The Hyundai Tournament of Champions is the most difficult event on the PGA TOUR for which to qualify, so it only makes sense that it is held in the incomparable beauty only the Plantation Course at Kapalua can provide.
This is the 14th edition of the winners-only event that serves as the lid-lifter for the 2012 season. However, for the first time, it begins on Friday. It joins the Deutsche Bank Championship as the only tournaments with a scheduled Monday finish.
Twenty-eight of the 39 qualifiers are in the field at Kapalua, 12 of which are first-timers. The only former champion scheduled to compete is defending. Jonathan Byrd outlasted Robert Garrigus in a two-hole playoff a year ago.
Scores well under par are prevalent in Maui but that's primarily due to the fact that Kapalua is a par 73, the only of its kind on the docket. Greens that average a TOUR-high 8,000 square feet predictably have been the easiest to hit in each of the last four years. During that stretch, the track has sat inside the top six in both birdie average and actual scoring average. So, it's not so much a putting contest as it is an aerial assault to pile up birdie opportunities.
Severe elevation changes and trade winds out of the northeast all week will help the Plantation Course play shorter than the 7,411 yards on the scorecard. There is but a whiff of a chance of rain on the weekend with the more serious threats occurring before and after the tournament. High temperatures will hover at 80 degrees all week.
|Power Rankings: Hyundai Tournament of Champions|
MORE: Fantasy projections for all 246 players | Medical | Reshuffle | Major qualifiers
In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Because this week is a 28-player field, here are Rob Bolton's other 18 players for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions:
11. Aaron Baddeley ... Top-10s in three of his last four starts worldwide. No top-10s in two appearances at Kapalua.
12. Martin Laird ... Would have cracked the top 10 with more consistency but still a threat. Finished T4 in his only appearance in 2010.
13. K.J. Choi ... Capped off a superb 2011 with six consecutive top-20s worldwide. 14. Jonathan Byrd ... The defending hasn't finished worse than T15 in his four visits to Maui.
15. Jhonattan Vegas ... The 2011 rookie proved that he loves to get after it on tracks that require making a boatload of birdies.
16. Sean O'Hair ... Has finished in fourth place in his last two visits to Kapalua (2009, 2010). Lone top 10 in 2011 was his win in Canada.
17. Brendan Steele ... Faded after his maiden victory at the Valero Texas Open but posted top 20s in half of his last 12 starts worldwide.
18. Scott Piercy ... First go at Kapalua. Long off the tee. Aggressive. No-cut format in limited field makes him dangerous.
19. Johnson Wagner ... Placed 10th in his only appearance in 2009. Only top 10 in 2011 was his win in Mexico.
20. Scott Stallings ... Packs a punch off the tee. Ranked 60th in greens in regulation in 2011.
21. Harrison Frazar ... The first-timer should have fun launching it off the tee but his win in Memphis is his only top 10 over the last two years.
22. Kevin Na ... Finally broke through in Vegas during the Fall Series. Ranked 180th in greens hit in 2011.
23. Bryce Molder ... Excelled in the Fall Series during which he picked off his first win.
24. Lucas Glover ... Zero top 10s anywhere in 17 starts since winning at Quail Hollow.
25. D.A. Points ... First-timer in Maui. Managed just one top 10 after his breakthrough at Pebble Beach. 26. Ben Crane ... No labrum tear in his left hip but has just one top 20 in three tries at Kapalua (T9, 2004).
27. Mark Wilson ... In two previous appearances, has finished 27th (2008) and T27 (2010).
28. Michael Bradley ... Ended the year with a pair of T20s. Only top-10s in last 11 years were two victories in Puerto Rico.