Every golf season brings with it new trends, topics, and discussions. While the start to this season mirrored the end of 2010 - rules violations and playoffs - there were a couple of new things being discussed at Kapaula.
As Golf Channel's Nick Faldo noted, fitness and ‘planes' are the hot topics for 2011. And we're not talking about the kind that fly in the sky.
"The big theme this season is fitness. There are so many guys out there in the gym spending more time in the gym; they were fit before, and now they're super-fit," Faldo said. "There are also an awful lot of gadgets out on the range. They continue to get more hi-tech and bigger, and you now have coaches using them to help their players build their games a little bit more.
"... The other buzzword I've been hearing is ‘plane.' Everybody here has been talking about getting their swing on plane, whether they were underneath and trying to get steeper, or just trying to get back to basics. It's a real shocker to me."
Technical difficulties? Seriously?!?
Jonathan Byrd was supposed to be the guinea pig. Or at least that's what we all thought. While Golf Channel couldn't talk a single player in the field into wearing a mic during Thursday's opening round, Byrd agreed to wear one on Friday.
There was only one problem: the Golf Channel wasn't ready. The network opened Friday's broadcast by telling viewers that technical difficulties with their equipment meant they had to nix the live mic.
Even though it wasn't a big deal, it still made the network look silly - especially after they built it up prior to the second round.
And, shocker, nobody agreed to wear the mic the rest of the week.
Rules are rules
"Here we go again," Golf Channel's Rich Lerner said at the start of Friday's broadcast. "After last year's rules controversy, we're back at it again this year. ... The violation was reported by a media member watching the coverage back in the United States. It's unfortunate that it wasn't brought to Camilo's attention before he signed his scorecard."
That was the extent of Golf Channel's coverage of the first rules controversy of 2011. While media outlets all over the world were digging deeper into the discussion over Camilo Villegas's chip, the network shied away from the talk.
Why not discuss the reach and impact casual golf fans should have on the tournament they watch? It would have made for an interesting discussion during the round. And with Nick Faldo in the booth, you most likely would have received an opinionated answer.
All hands on deck
It may have seemed excessive to some but the Golf Channel had the entire crew on hand for the first event of the season. Maybe that had something to do with the event being played at picturesque Kapalua, but swapping out crews every two hours seemed a little much.
Were Nick Faldo and Terry Gannon really gassed after doing two hours of booth work? Probably not. While it may have had something to do with Faldo's contract with CBS and the Golf Channel, there's no reason to do mass, mid-round changes during a four-hour broadcast.
At 41-year-old, Ernie Els is entering the backend of his career. With more than enough tournament wins and major championships in the trophy case, the goal now is to win the Masters and PGA to complete the career grand slam.
While he's now playing against an up-and-coming group of players that could make that dream even more difficult, Nick Faldo said on Saturday that he believes Els still has the game to achieve that goal. So long as he can win those two majors in the next two years.
"He's on the eleventh hour of his career," Faldo said, "and I think he knows he's got to make this one giant push to make things happen over this year and next year. Time's kind of running down a little bit; he's got that determination to make things happen.
"He's had a little frustration in the major's over the last couple of years, but maybe he can pull off (another major victory) in the near future."
Day the duffer
The event is called the "Tournament of Champions," but you wouldn't have known it from the shot Aussie Jason Day hit on Friday afternoon. Teeing off the par 4 13th hole, Day let loose on a drive that, for a split second, made him look like a Sunday hacker.
His shot went up in the air and bounded down the fairway about 100 yards in front of him. The turf he tore up went farther than the drive. It was safe to assume that wasn't the shot he was trying to play.
"He topped it," Nick Faldo exclaimed. "What on earth was that? He's laughing his head off. We have to see what he did there."
The Golf Channel went back to the replay, only to see Day had hit the drive about six inches fat. "Oh my goodness, he did that with his brand new ostrich egg driver," Faldo said, jokingly, about TaylorMade's new Ghost driver. "I bet everyone in his group is still laughing their heads off about that."
The best part of all? Day went with driver off the deck with his next shot, hooked it left of the green, and still made par. After his round, Day called it the best par he's ever made. I think everyone watching would agree.
Golf Channel made a small, but noticeable, addition to the coverage this year with a graphic that showed how far players were hitting each club in their bag. ... Due to the distance between tee and green on the par 3 8th hole, a courtesy car was used to transport players. Said GC's Mark Rolfing: "You usually see a cart take players from the green to the next tee, but never from the tee to the green." ... Rich Lerner was in the booth handling special interest pieces - he did these on a sporadic basis in 2010 - during the tournament. No word yet if these are going to become commonplace this season.
"It's look more like a Nemo love bite than a shark bite to me," Golf Channel's Nick Faldo, commenting on Geoff Ogilvy's injury that required twelve stitches.
"Wow, he looks like Z.Z. Top's love-child," Faldo, commenting on Hunter Mahan's new beard.