Tournament of Champions 2013: Winners and Losers from PGA Opener in Kapalua
This year's PGA Tour opener was far from ordinary, but that didn't stop current world No. 12 Dustin Johnson from taking home the bacon.
Played at the Plantation Course at Kapalua, where tropical storm-worthy wind gusts wreaked havoc on the event's 30-man field, Johnson ended up walking away with the Tournament of Champions' championship belt (if Aaron Rodgers was awarding the trophy, that is).
When the tournament finally ended on Tuesday, there was one clear winner, but we're going to take a look at a couple others who should be feeling cheery as well.
In our typical fashion, we'll also look a few specific losers from Kapalua.
Let's get at it, shall we?
Winner: Dustin Johnson
With his victory, Dustin Johnson started off his season with a bang, earning a cool $1.12 million in prize money, nearly one-third of his entire 2012 earnings.
The last PGA Tour event Johnson won was last year's FedEx St. Jude Classic, and it's worth noting that he's already halfway to reaching his single-season career high in wins (two), which was achieved in 2010.
The 28-year old has now amassed seven Tour wins in his PGA career, and could very well add to this total next month, at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Johnson has already won the Pro-Am twice in his career, and plays particularly well on its trio of championship courses: Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula's Shore Course.
Loser: Kyle Stanley
Kyle Stanley finished dead last in the Tournament of Champions. The Clemson graduate, entering his third season on the PGA Tour, shot 78-80-72 en route to a plus-11 finish. The next highest finisher was at six over par.
Stanley won his first career Tour event at the 2012 Waste Management Phoenix Open, played at TPC Scottsdale, and also lost in a playoff to Brandt Snedeker at the Farmers Insurance Open.
Stanley's poor play at Kapalua is part of a longer-term trend beginning with the PGA Championship last fall. Since missing the cut at Kiawah Island in August, he missed the cut at The Barclays, and failed to finish higher than 34th in his next four tournaments.
The golfer was at his best in the early part of 2012, where he notched three of his four top 20s before March.
After finishing last season with more than $2.3 million in earnings and 32nd on the PGA Tour's money list, Stanley will have a tough time in 2013 if his mini-slump continues.
Winner: Steve Stricker
At No. 13 in the world, Steve Stricker is one of the more underrated "elite" Tour pros out there. The University of Illinois graduate has had remarkable success at Kapalua, with three top fives and one victory here in the past six years.
After winning the event in 2012, Stricker finished second at the Champions, notching a score of 12-under.
While a high placing at any PGA Tour event should be considered a success, Stricker has to be feeling especially positive about his play at Kapalua, where a nerve condition in his back caused him to question his playing ability.
According to the New York Times, Stricker "expressed doubts that he would be able to finish," adding, “My tempo is good because I can’t hit it very hard. It was uncomfortable to play, but it never got any worse.”
Nearly a month away from turning 46, Stricker is proving the doubters wrong, especially in the face of "semi-retirement," based on The Augusta Chronicle's original insight last week. After playing in 19 PGA Tour events last year, Stricker plans on only competing in "around 10" the entire 2013 season.
If he can continue to rake in top five finishes like he did this past week, Stricker may actually become more efficient with his reduced schedule.
Loser: Ryan Moore
After winning the Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in his last PGA Tour event of the 2012 season, Ryan Moore had to be heading into this year with high hopes.
These expectations took a step back at Kapalua, where Moore finished tied for 28th place at six over par. The two-time Tour champion shot an unsatisfying 72-77-76, and had the worst final round in the field on a day where scoring was generally at its best.
Last year, Moore earned nearly $3 million by making cuts, only missing weekend play in three of his 24 events. If the Tournament of Champions was larger and followed a standard format, Moore would have definitely not have made it past the second round this year.
If the golfer wants to build on a season in which he finished 26th on the PGA's money list—a career high—he'll have to find a way to get past this poor performance.
Winner: Tommy Gainey
Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey may have the best nickname on Tour, but it's his play over the past three months that has given some weight to his stature.
Gainey won his first career PGA event in October at The McGladrey Classic, outlasting a decent field consisting of Jim Furyk, Charlie Beljan and Zach Johnson, among others.
The 37-year old waited quite a while to take home his first winner's check, but Gainey's play at the Champions indicates more success may be on the way.
According to ESPN, Gainey hit a whopping 86.5 percent of his greens in regulation and over three-quarters of his fairways at Kapalua.
Now, when we look at performance data from the PGA Tour, both of these areas are not particularly strong aspects of Gainey's game. The golfer tends to rely, at least statistically speaking, on his above-average putting to score.
If he's able to continue hitting the ball like he did at Kapalua, more top tens, and even a victory, could be in store for "Two Gloves."
Loser: Hunter Mahan
Hunter Mahan had a splendid 2012 season, finishing ninth on the PGA Tour's money list with over $4 million in earnings. This total trumped many of Mahan's more well-known peers like Keegan Bradley, Luke Donald and Webb Simpson, for example.
The world No. 26 won twice on Tour last season, with his most impressive victory coming over Rory McIlroy at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship.
Mahan finished 2012 on a positive note, notching two consecutive top tens, so a Top 26 finish at Kapalua is definitely a head-scratcher.
The golfer has had mixed success at the Tournament of Champions in years past, but it's worth noting that the last time Mahan played this poorly at the event was 2011.
In that season, Mahan followed up a 25th place finish at Kapalua with six top tens in his next 11 starts, so there's at least light at the end of the tunnel, historically speaking.