BARON SEKIYA / WEST HAWAII TODAY
Fred Funk, a shot back of leader Allen Doyle entering today's final round of the MasterCard Championship, will spend a month in Hawaii playing all four tournaments.
Aloha means good-bye?
KAUPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii » When you're sitting in your hotel room on a Friday night watching Larry King talk to people about recent UFO sightings in Stephenville, Texas, you might be on the Frontage Road of your career path.
It's not necessarily a bad thing. The morning and afternoon were spent at Hualalai watching the old boys poke a big, old hole in Jack Nicklaus' par-72 dartboard. Even Lee Trevino dipped his scorecard in red ink with a 71. And his golf ball spent most of the day flying too close to the ground.
He and Peter Jacobsen walked 18 together, acting like Heckle and Jeckle -- those cartoon characters from days gone by -- talking so much it's likely one never heard the other finish a sentence. And we loved it.
Some of us were wondering what would happen if Golf Channel analyst Dottie Pepper walked up on Tiger Woods -- like she did Jacobsen and Trevino, microphone in hand -- on the back nine of any golf course or tournament in America. Probably not something that would fit comfortably in the booth at CBS with Nantz and Faldo. PG-13 wouldn't cover it.
But that's what we like about these guys. They're approachable.
For those willing to make the drive to Turtle Bay, you have the opportunity this week to see Trevino swinging for the pins. He hobbled around Hualalai on Friday -- talking a mile a minute -- and you wondered if it's still OK to call him the Merry Mex. Googled it. No one seems to mind.
It was just as much fun to see Lanny Wadkins -- bad back and all -- go out and start 2008 by shooting a 5-under 67 after watching him struggle to a last-place finish a year ago. Fresh off that CBS booth debacle that left him without a job, Wadkins came over here to escape those raw moments, and finished 26 shots in back of winner Hale Irwin. Wadkins was five shots clear of the defending champion on this perfect Friday. He's still got game.
And so do Jay Haas and Curtis Strange and Loren Roberts and Jim Thorpe and Fred Funk and Tom Purtzer, who noticed the Mercedes-Benz Championship hat strapped to my head and said, "After three weeks, you must be ready for us to go home."
BUT GIVEN THE current state of things in the island chain, you might see the Champions Tour go the same way as the Grand Slam of Golf. Bye-bye. The Aloha Season is falling in like a house of scorecards. You wonder if anyone has $3 million to cover the winners-only tab here in the lava fields of the ever-growing Big Island.
It's hard to imagine too many folks tuning in on a Friday night on the Golf Channel to watch the season-opening event of the senior circuit. If you haven't noticed lately, the stock market is lower than the scores shot on Friday -- and that was a record-low 67 point something.
They've been playing without a sponsor at Turtle Bay for so long, you know if this one dies here, then the Turtle Bay is sure to follow. What's that Sen. John McCain likes to say about the jobs in Michigan ... and they aren't coming back.? Well, you get the idea. What's been predicted for more than a year is about to come to fruition if somebody doesn't ride in with a pocketful of cash.
It would mean no more watching Larry King and his UFO buddies on Friday night -- which would probably draw a much bigger rating if they went head-to-head in prime time with the Golf Channel -- and that's about as sad as seeing Wadkins and Strange, and Tom Kite and Ben Crenshaw, and Trevino and Tom Watson -- and Hale Irwin, most of all -- saying aloha to the 50th state.
And sadly meaning it.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org