The 2013 PGA Tour season kicks off this week with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions over the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Hawaii. Steve Stricker is the defending champion.
An elite field of just 30 players will gather for this event. Only those men who won a PGA Tour event in 2012 are eligible to play. Major champions Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson will make a start, so will FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker. The start list is heavily dominated by American players this season. The only international players teeing it up will be: Carl Pettersson and Jonas Blixt (Sweden,) Ian Poulter (England,) and Mark Leishman (Australia.)
This event began life in 1953 as simply the “Tournament of Champions” and was won that year by Al Besselink. Since then the event, as you might expect, has produced some notable winners – Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have all tasted victory in the tournament.
Earlier in this century, two players from Australia enjoyed great success at Kapalua – Stuart Appleby won three times consecutively from 2004 to 2006 then Geoff Ogilvy won two in a row in 2009-10.
Last year Steve Stricker’s second round of 63 set him up for victory. He finished on a four-round total of 23-under-par, three clear of Scotland’s Martin Laird.
Stricker will be back to defend his title in an event he’s enjoyed great success in over the years. He was second in 2008 and tied fourth in 2011. Stricker will be the oldest player in the field by a considerable margin. Now 45, the closest to him in age this week is Mark Wilson who’s 38.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua is a Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore design and it opened for play in 1991. It’s a relatively gentle layout, although the wind can play a significant role here. If the breeze stays away, look for a winning total in the mid 20s under par.
Venue: Plantation Course at Kapalua, Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii
Date: Jan 4-7
Course stats: par 73, 7,411 yards
Purse: $5,700,000 Winner: $1,120,000
Defending Champion: Steve Stricker (-23)
Friday 4 – Sky Sports 3 from 10.30pm
Saturday 5 – Sky Sports 3 from 10.30pm
Sunday 6 – Sky Sports 3 from 10.30pm
Monday 7 – Sky Sports 2 from 9pm
Steve Stricker – The defending champ is the most experienced player in the field and has played this tournament more than anyone else on the start sheet. This is also a tournament that often sees repeat winners.
Webb Simpson – Third last year here, Simpson is an extremely solid player who will be looking to start 2013 with a bang.
Nick Watney – Has produced reasonable finishes in this event in past years and has a game that should be suited to this layout. He’ll be aiming for a stellar 2013 after the disappointment of being left out of the 2012 Ryder Cup side. Victory in this event would be the perfect opener.
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. There are often some enormous drives on this one, over 400 yards.