TURTLE BAY CHAMPIONSHIP
Kite’s not happy with his play down the stretch in Hawaii
Despite finishing in a tie for second in both Champions Tour events in the island chain, making two blunders down the stretch that cost him $42,000 was all Tom Kite wanted to talk about at the end of yesterday's Turtle Bay Championship.
Kite never seriously threatened Fred Funk, who wound up winning the first full-field event of 2007 by a record 11 shots, but he did cost himself an outright second-place finish with a double bogey at the 17th and another bogey at the last.
The 57-year-old Texan's drive was right down the middle at the 17th, but landed in a muddy area of the course. That mud on his golf ball resulted in a second shot that wound up in an unplayable lie behind the green, forcing Kite to take a drop from the fairway.
He hit that shot in the rough to the left of the green, chipped up and one-putted for double bogey. Kite's 15-under total dropped to 13, but he still had a one-shot lead on four other golfers who were in at 12 under for the tournament.
"I had a bunch of mud on the ball at 17, but I still made a bad swing," Kite said. "You know, I've got a three-shot lead for second and I haven't missed a shot all day. I made a bad swing there and ended up making double.
"Then on 18, I drive it absolutely perfect, and of course, that's such a lousy golf hole, it goes into the left rough. I had a good lie there. I thought it would come out (but it landed in the water) and obviously I should have laid up. I didn't need it. I just misjudged that, made a bad shot and wasn't able to get it up and down. I made a lot of money for a lot of golfers on that hole."
Kite would have made $140,800 had he finished in second alone. Instead, he split second through sixth with defending champion Loren Roberts, Tom Purtzer, Denis Watson and Japan's Kiyoshi Murota, who was in on a sponsor's exemption. That came out to $98,560.
"I played really good for 52 holes," Kite said. "Obviously, Fred wasn't going to be caught, but there's nothing more I hate than stupidity. There's nothing you can say about the finish, other than it was dumb. I don't play dumb golf. Bad golf I can put up with. Stupid golf is ... well, it just doesn't make me happy to finish like that."
Roberts and Watson were a little more positive about their second-place finishes. Watson, who has a special medical extension to play on the Champions Tour, had never finished higher than 54th since joining the tour in 2005. His career earnings on the Champions Tour prior to this event were $8,082.
"It was a lot of fun," Watson said. "Getting those two birdies those last two holes was really big for me. I've been working on my attitude and this helps so much because I really had a great time this week. It's good to know I can still play like this."
As for Roberts, he wasn't able to defend the two titles he won in Hawaii last year, but he finished fourth at the MasterCard Championship last week and second here.
"We're coming out and we're actually better players in our late 40s than some of the other guys were," Roberts said of some of the young 50-somethings doing well on the Champions Tour. "The technology is better, the golf courses are fabulous and we've had just perfect weather.
"Fred and I had dinner the other night and it's a tossup to what tour we should be playing right now. One minute he's going to play the PGA Tour and the next minute he's going to play here. It's a nice problem to have. I still may play on the PGA Tour next year."
As for Murota, his top-10 finish allows him to play the Allianz Championship in Florida in two weeks. Normally, he would play the Pearl Open that weekend, but it's likely he'll make the 10-hour journey, especially after pocketing nearly $100,000 this week.
Ishii so close: David Ishii shook off the effects of his ho-hum 70 on Saturday to fire a 3-under 69 yesterday for a three-day total of 9-under 207. He will cash a check worth $25,008. By comparison, he made $180,000 the year he won the United Airlines Hawaiian Open.
On a sad front, had he shot 10 under for the tournament, he would have finished in the top 10 and been eligible to play in the next event in Florida. He wound up tied for 13th, the top local finisher in this tournament. Dave Eichelberger had a 70 yesterday to finish at 1-over 217 to earn $3,120.
Inside the numbers: Funk's 193 tied for the third-lowest 54-hole score in Champions Tour history. The all-time record of 191 by Bruce Fleisher was set at the 2002 RJR Championship and matched by Roberts at the 2006 MasterCard. Four other players also have managed a 54-hole score of 193.
Funk didn't have a bogey at this week's event and now has played 61 consecutive holes on the Champions Tour without a number in the black. Funk claimed 240 Charles Schwab Cup points, but will not be in contention for the $1 million annuity since he will play in only three more events on the Champions Tour.
Kite would have taken the lead in the Schwab Cup race had he managed to finish second outright. Hale Irwin is the leader with 290 points and Kite is second with 249. Irwin had won four events held at Turtle Bay coming into this week's event, but after a 74 on Friday, he settled for a tie for 28th at 6-under 210.
The field tournament average was 70.957, a huge drop from last year's 73.111. There were 83 rounds in the 60s this week and 134 rounds that were 71 or better. The hardest hole yesterday was the par-4 16th with a scoring average of 4.154. There were nine birdies, 57 pars, seven bogeys, three double bogeys and two triples. The easiest was the par-5 third with a scoring average of 4.372. There was one eagle by John Harris, 49 birdies, 26 pars and two bogeys.