Cool customer


By JOE FERRARO

Stephens Media

KAUPULEHU-KONA — Before he flew into the Kailua-Kona last Thursday, a friend from the Big Island told David Frost it had been “windless” on the Big Island for about two weeks.

“I was just hoping it would stay that way,’’ Frost said.

The 53-year-old South African got his wish, and he turned in the kind of round that goes hand in hand with windless days at Hualalai Golf Club.

Frost carded six birdies and an eagle, shooting a 7-under 65 Friday to take a one-shot lead after the first round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai.

Entering the Mitsubishi Electric, the Champions Tour’s season-opening event, Frost hadn’t played competitive golf since Dec. 10, when he won the European Senior Tour’s MCB Tour Championship on the island of Mauritius.

“I’d say my game was quite good considering that I’ve taken a month off,’’ Frost said.

Tom Kite, Kirk Triplett, Willie Wood, John Cook, Fred Couples and Tom Lehman all shot 66 on a course known for being the Champions Tour’s easiest.

Frost found himself ahead of those six players with some timely putting. He made a 40-footer for eagle on the par-5 seventh hole and 15-footers on the first and 16th holes.

He has had his share of success in Hawaii, tying for fourth at the Pacific Links Hawaii Championship last September on Oahu’s Kapolei Golf Course.

“The Bermuda grass is something you have to study on the greens, be a little patient and read the greens,’’ Frost said. “It’s something I’ve been good at in my career, and maybe that’s part of why I play well here.”

However, Frost could have entered the second round of the Mitsubishi Electric with a bit of a cushion. He missed three birdie putts inside 10 feet over his final five holes.

“It couldn’t been a couple better, but I’d like to think I left some in the bag and maybe improve tomorrow,’’ Frost said.

Like Frost, Triplett carded an eagle, hitting a hybrid to within 6 feet on the par-5 10th hole. He also carded five other birdies.

However, Triplett, one of five players making their Mitsubishi Electric debuts this year, missed an opportunity to share the lead with Frost when he missed a 7-foot par putt on No. 18.

“It kind of leaves a bad taste in your mouth, but 66 is a good round,’’ Triplett said.

Kite didn’t spend too much time on the golf course after the end of the 2012 season. He didn’t play in last year’s Charles Schwab Cup Championship, which features a 30-player field determined by a season-long points competition.

Kite finished 31st in the Schwab Cup standings, which prompted him to start preparing for the following Champions Tour season earlier than he normally does.

Some bad weather in his home state of Texas ruined those plans, but any lack of preparation didn’t matter on Friday.

Kite displayed a strong short game, chipping to within 5 feet or less for three of his six birdies.

“When you catch a day like today, when the golf course is as good a shape as it is, there’s going to be some low scores,’’ Kite said. “Always are unless the wind blows here.”

Frost said some hope for wind at Hualalai Golf Club to give the field more of a test.

“It was nice to see the golfers shoot low and hit good shots and make putts,’’ Frost said. “I know the amateurs want to see us struggle in the wind and see how we control the golf ball, but we have enough moments like that.”

Notes: Wood, Steve Elkington, Joe Daley and Roger Chapman also made their tournament debuts. Loren Roberts, who won the Mitsubishi Electric in 2006, was the last player to win the season-opening event in his debut. … The field averaged a score of 69.550 compared to last year’s first-round average of 69.610. … Hale Irwin, the 1997 and 2007 champion, shot a 70 while making his 18th consecutive start in the event. … Eight-time PGA Tour major champion Tom Watson was 1 over through the front nine but made eagle on No. 10 and finished 4 under on the back nine for a 69. … Two-time defending Schwab Cup champion Lehman ran off three straight birdies on Nos. 12-14 to get to 6 under before finishing the round with four straight pars. … Frost hasn’t had a three-putt over his last 218 holes.

 

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