The 2013 Opener: Hyundai Tournament of Champions
By Ben Alberstadt
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 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.
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.
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
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.
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)