The PGA Tour 2012 season kicks off this Friday with the 60th edition of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The tournament is played on the Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort in Kapalua, Hawaii.
The 7,411-yard course has a par value of 73, and since the tournament moved here in 1999, final scores of at least 20-under par have been achieved seven times. It has also since been decided five times in a playoff.
Most of the attention for this tournament so far has been focused on who is not playing this weekend, instead of the ones that will tee off on Friday. The tournament has been struggling to attract the star power to make this a marquee tournament, and this year is no different.
The 28-player field ties the record for the smallest field to tee off at the season-opening tournament.
Among the notables missing will be the world's top player, Luke Donald, Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy (winners of three out of the four majors) and the players ranked fourth and fifth in the world, Martin Kaymer and Adam Scott.
While they all may have their reasons for missing the tournament, there are some others that definitely would not have been able to make it anyhow.
Dustin Johnson, Brandt Snedeker and Fredrik Jacobson are coming off surgeries, and Justin Rose is back home, since his wife recently gave birth to their second child.
Phil Mickelson, the other eligible player missing, has not played here since 2001.
But we still have a respectable field, headlined by PGA Championship winner Keegan Bradley, and the top two finishers in the FedEx Cup standings, Bill Haas and Webb Simpson.
Excited, right? You should be.
Let's add Nick Watney, two-time winner last year including the WGC Cadillac Championship, Steve Stricker, who finished fourth last year and is ranked sixth in the world, and former Major winners David Toms and Lucas Glover.
The defending champ, Jonathan Byrd, is back to defend his title. He defeated Robert Garrigus last year after Garrigus bogeyed the second playoff hole.
Another notable player in the field is veteran K.J. Choi, the winner of The Players Championship last year. He has four Top 10 finishes in his last six events.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua is big-hitter friendly. This makes it suitable for players like Bubba Watson and Gary Woodland. The same applies for Scott Piercy and Jhonattan Vegas, who are the other two players that finished in the Top 10 in driving distance last year.
But length is not the only stat that counts for picking the winner here. Experience and all-around game is as good as the length on this course.
As you can see, despite the absence of the big names, there are still very good players and storylines to follow this weekend. The tournament should offer a very competitively balanced and contested finish, maybe opening the season with a playoff finish once again.
Keegan Bradley: My pick to win the tournament. The 2011 Rookie of the Year is fearless and his length and iron play make the perfect combination to win the tournament.
Nick Watney: Like Bradley, he is coming off a two-win season and had double-digit Top 10 finishes (10). He finished fifth in scoring average and is another player who has enough length and consistency to be a threat to take the title.
Steve Stricker: Third in scoring average and second in strokes gained, he was also a winner twice last year. The only question with him would be if he is fully healed from his neck injury. If he is, he has the game and history on this golf course to be a contender for the win.
THE DARK HORSES
Scott Piercy: The Reno-Tahoe Open winner ranks seventh in driving distance, but it's his sixth ranking on the par-4 birdie or better stats that gives him a great shot here. There are 11 par-4 holes on the course, including the three toughest holes (the opening hole, seventh and 17th.)
The only other player on the field ranked higher than him is Stricker.
Rory Sabbatini: You know the saying, "Once a bridesmaid, always a bridesmaid." But I like more the once that says, "The third time's the charm."
Sabbatini has played five times here and finished second twice. The third time he will contend for the win, he will win it. That could be this year.
TEE TIMES (All Times Local)—From Tee No. 1
|10:35 a.m.||Bryce Molder||Michael Bradley|
|10:45 a.m.||Harrison Frazar||Ben Crane|
|10:55 a.m.||Johnson Wagner||Kevin Na|
|11:05 a.m.||Sean O'Hair||Scott Piercy|
|11:15 a.m.||D.A. Points||Scott Stallings|
|11:25 a.m.||Brendan Steele||Jhonattan Vegas|
|11:35 a.m.||Chris Kirk||Lucas Glover|
|11:45 a.m.||Martin Laird||Rory Sabbatini|
|11:55 a.m.||Mark Wilson||Bubba Watson|
|12:05 p.m.||Keegan Bradley||David Toms|
|12:15 p.m.||Gary Woodland||Steve Stricker|
|12:25 p.m.||K.J. Choi||Aaron Baddeley|
|12:35 p.m.||Webb Simpson||Nick Watney|
|12:45 p.m.||Jonathan Byrd|
TOP BETTING ODDS (According to Ladbrokes)
8/1 - Webb Simpson and Steve Stricker
10/1 - Nick Watney
14/1 - Gary Woodland
16/1 - Keegan Bradley, K.J. Choi, Bill Haas and Bubba Watson,
20/1 - Aaron Baddeley and Martin Laird
25/1 - Jonathan Byrd, Ben Crane, Bryce Molder, Sean O' Hair, Rory Sabbatini and David Toms
COVERAGE (Golf Channel)
Friday, January 6th: 5:30 pm - 10:00 p.m. EST
Saturday, January 7th: 5:30 pm - 10:00 p.m. EST
Sunday, January 8th: 5:30 pm - 10:00 p.m. EST
Monday, January 9th: 4:00 pm - 8:00 p.m. EST
COVERAGE (Sirius XM)
Friday, January 6th: 5:00 pm - 10:00 p.m. EST
Saturday, January 7th: 5:00 pm - 10:00 p.m. EST
Sunday, January 8th: 5:00 pm - 10:00 p.m. EST
Monday, January 9th: 3:00 pm - 8:00 p.m. EST