2011 PGA TOUR Week 1: Byrd Flying High Again with Kapalua Win

Some say the Masters Spring time tradition is the start of the golf season.

Byrd wins 2011 PGA Tour season-opener after two missed putts by Garrigus. Photo Credit: PGA.com

Byrd wins 2011 PGA Tour season-opener after two missed putts by Garrigus. Photo Credit: PGA.com

Those of us in the winter coolness of northern Florida look to the west, way out west to Hawaii, for the true start of the golf year.

On Maui, in the splendor of Kapalua, the 2011 PGA TOUR season began amongst the warm gentle trade winds of the Pacific.

Two players of the limited champions-only 34 member field were injured in freak accidents prior to the start of the tournament.

Geoff Ogilvy, two-time defending champion was forced to withdraw after a coral reef induced cut on his right index finger. Zach Johnson with a stubbed right big toe managed to play with a cut-out shoe but finished T23.

With the music of Jake Shimabukuro’s ukulele reaching our ears and the fun of The Golf Channel’s talented announcers playing in the charity pro-am on Wednesday, the relaxed atmosphere of the holiday season extended into the first full week of January.

Terry Gannon hammered one Wii Game-like drive as did Kelly Tilghman. Jerry Foltz confounded by a Nick Faldo lesson after being straightened out by Rocco Mediate hit a rope hook left that is now known as a “Bubba slice” after Bubba Watson’s similar ball trajectory of a driver off the deck on the 18th hole in the first round.

Foltz had the last chuckle as he made the final putt for the team “W’ with AK, a.k.a. Anthony Kim.

Watson was the only one to eagle the dramatic downhill 679-yard par-5 finishing hole, the first of the Kodak Challenge holes for the 2011 season.

The playoff between Jonathon “Ace” Byrd and Robert “Redemption” Garrigus, the last two winners of 2010, confirmed the ending story lines of 2010 will be ongoing in the New Year.

Byrd had not played competitive golf in the last 10 weeks since that late October near “walk-off” ace in Las Vegas.

Garrigus is no longer singing the “Memphis Blues” after closing strong for his first victory in the Magic Kingdom in the 2010 season’s final event.

The streak of nine consecutive years of foreign-born players capturing the title at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions is over.

GMac, as Graeme McDowell is known, continued his U.S. Open, Ryder Cup and Tiger Woods prowess with an 11-birdie course record tying Sunday 62 to finish solo third place.

In a Ryder Cup rematch, Hunter Mahan fired a Thursday 70 to better GMac’s 71 though at the end of the week it was the Northern Irishman that finished 16 strokes better than Mahan, who finished T25.

Camilo Villegas was DQ’d after Round 1 for the technicality of signing an incorrect scorecard. The scorecard was inaccurate because of a rules violation on the 15th hole. After chipping up the slope to the green the ball rolled back toward him for the second time. Villegas walked over and casually swatted away some loose pieces of grass in front of the divot as the ball was still moving down the slope.

Rule 23-1 states that “when a ball is in motion, a loose impediment that might influence the movement of the ball must not be removed” and comes with a two-stroke penalty.

Byrd holed his second shot for eagle at the 10th hole in the first round starting right off where he ended last year- holing iron shots Carl Pettersson, the man who lost weight and his game, only to purposely regain the weight to save his game, matched Byrd’s opening 7-under par 66 on the unusual par 73 golf course.

Garrigus took the lead after two rounds, one better than Pettersson and two better than Byrd by virtue of playing the last three holes in 4-under to post a 10-under 63.

Garrigus’ lead evaporated quickly starting 3-over par on the first two holes in Saturday’s Round 3 as strong and gusty Kona winds replaced the normally gentle trade winds.

Garrigus recovered finishing with five birdies and a 50-foot bomb for eagle at 18 to shoot 4-under 69.

Steve Stricker improved his score for the second straight day recording a 65 that included a spectacular blind 4-iron from the fairway bunker on No. 12 amidst five straight birdies.

Byrd shot 67 and it looked like a three-person race going into the final round with Garrigus, Stricker and Byrd distanced from Pettersson and the rest of the pack by three strokes.

McDowell’s blistering round came one stroke short of the playoff after he missed a makeable eagle putt on No. 18.

Garrigus’ vehement “C’mon” cry to his 3-wood second shot at the last resulted in a 13-footer for eagle and the outright lead that failed to drop. Garrigus posted 24-under to eliminate GMac and wait for Byrd in the final group to finish.

Byrd for birdie on the 18th to win but failed to hit the putt all the way to the hole.

In the playoff both Garrigus and Byrd failed to birdie the easy 18th.

As Analyst Nick Faldo characterized Byrd’s chances to drain a long one on the 10th green—the second playoff hole—as slim, Byrd nearly holed the putt.

Then Garrigus lost his MoJo and three-jacked his reasonable birdie putt to hand Byrd his second consecutive and fifth overall PGA TOUR victory.

The excitement continues on the PGA TOUR…

Perhaps 2011 is the year of American dominance in golf as the tour hops over to Waialae CC on Oahu for the 2011 SONY Open and the first full-field event of the new season.


Andy Reistetter is a freelance golf writer that spends his time on all four major American golf tours- the PGA TOUR, Champions, Nationwide and LPGA Tours.

Reistetter resides in Pont Vedra Beach, Florida near the PGA TOUR headquarters and home of The PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass.

A lifetime golfer, Andy enjoys volunteering at the World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine, Florida and pursuing his passion for the game of golf and everything associated with it.

For more background information on Andy go to the website Andy’s Golf & Travel Diary or e-mail him to AndyReistetter@gmail.com