Lowdown:

The 2009 PGA Tour schedule kicks off, as always, with the Mercedes-Benz Championship at Kapalua in Hawaii. The field for the event is made up of players who won a tournament on the 2008 PGA Tour. This means some big names will be absent from the start sheet. Those who failed to score a win in 2008 include Jim Furyk, Steve Stricker and Hunter Mahan. Those who are participating will aim to make the most of their head start – There are 3,513 FedEx Cup points up for grabs as well as a winner’s cheque for over $1 million.

Venue: Plantation Course at Kapalua, Hawaii
Date: January 8-11
Course stats: par 73, 7,411 yards
Purse: $5,600,000 Winner: $1,200,000
Defending champion: Daniel Chopra (-18)

TV coverage:
Thursday 8 – Live on Setanta Golf from 11pm
Friday 9 – Live on Setanta Golf from 11pm
Saturday 10 – Live on Setanta Golf from 11pm
Sunday 11 – Live on Setanta Golf from 11pm

Gallery: Race to Dubai favourites

Player watch:
Anthony Kim – The young American is expected to go from strength to strength in 2009. A victory here would give him the perfect springboard.
Ernie Els – A former champion, the big South African would love a confidence booster going into his last season as a thirty something.
Vijay Singh – The winner here in 2007, Singh enjoyed a superb end to the 2008 season with three victories in a five tournament stretch. He won just before Christmas in the Chevron World Challenge so clearly has good form.

Key hole:
18th. The closing hole at Kapalua is a striking downhill par-5 measuring 663 yards. Despite its length, it’s reachable in two because of the slope and the prevailing wind. Expect some enormous drives on this one.
Skills required: Making birdies. In 2003 Ernie Els finished the event at an amazing -31. The winning total at Kapalua always tends to be well into double figures under par.

Remember to log on tomorrow for Paul Krishnamurty’s betting guide