PGA: Preview of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
This week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions marks the start of the 2013 US PGA Tour and brings together the winners from last year. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy have both declined an invitation so Steve Stricker has a good opportunity to defend his title in a wide open affair.
The season opening event is designed to involve the tournament winners from the previous season, including the major champions. Ernie Els qualifies by winning the British Open and he has also decided not to play.
Bubba Watson (pictured) and Webb Simpson are both in the field and the US Masters and US Open champions from last year will be looking for a decent start to the new year. However, another notable absentee is Phil Mickelson who became eligible to compete when he won the AT & T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am last February.
The organizers will be disappointed that arguably three of most popular and charismatic players in the world have decided to forgo this early season event. Woods, McIlroy and Mickelson are probably preferring to extend what is only a short break before embarking on their schedules for the new season.
The regular host course for this event is the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Hawaii. This is the 14th consecutive year that Maui has welcomed the previous year’s tournament winners to its outstanding complex. The trade winds can send scores scoring but this hasn’t happened for four years now and in recent years scoring has been very low.
The tournament comprises a limited field of just 30 players. There is no halfway cut so every player receives a healthy check. The event provides an opportunity for the winning player to make a perfect start to the new season and qualify for next year’s renewal, twelve months from now.
Five of Europe’s winning Ryder Cup team were also eligible to play. All but Ian Poulter have decided not to travel to Hawaii but that player ended last season in great form and is now at a career high of 12 in the world rankings. Poulter showed in the Ryder Cup what a great putter he is and looks set for a good week on a course that puts a premium on putting and birdie conversion.
Matt Kuchar of the American players looks a potential contender. He qualified by winning the Player’s Championship against the strongest field of the year. That course puts more of a premium on accuracy over distance. However, Kuchar’s average length of the tee is offset by excellent putting.
Jonas Blixt is an interesting overseas contender. The Swede won an event in the Fall Series and will be beginning the new campaign in a confident mood. He was second for average putts per hole last season and given a decent week on the greens can confirm the promise of last season with a high finish.