Players blown away at windy Kapalua

1/6/2007 - Golf

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- This place ain't exactly Jim Bob's Pitch 'N Putt. Built into the side of a mountain, the Plantation Course is 7,411 yards of rolling hills and severe terrain. You'll find more snowflakes than flat lies.

Throughout this week, on most of the course, the Mercedes-Benz Championship has felt more like an innocuous outing than a PGA Tour event, what with sparse amounts of spectators trekking through the peaks and valleys to witness many of the holes. Even the players enjoy a reprieve from the usual "good walk spoiled" mantra, getting shuttled in vans and carts to the more treacherous regions.

But instead of complaining about these conditions, players have been unfailingly complimentary of the course. No bellyaching. No squawks of "unfair conditions."

And for good reason. With its scenic vistas at every turn, the Plantation Course more closely resembles the Eighth Wonder of the World than your usual tour venue. In fact, it's a course only a mother couldn't love. Mother Nature, that is. She's been wreaking furious havoc on the tournament this week, in the form of hat-blowing, blustery, gusty winds. You know, the sort that make pin flags stand at attention rather than flopping down lifelessly.

Saturday was no exception, just another day in paradise as it was once again proven that wind is the greatest determining factor in professional golf, producing more high scores than any extreme precipitation or temperature can render. Or, to take things one step further, gusting winds -- rather than the consistently blowing variety -- are what make scores soar, which explains why only four of 33 players broke 70 in the third round.

"Today, it would calm down and, all of the sudden, it would blow 20, 25 [mph]," said leader Vijay Singh, who shot a 3-under 70 to take a three-stroke lead over Adam Scott and Trevor Immelman. "You have a club in your hand that it can hit 150 yards and the gust comes up and it goes 130."

Try hitting a 1.62-ounce golf ball hundreds of yards into a strong wind. Let's just say it won't always find the intended target. That's been a familiar refrain from players, to whom hitting the ball a precise distance is an absolute necessity.

"You're doing it all day," said Immelman, who salvaged a round of 1-under 72. "Like on 17, I'm hitting an 8-iron 210 yards. Stuff like that you don't get too often."

It affects everything, really. And there's not much you can do about it. Wear a hat and it's apt to fly away. Remove it -- as Immelman did at times on Saturday -- and your hair becomes more mussed than a bogey-riddled scorecard. This wind will ruffle shirtsleeves and ripple pantlegs.

It will, ahem, blow you away -- and it blew the minds of the leaders on Saturday.

"You hit the ball, trying to hit a solid shot, and the wind comes up," Singh said. "Your mind is wondering if the ball is going to get into the wind or not and you increase the rhythm or it's not right there and the timing goes."

Not that Singh is hoping for anything different on Sunday. His preferred motto: Let it blow, let it blow, let it blow.

"I've played in all the conditions over here, so I think I have more knowledge about this golf course than anybody else out here," said Singh, who is still seeking his first career Mercedes-Benz victory, despite seven consecutive top-10 finishes. "I'm going to make good use of that."

Yup, one more round of fierce, gusting winds. Just another day in paradise.

Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com