The PGA Tour has a wraparound schedule, so the season is well underway, but the traditional inaugural event of the calendar year is the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Numerous big stars teed off at Kapalua Resort in Hawaii, whose exclusive 32-man field features only those who secured victories during the 2015 calendar year.
If Thursday's first round served as any indication, golf fans should be in for a treat to begin the new year. A jumbled leaderboard features world No. 1 Jordan Spieth only one stroke behind flamboyant defending Hyundai champion Patrick Reed, who sits at eight under par.
A closing eagle allowed Reed to break out of a massive tie for first as he went six under on his last six holes.
Spieth, who birdied the 18th to move into solo second, is the reigning FedEx Cup champion and coming off a season in which he also secured the first two major titles. The 22-year-old phenom has a lot of hype to live up to, and he's off to a fine start.
Not particularly known for his power, Spieth capitalized on reaching both par-five greens on the front nine in two with excellent two-putts from long range for birdies.
He combined those with a birdie at the par-three second to get to three under at the turn. As if there were any doubt, the brightest young hope in American golf's putter is still behaving. The PGA Tour shared a replay of his putt at the second:
A stuffed wedge at No. 10 allowed Spieth to get to four under, which he followed with consecutive birdies at Nos. 14 and 15—with the latter being another par five he reached under regulation, which gave him a good look at eagle.
ESPN.com's Jason Sobel had a fitting reaction to Spieth again soaring to the top of the leaderboard:
Jordan Spieth moves into a share of the lead. #TweetsFrom2015— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelESPN) January 8, 2016
Reed, who has paired with Spieth in Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup competitions, played alongside his compatriot again Thursday and looks to be up to the task as the defending Hyundai champion.
Consistency has been an issue for Reed since he's burst onto the world golf scene. He tends to get hot on the course as well. Antics aside, it's hard to argue with the results he produces or the fashion in which he tied the lead on the 17th hole, per the PGA Tour:
For an encore, Reed was aggressive on the par-five closing hole, hitting a phenomenal second shot on the green to just outside 15 feet away:
Then, he finished his circuit around the unique par-73 layout in about the best way imaginable:
Not to be underestimated among those at six under is Brandt Snedeker, another past FedEx Cup trophy winner who has been sidetracked by injuries at times during an otherwise-magnificent career.
Known for heating up with the flat iron, Snedeker delighted Kapalua galleries with a run of three straight birdies from Nos. 12 to 14, which he capped with a crafty, curling roll that found the bottom of the cup:
Stephanie Wei pointed out that Snedeker had to battle more than the course in the opening round:
Brandt Snedeker has been battling a head cold and sounds terrible, but managed to shoot -6 67 for share of early lead. #bewarethesickgolfer— Stephanie Wei (@StephanieWei) January 8, 2016
After he ranked 109th and 127th, respectively, in Round 3 and Round 4 scoring average last season, it will be interesting to see if J.B. Holmes can maintain his form after a hot start.
Still working to find steady results, Danny Lee is once again a factor and one of the underrated young guns in the game. He didn't make a bogey and carded six birdies to put himself in the mix at six under.
Both Spieth and Snedeker are more reserved with their course management and have tidier short games than Holmes and Lee.
The wild card among the chief contenders is Reed, who tends to slam the door on his adversaries when he gets off to a proper start, as Golf Channel's Justin Ray noted after the first round:
A friendly rivalry should help Spieth and Reed thrive when they're paired together again Friday.
"It just seems like maybe we just want to beat each other so bad it actually brings the best out in us," said Spieth after Thursday's action, per GolfChannel.com's Jay Coffin.
In Reed's past six worldwide starts, per OWGR.com, he has three top-three finishes and hasn't been outside the top 10. He's been feeling it, to say the least—a trend that bodes well when combined with his indefatigable confidence.
Due to the number of talented players in contention in this small field, it's anyone's tournament to win, even with 18 holes in the books. Anyone within five strokes of the lead has a chance to make a charge into the weekend.
The obvious thing to do is to tab Spieth as the favorite. With 500 FedEx Cup points awarded to the winner and little to lose because of the exclusivity of the tournament, though, expect plenty of attack-minded golfers to give Spieth all he can handle as he pursues his seventh official PGA Tour victory.
Note: Stats and information courtesy of PGATour.com unless otherwise indicated.