News & Opinion

Is now the right time for PGA Tour's Hawaii Swing?

Hawaii scene
The coast of Oahu provides a picturesque setting for golfers and fans of the Sony Open in Hawaii, which follows the Tournament of Champions a week earlier on Maui.

John Hawkins contends that the Tournament of Champions should move to a major mainland market in the fall, but Mike Purkey likes the new year's tradition of a 2-stop island adventure in Hawaii

Hawk & Purk Podcast Hero Article

Longtime golf journalists John Hawkins and Mike Purkey discuss and debate the game’s hottest issues in this weekly commentary.

Would the Hawaii Swing be better off if the PGA Tour moved it away from the start of the calendar year?

Hawk’s take: There are two problems with Hawaii: distance and the appeal of the first venue. Kapalua is one of the most gorgeous places on earth, but the Plantation Course is quirky and laborious, and not much fun to play, which is why so many big names skip the Tournament of Champions. And since the advent of the wraparound schedule in 2013, it no longer makes much sense to hold that event three months into the new season. We need a fix here, but because Hawaii can’t be moved any closer to the rest of civilization, there are no easy answers.

A logical solution? Ditch Kapalua and hold the T of C in a major market in early October. Chicago would work. San Francisco, Seattle… There are all kinds of excellent options. As for the Sony Open, held in Honolulu since 1965, it’s a keeper that would fit perfectly near the end of the Fall Series – between the three weeks in Asia and whatever remains on the schedule in the continental U.S.

Kapalua has enjoyed a nice run as a tour host, lasting 21 years amid Camp Ponte Vedra’s constant tinkering of the schedule. The time has come to assess what’s best for the overall product, which requires an overhaul of the T of C in an attempt to give it the prestige it deserves.

Purk’s take: At the risk of trampling all over Jim Nantz and his paean to Augusta, Kapalua is a tradition unlike any other. The Sentry Tournament of Champions is to the PGA Tour what Opening Day is to Major League Baseball. Hawaii in January is where you start the calendar year.

There are some who believe that the T of C has lost its prestige because Tiger Woods, et al., don’t show up. Woods, Rory McIlroy and Brooks Koepka aren’t going to play the T of C whether you move it or not. The only way they’re playing in January is if someone in the United Arab Emirates throws $2 or $3 million at them, which happens often.

But let’s not delve into revisionist history. In the day, all the best players showed up to the Tournament of Champions not because it was prestigious but because it was easy money during a time when there weren’t truckloads of cash to be made on Tour. No one but the winner really cares who wins.

Besides, you can’t say the competition is bad: This year’s edition had a playoff among three of the top 12 players in the world. Moving the T of C to another place at another time isn’t going to improve upon that.