The 2012 PGA Tour season gets underway with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions over the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Hawaii. Jonathan Byrd is the defending champion.
There’s a field of just 28 players for this curtain-raising tournament, open only to winners of PGA Tour events from the previous season. 39 Players were eligible to make a start but nine men, including Luke Donald, Charl Schwartzel, Phil Mickelson, Darren Clarke and Martin Kaymer have elected not to make the journey across the Pacific.
The 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 it was Jonathan Byrd who came out on top after a playoff against Robert Garrigus.
The only previous winner in this year’s field is the defending champion Byrd and there are no less than 12 first time participants on the start list.
There’s a change to the tournament scheduling this year. There’ll be a pro-am competition on the Thursday with the event proper kicking off on Friday, it will still be 72 holes so will finish next Monday.
In a stunning setting, the Plantation course at Kapalua features dramatic views, changes in elevation and huge greens. With a par of 73, it tend to produce low scoring in relation to par. Watch out for a birdie barrage.

Plantation Course at Kapalua, Hawaii
Date: Jan 6-9
Course stats: par 73, 7,411 yards
Purse: $5,600,000 Winner: $1,120,000
Defending Champion: Jonathan Byrd (-24)

TV Coverage:
Friday 6 – Sky Sports 3 from 10.30pm
Saturday 7 – Sky Sports 3 from 10.30pm
Sunday 8 – Sky Sports 3 from 10.30pm
Monday 9 – Sky Sports 2 from 9pm

Player Watch:
Steve Stricker – One of the few Kapalua veterans in the field. He’s currently the top-ranked American in the world and has finished in the top-10 in this event in each of the last three seasons.

Gary Woodland – His length could be a real benefit here. It’s a course with seven holes that can stretch beyond 500 yards so the ability to hit the long ball is crucial.

Webb Simpson – He may never have played Kapalua before but he was the form player on the PGA Tour at the end of 2011. If he can keep that play going as we head into the new year, he’ll be tough to beat.

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.

Where next?
European Tour –
Africa Open preview