2020 vision

The PGA Tour starts 2020 at a refreshed Plantation Course, but the field is looking worse for the wear…


Happy New Year, everyone! The change of calendar brings with it a slightly revamped version of our newsletter. Enjoy, and cheers to 2020!

In today’s newsletter…

  • Kapalua Resort debuts its Coore & Crenshaw-”refined” Plantation Course at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
  • This year’s TOC field is missing some big names, raising questions about the event’s status.

The Storylines

A rejuvenated Plantation Course

Kapalua rings in the new year on the PGA Tour for the 22nd time this week. Host of the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the Plantation Course is our yearly reminder Mark Rolfing has a super nice life.

But the Plantation will look a little different this year. Since the end of the 2019 event, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, the course’s original architects, have overseen wide-ranging work at the 1991 design that launched their career. They re-grassed all 18 holes, “calmed” many greens to allow for more pin positions, added tees, and rebuilt the bunkers with rougher edges. They also installed a new center-line bunker in the 5th fairway. Considering how some PGA Tour pros react to hazards in the line of play, that might be a detail to keep an eye on.

Still, Coore & Crenshaw are hesitant to use the word “renovation”; they see the project more as a “refinement.”

On a tour full of nondescript venues, the Plantation Course has always been a refreshing sight, even if it has faded in recent years. Early reports from this year’s event suggest that Coore & Crenshaw’s work has at least created firmer conditions. It’s always good to see the ball scampering along the ground at a Tour event.

(Some of) the boys are back in town

What do Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Justin Rose, and Phil Mickelson have in common? All of them qualified for the Tournament of Champions, but none of them will be at Kapalua this week.

While the weakened field probably won’t be a big deal in and of itself, it does highlight a trend on the PGA Tour: since they can make a lot of money without playing very frequently, today’s top golfers can be selective in arranging their schedules. So even though Kapalua offers guaranteed money and FedEx Cup points, many are skipping the vacation to Hawaii. Heck, even C.T. Pan is out! (He’s claiming illness.) For elite players, it seems that the inconvenience of certain events is starting to outweigh even a substantial bounty of cash and points. Tiger has taken this less-is-more approach to his schedule for years; don’t be surprised if other stars follow in his footsteps.

The Rundown

Sentry Tournament of Champions 

  • TV Coverage:
    • Thursday-Friday, 6-10 p.m. ET (Golf Channel)
    • Saturday, 4-6 p.m. (NBC), 6-8 p.m. (Golf Channel)
    • Sunday, 6-10 p.m. (Golf Channel)
  • Tee Times
  • Detailed hole-by-hole changes to the Plantation Course
  • Xander Schauffele won last year’s TOC, coming from six shots back with a Sunday 62
  • Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas are the top two betting favorites at 4-1 and 5-1, respectively

For Golf World, Brian Wacker has a fun interview with Jon Rahm, perhaps the most slept-on top-five player in the world.

Geoff Shackelford’s predictions are always entertaining (and usually spot-on, at least in a spiritual sense), and he has a fresh batch for 2020.

Athletic Brewing Co.

After indulging throughout the holidays, it always feels good to get a healthy start to the new year! Enter Athletic Brewing Co., a pioneer in non-alcoholic craft beer. Without skimping on taste—thanks to a full fermentation process and all-organic ingredients—Athletic Brewing Co. helps you perform your best without having to give up your love of beer. 

Enjoy 20% off your purchase using promo code TFE20. Shipping is free nationwide! Beer me.

The Latest from The Fried Egg

Registration is open for our first two events of 2020! We have The Boomerang at Soule Park (Ojai, CA) on March 28 and the Steam Shovel at Lawsonia Links (Green Lake, WI) on May 2. RESERVE YOUR SPOT!

The Fried Egg Podcast: Superintendent Series – Episode 3: Michael Vessely

Culver Academies Superintendent Michael Vessely joins Andy on the podcast. Michael and Andy start by talking about Michael’s recent discoveries of old tee boxes on the property and the historical deep dive that ensued. Michael then talks about how his perspective on maintenance has changed as he has understood architecture more. The conversation moves to Michael’s career and the journey to Culver and the benefits and challenges of the job. The pair wraps up discussing Michael’s future plans and how he enjoys the experimental aspect of the job. Follow Michael on Twitter @mdvessely. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

Shotgun Start: Kapalua preview and 2019 Year in Review: Part VI

With the New Year’s holiday falling on Wednesday, the mid-week Shotgun Start arrives on Tuesday morning. In this episode, Brendan and Andy preview the Tournament of Champions starting the calendar year on the PGA Tour. They discuss what makes Kapalua stand out as a course on the schedule, the depleted 2020 field, and make some one-and-done picks to start of the year. Then they get to the final installment of the 2019 Year in Review, covering Shane Lowry’s win at Portrush, JB and Rory’s Open disasters, the illegal driver scandal, Bryson’s slow-play meltdown at Northern Trust, and the Net Tour Championship in Atlanta. Listen on iTunes, Stitcher, and Spotify.

The Must-Sees of Public Golf Architecture in America

Pebble Beach Golf Links (Pebble Beach, California)


Let’s get the critiques out of the way. Yes, resort development has impinged on several holes—including, sadly, the all-world 18th. Yes, the inland holes have lost their sense of the natural landscape. And yes, the greens have shrunk over the years, erasing some fun pin positions. But make no mistake, Pebble Beach Golf Links is the definition of a must-see. The most underrated aspect of Jack Neville and Douglas Grant’s century-old design is how it uses the natural slope of the seaside terrain. If you play it safe off the tee, you will often find yourself hitting from a sidehill lie that encourages a shot shape opposite to what you want. This is one reason why, at barely over 7,000 yards, Pebble Beach is still a stout U.S. Open venue.

Insider tip: Don’t let your evening get hoovered up by an overpriced Italian restaurant in Carmel-by-the-Sea. If the weather’s decent, go grab a burrito at Michael’s in Pacific Grove, take it to Fanshell Beach off of 17-Mile Drive, and enjoy the views of the ocean and the nearby 13th green at Cypress Point. -Garrett Morrison

Want more on Pebble Beach? Check out Garrett’s full analysis of course’s use of slope, Andy’s proposal for a simple change that would improve the iconic 7th hole, and Andy and Garrett’s pre-U.S. Open podcast.

Photo credit: Garrett Morrison

Pro Shop

Many players will get lei’d in Hawaii this weekend. (It’s a classic Hawaiian pun, we had to use it.) You may not be in paradise, but when you’re feeling lei-zy, be sure to throw on our comfy Fried Egg t-shirt! Get yours in blue or grey!