Bubba Watson, Masters Champ, at Kapalua.
At the opener of the 2013 PGA Tour season at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the last time it will be the season opener, there are many big-name no-shows.
This is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, guys at the top don’t start the year in Hawaii. However, you can bet they are getting psyched up to finish as well in 2013 as they did in 2012. With most of them being world players, not just U.S. players, they are saving up energy for weeks when they can get foreign-appearance money, even if that means adding a regular PGA Tour event to the schedule this year or next, if required, to play abroad when there’s a PGA Tour event.
The purse at Hyundai is $5.7 million, and $1.14 million goes to the winner. Only 30 players are currently in the field with last place being assured of something close to $70,000. So, it does beg the question: When is this much money not enough?
This week, apparently, it’s not enough for some.
Like many of us, many golf families are still in the post-Christmas fog, trying to shake out cobwebs, get up for getting on planes and flying three or four (or more) thousand miles to what most would consider a golf paradise. Some are just not ready to stare at suitcases again. They are still resting and getting family time. However, many notables have arrived.
Masters champ Bubba Watson is ready to make the long par fives play like par threes. U.S. Open champ Webb Simpson will make his second trip to test out the Maui turf.
Steve Stricker is out of the hunting clothes and lathering on sunscreen, as is nine-time PGA Tour winner Zach Johnson. The “other” Johnson, Dustin, who was injured for the first half of 2013 and won in his first tournament back, is ready to go. Former PGA champ Keegan Bradley will have the evil eye primed and ready for Kapalua’s undulating greens. Bradley and Dustin Johnson have the length to make the 18th a pitch and putt. Watching them hit shots from the 18th tee should be a great spectator sport.
Newly minted champions, Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner, Scott Piercy, Kyle Stanley, Mark Leishman, John Huh, Charlie Beljan, Ted Potter, Jr., Tommy Gainey and Jonas Blixt are all ready to go, looking forward to this perk as first-time winners. After an absence of several seasons, J.J. Henry returns to the winner's circle, and he will enjoy a return to basking in the Hawaiian sun.
Tee times start on Friday, not Thursday, and the final round is Monday, not Sunday. And everything is live in prime time.
So, get the sofa warmed up; the season starts in two days. You don’t want to miss it. You’re in good company. There are several quality players sitting with remotes in their hands too.