Five Players To Watch – 2014 Hyundai Tournament Of Champions

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Power Rankings: Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Photo Courtesy of Hyundai Tournament of Champions Official Twitter Page

Welcome back, golf fans! The “appetizer” portion of the new 2013-14 PGA Tour season was a great way to get through October and November, but now the holidays are over and it’s time for the main event.

The Hyundai Tournament of Champions is set to begin at the Plantation Course at Kapalua on Friday, and even though it’s a limited field, it’s one of the most fun tournaments of the year to watch. If you’ve got a view anything like mine, it’s cold – very, very cold – snowy and just a little more gray now that all the lights of December are starting to fade. So what better way to get back to golf than with an elite winners-only tournament in sunny Hawaii?

While superstars like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are taking some time off this week, the star power is still through the roof. Two of last year’s major winners, Jason Dufner and Adam Scott, will be there. Brandt Snedeker and Matt Kuchar both qualified twice. Young upstarts like Billy Horschel are out to prove they’re not just one-hit wonders.

The Plantation Course itself is long, playing as the only par-73 on Tour, and hopefully the winds that ravaged the tournament last year won’t be an issue this weekend. According to stats from the PGA Tour’s official site, players average nearly 80 percent of greens in regulation, so certainly putting will be at a premium to start the year.

While many players will be looking to knock off some rust, the plan here is the same as last year. It’s a little more difficult to just pick five players to watch in a 30-man field, but read on to see which golfers you should be following this weekend.

Brandon Raper is a golf writer for “Like” him on Facebook, follow him on Twitter @Brandon__Raper, and join him on Google+.

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5) Matt Kuchar

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Kuchar was a staple in my weekly power rankings in 2013, and it just seems right to keep him there in the first one of the new year. Kuch already has a top-ten in the 2013-14 season (7th at the McGladrey Classic) and most recently teamed up with Harris English to take down the Franklin Templeton Shootout. The only thing missing from Kuchar’s trophy case is a major championship, and he’ll be looking to continue his year-end momentum through April and the Masters.

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4) Brandt Snedeker

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Snedeker is back from an injury break, and is hoping to improve on his third-place finish from this event last season. Sneds had a roller-coaster ride of a 2013 PGA Tour season, winning twice and scoring nine top-tens, but also missing six cuts. Despite all that, he’s still one of the best putters on Tour, and as long as he keeps that up, he’ll be in contention more often than not in 2014.

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3) Jordan Spieth

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From no standing to Tour Championship finalist, Spieth was the runaway Rookie of the Year in 2013. This year, he won’t surprise anybody, but the former Texas Longhorn has the game to hang with anybody in the world. If Spieth can take down a win early in the season, it could set the tone for him to have a huge season.

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2) Adam Scott

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What can be said about Scott that hasn’t already been said this year? He won the Masters and The Barclays, then came within a single hole of winning the Australian triple crown this fall. Just the other day, the Golf Writers Association of America voted him the top male player of 2013, and he’s going to make a serious run at Tiger’s No. 1 spot in the world ranking.

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1) Dustin Johnson

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Last season’s defending champion, Johnson already won the WGC-HSBC Champions in November with a ridiculous scorecard of 69-63-66-66. Even though he missed four cuts last season and had to withdraw from two events, he still found a way to make it all the way to the Tour Championship, where he finished fifth. An eight-time winner in his career, the only potential knock on Johnson is his inconsistency, but Kapalua sets up well for him to get off to a hot start in 2014.