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Preview: Hyundai Tournament of Champions

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The 2013 PGA Tour season gets started in its customary fashion with last year’s winners facing the enviable task of four rounds of golf in Hawaii at the beginning of January. Last year, Steve Stricker strung together four consecutive rounds in the 60’s and survived early final round blunders secure victory.

For golf fans, the opportunity to watch golf in primetime (in an enhanced format this year, no less) and to see top golfers competing at beautiful Kapaula is a welcome departure from snow and off-season speculation.

The Course

The Plantation Course at Kapalua in Maui, Hawaii was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, and opened for play in 1991. It’s a par 73, measuring 7,411 yards. Historically, Kapalua’s Plantation Course is one of the easiest courses on the PGA Tour, with the winner often reaching 20-under-par.

Field Notes

The field is limited to tournament winners from 2012.

FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker, Masters winner Bubba Watson and U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson are the most notable. Ian Poulter, Rickie Fowler, Keegan Bradley, Hunter Mahan, Dustin Johnson, Jason Dufner and last year’s winner, Steve Stricker, are also competing.

Sixteen players from the top 30 in last year’s final FedExCup standings are participating, the most since the advent of the FedExCup, and one-third of the field is under the age of 30.

Story lines

As the PGA Tour recently announced, “NBC’s award winning golf production team will be coming to Kapalua this year led by Producer Tommy Roy, co-producer Tom Randolph and Director Doug Grabert.” Additionally, there will be “Sunday Night Football Style” player introductions — no word on whether Faith Hill is recording a theme song for the event.

Young Players are Winning, and thus playing at Kapalua

Players younger than 30 claimed 19 victories on tour last year. Overall, 15 of the 37 winners on the PGA Tour last year were 30 or younger. Kyle Stanley, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan, John Huh, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Marc Leishman, Ted Potter, Jr. and Scott Stallings, Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Jonas Blixt, and Charlie Beljan all won last year and will be at Kapalua this week.

Short Game Wins at Kapalua

No surprise here. The PGA Tour’s “Tour Report” recently said that the key to victory at Kapalua is putting:

“Four of the last seven Hyundai Tournament of Champion winners have led the field for scrambling en route to their respective victories….Three of the last five winners have led the field for putts gained….Seven of the last nine winners have either ranked first or second for strokes gained-putting.”

Numbers of Note

72-hole record: 261, Ernie Els (2003). 18-hole record: 62, K.J. Choi (3rd round, 2003), Graeme McDowell (4th round, 2011).

500 FedEx Cup Points awarded. Purse: 5.7 million

Last Year

Steve Stricker shot a blistering second-round 63 to propel him to the front of the pack. Although he faltered over the succeeding two days, he was able to hold off Martin Laird of Scotland in the final round, finishing at 23-under for his first career win at the Tournament of Champions. The win was Stricker’s ninth victory after the age of 40.

T.V. Times

Friday-Saturday, 5:30-10 p.m. EST (Golf Channel)
Sunday, 3-6 p.m. (NBC), 6-10 p.m. (Golf Channel)
Monday, 4-8 p.m. (Golf Channel)

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum. 

Note: This article originally stated that the Kapalua Plantation Course opened in 2001. The course opened in 1991, and was re-designed in 2001. 

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  1. Ferreus

    Jan 3, 2013 at 9:50 pm

    Minor correction, the course opened in 1991.

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5 things we learned on Sunday of the 2018 U.S. Open

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Opportunity knocked for so many golfers, yet it was the 2017 champion who seized the moment when it was his. Brooks Koepka fired his second sub-par round of the week on Sunday to separate from playing partner Dustin Johnson, and enter the pantheon of multiple major champions. He became the 7th player to defend his title, joining old-school legends like Willie Anderson and John McDermott, mid-century icons like Ralph Guldahl and Ben Hogan, and the last man to accomplish the feat, Curtis Strange. With that introduction, let’s move to the main event, the 5 things we learned on Sunday at Shinnecock Hills.

5) The USGA gave golf a chance

True to its word, the USGA pulled out all the stops in the wee hours of Sunday morn. The course set-up team ensured that enough water was distributed to putting surfaces, that worthy shots would not be punished. Hole locations were assessed and confirmed, also ensuring that multiple opportunities for success were available. As a result, 15 golfers turned in scores under par of 70, highlighted by Tommy Fleetwood’s 7-under stunner. Although many fans, writers and players were quick to assault the organizers for losing control of the course, the USGA reminded us that it always had control of the conditions at Shinny, and that its only mistake was to soar too close to the sun.

