KAPALUA, HI — Jim Furyk wanted nothing more than to be in Kapalua for the start of the new year on the PGA Tour. His left wrist refused to cooperate.
Furyk hasn’t played since he walked off the course in the first round of the BMW Championship on Sept. 17 with what turned out to be a bone bruise on his wrist. He wound up missing The Presidents Cup, and took the rest of the year off to make sure it was fully healed.
But it’s taking longer than he expected.
After hitting balls for a few days, he noticed a little soreness and questioned whether he could play an entire week.
“It’s not 100 percent,” Furyk said from his home in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. “I don’t want to get out there and play and show up just to show up. I’ve been hitting balls since early December, but I wasn’t going to be as strong as I needed to be. To push it and try to get there early didn’t seem like the right move. In my mind, it’s not the right way.”
Furyk hasn’t been to Kapalua in five years. He ended the longest drought of his PGA Tour career by winning the RBC Heritage at Hilton Head in a playoff over Kevin Kisner.
In previous years when Furyk didn’t win, he typically started his year at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Now that’s the goal.
“First and foremost, I want to be healthy and get stronger,” he said. “It’s been a long, long layoff. In a perfect world, I think I’d be ready for Pebble and LA, but I know I’m going to be rusty. I’d like to play those two and evaluate where I’m at. It would be nice to go into March and hit the road running.”
Considering how the last three months have gone, he’s not sure what to expect.
“That bone bruise, from what I’ve learned about it, is real tricky,” he said. “They didn’t put a cast on my wrist because they felt it would get too stiff. It’s going to take some time. The doctor said this could be great in two to three threes, or it could be two or three months. It’s frustrating because there’s nothing I can do.”
New tattoo: Rickie Fowler showed up at Kapalua with a new tattoo packed with plenty of meaning.
It likely won’t be seen by the public because it’s on the underside of his left bicep and covered by the sleeve of his shirt. He showed it proudly over the weekend. It’s three words written in Japanese — the name of his grandfather, Yutaka Tanaka.
Yutaka is Fowler’s middle name.
Tournament of champion: Woody Blackburn is believed to have his own footnote in the history of the Tournament of Champions.
He has one individual title in his PGA Tour career. He has made two appearances in this winners-only event.
The Tournament of Champions, which began in 1963 in Las Vegas, wasn’t always the season opener. In 1985, it was held in May at La Costa a few weeks after the Masters. Blackburn won the Andy Williams San Diego Open at Torrey Pines that year in a playoff, and that got him into the Tournament of Champions, where it finished 11th.
The PGA Tour then decided to move the event to the start of the year, and it took all the winners from 1985.
Blackburn returned to the Tournament of Champions the next January and finished 30th in a 31-man field.
Long time: Brad Whittle, the caddie for Russell Knox, had a lucrative end to his season. Knox not only won the HSBC Champions (worth $1.4 million), he flew to Mexico and lost in a playoff, making $545,600.
That’s nearly $200,000 for Whittle in two weeks, and while the money was great, being on a winning bag leaves a good taste — especially when it had been more than 20 years since Whittle experienced winning.
“That was a long time,” Whittle said.
How long? He was working in 1994 for David Frost when he beat Greg Norman in the Greater Hartford Open. Whittle also has been the caddie for a major champion. His previous win was with Wayne Grady at Shoal Creek in the 1990 PGA Championship.
Return to fitness: Chris Kirk kept busy the last two months of the year off the golf course. The 30-year-old from Georgia is back in the gym.
“I always worked out in college and my first five years as a pro,” Kirk said. “It’s been lacking in the last three years since I had kids.”
Kirk has been spending time at SPARC, a sports performance center in Athens, Georgia, and is in the early stages of a program that is more geared toward the back end of his career than the 2016 season.
Recent history is enough to give him pause.
“When I stopped working out, I had the best year I ever had,” Kirk said with a laugh. “Then the following year I started working with Scott (Hamilton) and got my golf game efficient and I had that huge season a year ago. This year I played well, I just didn’t putt quite as well and my ball striking was so-so for the standard I set for myself. But I started thinking, `What am I going to be like 10 years from now?’
“Where I’m at now is fine,” he said. “But I need to start going in the other direction instead of further away from being fit.”
Stat of the week: The wraparound season has produce this anomaly: The Tournament of Champions has two rookies in the field — Emiliano Grillo and Smylie Kaufman, who won in the fall.
Mickelson sets return to AT&T at Pebble
After missing the event for the first time in more than two decades, Phil Mickelson will return to one of his favorite PGA Tour stops, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, this spring. Mickelson has won the event four times, most recently in 2012.
He skipped the event this past year for the first time since 1994 because it conflicted with his children’s school break, but tournament officials announced Tuesday that the 45-year-old will be returning to the Monterey Peninsula in February.
Mickelson is still in search of his first victory since the 2013 Open Championship, but he remains a fan favorite at events, particularly in his native California. In addition to his 2012 triumph, Mickelson also won at Pebble Beach in 1998, 2005 and 2007.
His inclusion also further indicates that the event’s field, which in recent years has been one of the weakest on the West Coast swing, will be significantly strengthened in 2016. The tournament had previously announced commitments from four of the current OWGR top 10: world No. 1 Jordan Spieth, No. 2 Jason Day, No. 4 Bubba Watson and No. 8 Dustin Johnson, who won the event in 2009 and 2010.
The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am will be held Feb. 11-14 in Pebble Beach, Ca.
”Talking about golf comes easy to me. I can do that all day,” he said. ”But I don’t want to sit around and watch golf up there. I want to be out here.”
The waiting game will continue into 2016, and who knows how much longer?