Tournament Previews

Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Hyundai Tournament of Champions

Plantation Course at Kapalua – Kapalua, Maui, HI

Friday Jan 3 – Monday Jan 6, 2014

Purse: $5,700,000

Winner’s Share: $1,140,000

FedEx Cup Points: 500  

Course

The Plantation Course at Kapalua is perhaps the most unique golf course that is played on the PGA Tour circuit. While that may sound like praise, it is one of the least popular courses amongst the tour players. In fact, in the tour players voted it as their 10th least favorite course on the tour. A golf course was simply not meant to be built on this piece of land. It contains dramatic views of the ocean, drastic elevation changes, and the widest fairways you will ever see. It plays over 7,400 yards, and oddly to a par 73. You’ll see some 400 yard drives, and some 130 yard 6 irons if the winds cooperate. Some of the distances between holes are so large that the players must ride in cars to get from green to tee box.

Field

Tee Times This tournament famously consists only of PGA Tour winners from the 2013 season. Considering that, you would think it would be very strong field, but considering that Tiger and Phil skip it on an annual basis, the pool of A-listers within the 30 man field is a bit shallow. The names in this field are sometimes a painful reminder of some of the names who won tournaments in 2013 (Derek Ernst, Woody Austin, Scott Brown). This field is best compared to whatever Callaway’s best golf ball is: It’s good, it’s just that nobody plays it.

Featured Pairing

Derek Ernst & Woody Austin – How many times have we seen these two duel over the years?

Last Year

Dustin Johnson won the 2013 event on a Tuesday after 3 days of insane wind and rain delays. The tournament was as bizarre as the course is, with 36 holes played on Monday, and the shortened event concluded on Tuesday with Johnson’s 4 shot win over Steve Stricker.

Player to Watch

It’s impossible to pick a breakout candidate for this event considering the criteria for getting into the field, but look for Harris English to have a dramatic outbreak in 2014. He’s already won this season, following his win in Memphis in June. He looks primed for a huge year, and could threaten to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team.

Why Should You Watch?

The golf course alone is reason to watch this tournament, especially if you’re stuck in as much snow as I currently am in Chicago. The setting is magnificent, and the style of golf to be played is completely unique. The drives will be monstrous, the winds will blow, and players will be forced to use creativity and feel more than the precision and calculation that you see on typical U.S. PGA Tour courses.

Tron’s Take

These days with the wrap-around schedule and Golf Channel picking up more and more coverage from warm locales around the glove, it doesn’t stick out quite as much, but it’s still a sore thumb. Getting home from work, it’s dark, shitty outside, and you haven’t touched your sticks in a month and half you flip on the tv and it’s golf porn from Hawaii. It’s shock value. It works. To a large extent, this is what the entire West Coast Swing is about – it’s like an antidepressant for Seasonal Affective Disorder. You flip it on and it warms your soul.

The five years or so after the tournament moved from SoCal to Maui were the golden years. With Mercedes bankrolling the event, it was one of the premier stops on tour and had a certain aura about it.  You didn’t hear quite as much bitching about the layout, the resort hadn’t gone through bankruptcy proceedings yet (Lehman Bros. went HAM on renovations in ’07), and year after year the winners were straight-up thoroughbreds: Duval, BigCat, Furyk, Sergio, and Els those first five years in Hawaii. It was all downhill after that: Stu Appleby won three years in a row (’04-’06), Tiger stopped making the trip in ’05, and then the bottom fell out in ’08 when Daniel Chopra won and singlehandedly prompted Mercedes to drop their title sponsorship (just kidding, but that had to be a factor, right?).

Rebranded as the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the tournament still commands a pretty bossy field save for the top four or five guys. After nine straight years of foreign winners, this event has gotten increasingly xenophobic, to the point where 26/30 players in the field this week are Americans. And outside of Adam Scott, it’s hard to imagine one of those four foreigners winning the even this year (Bae, Blixt, and Laird are all respectable players, but let’s be serious).

Random thoughts:

  • In my opinion, the real intrigue w/ this event always lies in sitting back and reflecting on how the hell some of these guys won last year. Unfortunately this year, most of the guys in the field are the real deal. However, Woody Austin should pick up the slack in that department.
  • Scott Brown absolutely menaced the Fall Series!
  • Don’t really like any odds this week. Field is too small, nobody I like to bet on has a decent track record here, DJ is banged up AGAIN this time his neck, ZERO VALUE. Adam Scott is trending like CRAZY and if you look past his last few appearances here actually has a decent record on this track.
  • Kuchar is about to shut it down for four weeks after the sony and just chill out on the big island and skip four of the best events of the year?

About the Author

Just an athlete with a club; In endless pursuit of the power fade - @ngschu.

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2 responses to “Hyundai Tournament of Champions

  1. I’m not sure I care for the new “reach around” format, is that what it’s called?. For me, the Hyundai tourny of champs still marks the beginning of the season. The scenery and just seeing the guys mashing drivers 10 times/round had me excited. So excited that I (even though I won’t be teeing it up for months, stuck in Columbus, OH) locked myself and my sticks in my guest bedroom where my wife couldn’t disrupt me, and cleaned every groove of every club, clearned out every pocket of my golf bag, scrubbed up every ball, and even gave the shoes a spit shine (too far? too soon?). Needless to say, I am excited to start my season, but for now, January in Hawaii will keep me occupied.

  2. Frank, I’m actually in favor of the the reach around format. And I love that as a title for it. Anything that adds more meaningful PGA Tour events, I’ll support. The fact that there is little to no off season in golf is what makes it such a fun sport to follow year round. There was always this series of tournaments that were PGA Tour tournies, but didn’t count for the FedEx Cup, they got you exemptions, but not the Masters, etc. Now all tournaments are basically the same, and it adds a lot more intrigue to these events.

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