4) Captain America ran out of gas

If Patrick Reed had been able to sign his card on the 9th tee, when he stood 5-under on the day and 1-over for the tournament, he would be in a playoff with the eventual champion as I type. Unfortunate for this year’s Masters champion was that 10 holes remained. Reed promptly bogeyed the 9th, added 3 more bogeys on the inward half, and summoned just one birdie toward the end. His fourth-place finish was his best in a U.S. Open, but knowing that victory was in the cards will sting for a while.

3) DJ and Finau gave it a run

Where to begin? How about this: DJ had four bogeys on Sunday. He totaled that many on Thursday-Friday combined. He had birdies, too, but couldn’t find the game that possessed him over the opening 36 holes. Oddly enough, this type of experience won’t be a setback for the 2016 champion. After all, he came back from a career-killer in 2015, when he 3-whacked his way out of a playoff with Jordan Spieth at Chambers Bay. As for Milton Pouhau Finau, aka Tony, the Utah native had never before been in the final group on any day of a major professional championship. He acquitted himself well, standing even on the day and 3-over for T2 at the 18th tee. Knowing that he needed eagle for a playoff might have taken the final winds from his sails, and he limped home with double bogey and solo third. Looking ahead to the final August playing of the PGA Championship, Bellerive near St. Louis might just be his type of course.

2) Tom Terrific nearly made his own U.S. Open history

I’ll write this cautiously, as I’m certain I would have intimated in the 1980s and 90s that Colin Montgomerie and Lee Westwood would have been major champions by now. Tommy Fleetwood ought to win one of these things soon. His record-tying 63 was a short putt away from a record-breaking 62. Eight birdies against a single bogey was the stuff of legend, and if only he had trusted that final putt a bit higher on the break … that’s not fair. Fleetwood right now is the fellow to watch at Carnoustie next month. Bet a few quid or bob or whatever on the Southport native, as he should contend for the title.

1) Brooks cooks up a winning broth

It’s easy to look back and see all the great shots that the defending champion hit over the four days of the 2018 U.S. Open, shots that would win him his second consecutive trophy. Remember that 60-feet bomb to save par on Saturday? Shades of Costantino Rocca. How about the approach shots to within mere feet that earned him 5 birdies on Sunday, including a competition-killer on 16? Koepka was the guy we thought Dustin Johnson would be. Perhaps it was the time off for wrist rehabilitation early this season that gave him the burning desire to win. Out for nearly 4 months, Koepka had plenty of time to ponder what he achieved last June in Wisconsin, and what might lay ahead for him. The begged question is, does the most recent, two-time major winner have the game to acquire more of the game’s cherished trophies?

Related: Brooks Koepka’s Winning WITB from the 2018 U.S. Open

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Wednesday’s Photos from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills

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GolfWRX is live from the 2018 U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club (par 70; 7,440 yards) in Southhampton, New York. The U.S. Open returns to Shinnecock for the first time since 2004 when Retief Goosen won (he failed to qualify for the 2018 event).

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Phil Mickelson, who has two top-5 finishes at Shinnecock Hills, will seek to fill out his career Grand Slam with a win this week. Also, it’s Tiger Woods’ 10-year anniversary of winning the legendary 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — that was his most recent major championship victory.

Also in the field are headliners Dustin Johnson (now ranked No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings), Justin Thomas (No. 2), Justin Rose (No. 3), Jon Rahm (No. 4) and Jordan Spieth (No. 5).

Brooks Koepka (No. 9) is the defending champion; he won last year by four shots for his first and only major so far in his career.

Check out our photos from Shinnecock Hills below!

Wednesday’s Galleries

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Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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Spotted at Shinnecock: #RVLife, superb staff bags, stellar stampings

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We’re on the famed grounds of Shinnecock Hills Golf Club for the second major of the year. With the U.S. Open returned to such a visually and historically rich venue, it may be a bit tough to focus on equipment.

Nevertheless, we spotted some cool stuff, Tuesday, as the players move ever closer to the second major of th eyear.

Let’s get to the photos.

#RVLife propronent, Jason Day’s putter cover is incredible.

Michael Greller displays an essential caddie skill…

Face of Tiger’s wedge. Do these look like standard TaylorMade MG grooves to you?

Greatest side panel on a bag ever?

Who isn’t happy to see “Woods” on USGA tournament signage?

Shintaro Ban’s unique dot stamping is, well, money.

A look at the Bridgestone U.S. Open staff bag and headcovers.

Kenny Perry: Still gaming R7 irons.

Scott Gregory with some solid wedge stamping.

What is this lead taped and war torn beauty?

All our photos from Tuesday

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about the photos in our forums

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