship yesterday with a 7-under 65. "My partner, Bill Coore, went out there when they reseeded the greens and said it was going to come out just fine.
"And I watched it this year on television and it looked like they had a nice tradewind blowing. It blows so much in that spot. That's what I'm saying about Hawaii. That spot right there is totally different from here (Hualalai Golf Club). They have cooler nights, there. Different set of circumstances from here."
Crenshaw has spent as much time designing courses as he has playing golf on the Champions Tour the last five years, but one of his favorites is the one on Maui that he and Coore designed in 1991. It was one of their first collaborations.
A sprawling par-73, 7,411-yard course, Crenshaw conceded that he had walked it from No. 1 through the famed 663-yard closing hole that provides one of the more beautiful views in golf.
"Oh yeah, I've walked it," Crenshaw said. "Between five and six, that's pretty much of a chore there (of the quarter-mile walk uphill between the fifth green and the sixth hole. Players are allowed to ride in cars to get there).
"So yes, I think it's good what they've done there. They have a lot of play there other than the tournament, maybe 1,000-plus rounds. It's so exposed there (between Nos. 10 and 13). It really blows. It's like it knocks you down; rough, rough conditions there."
Turtle Bay field set: The only two golfers in the field of 41 who will skip next week's Turtle Bay Championship are Tom Watson and Bruce Lietzke.
Watson has already been in the island chain for two weeks after he and Jack Nicklaus won the Senior Skins on Maui last Sunday. Lietzke opened with an 80 at last year's event at Turtle Bay, eventually finishing in a tie for 67th. Watson fared much better with a tie for fourth.
Several others playing in this week's winners-only event are waiting on an alternate's list to see if they will be in the first-full tournament on the Champions Tour. They are 19th alternate Stewart Ginn, Pete Oakley (25th alternate) and Ron Streck (15th).
Fred Funk waited until Thursday before deciding to play next week. He opened 2007 on the PGA Tour by missing the cut at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Paired with Watson, Funk shot a 4-under 68 in yesterday's opening round of the MasterCard.
Other top players who will begin their 2007 campaigns at Turtle Bay are Isao Aoki, Chip Beck, Jim Colbert, Charles Coody, Wayne Levi and Curtis Strange. Local favorite David Ishii is also in the field on a sponsor's exemption.
Injury, what injury?: Brad Bryant's neck and shoulder began to hurt him so badly last spring, he went to the doctor to see what needed to be done. Fortunately for Bryant, he was playing the best golf of his life and decided he could live with the pain as long as his golf game remained intact.
Such was the case yesterday for Bryant, who was in pain, but still shot a 9-under 63 for a two-shot lead over defending champion Loren Roberts and Ben Crenshaw.
"High mileage," Bryant said when asked what exactly was wrong. "The years haven't been so bad, but the mileage is really high. Hopefully, it will get a little better soon. It's chronic. It's going to hurt until I maybe let them get around to fixing it."
As well as Roberts and Jay Haas played last year, Bryant still finished third on the money list to them thanks to a pair of wins and four second-place finishes. He's not interested in letting anything get in his way.
"When I found out my neck was hurt -- and I really don't want to talk about this much," Bryant began. "You shoot 63, you don't walk in and say, man I'm really in pain. All of the guys out here are fighting some kind of nagging injury. At our age, doing the same thing over and over again, something's going to give.
"When I found out my neck was in pretty bad shape, I was probably playing some of the best golf of my life. I just told the doctor in the spring, you know what? Until my golf game gets in bad shape, I'll see you."
Inside the numbers: Gary Player found a good way to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary yesterday by shooting two strokes better than his age with a 3-under 69. He and his wife, Vivienne, are in the islands for a couple of weeks and Player couldn't be happier with how he's playing. He began the year competing in the Senior Skins last week on Maui.
Hale Irwin made his 12th appearance in this tournament, the longest of anyone in the 41-man field. Irwin won this event in 1997 and was tied for second in 1998 and 2000. He shot a 6-under 66 yesterday, good enough for a tie for fourth.
Irwin has won eight Champions Tour events in the island chain, the Hawaiian Open in 1981 and three Senior Skins events to pocket nearly $3.9 million. His win streak at Turtle Bay was snapped at five by Roberts last year.
The scoring average yesterday was a blistering 68.829, but was a full stroke higher than last year's 67.543 with 35 men in the field. The easiest hole was the par-5 10th with a scoring average of 4.146. There were three eagles, 29 birdies and nine pars. The hardest hole was the par-3 fifth with a scoring average of 3.293. There were four birdies, 25 pars, nine bogeys, two double bogeys and one triple by Lanny Wadkins, who is in last place with a 2-over 74.