Thursday, January 3, 2013

2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions Preview and Predictions

The 2013 PGA Tour season is upon us!  It feels like the 2012 season just ended but hopefully the 2013 season is just as special.  2013 marks the final time the PGA Tour season will begin with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, as the tour embarks on it's new scheduling in the fall of 2013.  And many players are looking forward to the start of a new season and the first chance to wrap up a 2 year exemption on the PGA Tour.

The tournament returns to The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort which has been home to the tournament for many years.  Hyundai is the title sponsor for 2013, an honor that has been previously held by Mercedes Benz and other car companies.  The Plantation Course is a rare par 73 that tops out at over 7400 yards.  But with the elevation changes and fast fairways the course will not play as long.

The tournament will get under way January 4th, which is a unique Friday start on the PGA Tour due to the New Years holiday.  Tune in to Golf Channel to catch the action.

In The Field
Winners of events from the 2012 PGA Tour season are invited to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.  Thirty of the winners from 2012 have elected to participate in the tournament.  Big name players include:
  • Bubba Watson
  • Dustin Johnson
  • Hunter Mahan
  • Ian Poulter
  • Rickie Fowler
  • Keegan Bradley
  • Jason Dufner
  • Webb Simpson
Players to Watch
Ian Poulter: Poulter is coming in to 2013 as one of the hottest players in the world.  After a sensational and inspiring Ryder Cup performance, Poulter won the HSBC-WGC Invitational in China and carded 2 other top-5 finishes.  He has quietly moved up to #12 in the OWGR and will continue to climb with solid play.

Steve Stricker: The defending champion of this event struggled in the Ryder Cup, but a long break will have done him well.  At 45 years old, Stricker is cutting back his 2013 schedule to include around 10 events, so he will be well rested for each of these.  When Stricker is putting well, he is a threat to win each and every week on tour.

Keegan Bradley: Look for Bradley to have a solid 2013 after a strong sophomore season on the PGA Tour.  If he keeps his putting consistent, Bradley will demolish The Plantation Course with his length and towering ball flight.

Holes to Watch
Hole 1: The opening hole at The Plantation course is aptly named "Kapalua".  At 520 yards it is one of the longest Par 4s on tour.  The downhill and downwind drive will end near the runout of the fairway, where an approach shot over a ravine and a large elevation drop will greet the players.  Hit a solid drive and the pros will have a middle iron in and a birdie opportunity, but a missed drive or second shot can lead to bogey or worse.

Hole 14: At 305 yards "Plateau" seems like it should be the easiest hole on the golf course.  But the smallest green perched upon a plateau makes this hole tougher than it appears.  With fairway bunkers lining the landing area on a layup, there is no easy way to play the hole.  A birdie here will propel the players onto a finishing stretch where low scores are possible but trouble lurks.

Hole 18: The final hole, referred to as "Home", is a long par 5 that measures in at 663.  A largely downhill tee shot usually assisted by the prevailing winds allows the hole to be reachable in 2 shots for the longest of hitters.  Watch here on Monday during the final round as a birdie is doable but a double bogey is in play.

Pairings to Watch (Local times for first round)
10:35 AM: Rickie Fowler and Jason Dufner
12:15 PM: Zach Johnson and Hunter Mahan
12:45 PM: Bubba Watson and Dustin Johnson
12:55 PM: Brandt Snedeker and Steve Stricker

Keegan Bradley will have a strong start to 2013 with a solid win in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.  With perennial T of C frontrunner Jonathan Byrd not eligible due to a winless 2012, Bradley will battle with Ian Poulter and Brandt Snedeker but will come out victorious.  Steve Stricker will have a strong showing before some lengthy time off and Bubba Watson will thrill with his length, but both of these players will falter down the stretch as Bradley and Poulter duke it out late.  Bradley wins with a birdie-birdie finish.

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