Power Rankings: Hyundai Tournament of Championstext sizeJanuary 01, 2013
The most exclusive field on the PGA TOUR descends on the Plantation Course at Kapalua this week for the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The 72-hole event in Maui begins on Friday for the second consecutive year. It's slated to conclude on Monday.
This winners-only competition has hit lead-off for 15 years running, but it will evolve into the role of the restart as the first event of 2014 in the 2013-14 wraparound schedule. Thirty of the 37 qualifiers for this week's edition are scheduled to play, including all nine first-timers.
Kapalua is the only par-73 track the TOUR utilizes. There are just three par 3s (holes 2, 8 and 11) to accompany the customary set of four par 5s. The course can stretch to 7,411 yards, but measurements on the slopes of the West Maui Mountains are mere formalities. Consider that 41 of the 67 tee balls that traveled at least 400 yards throughout 2012 occurred here. Gary Woodland boomed the longest of the season, punching it out a cool 450 on the 18th hole in his first round.
In the first 14 years Kapalua has hosted, its greens ranked as the easiest to hit in regulation 10 times (2001-2005, 2008-2012). Last year's clip of 81.64 percent was nearly six percent clear of the runner-up -- the Seaside Course, host of The McGladrey Classic. Not unexpectedly then, Kapalua ranked second-longest in proximity to the hole on approach at 40 feet, seven inches. The 8,000-square foot greens also surrendered the lowest percentage of one-putts (31.58 percent) and highest average of putts per round (31.00).
Typical conditions will hover over the Plantation Course throughout the tournament. A slight chance of rain exists through the weekend. Easterly breezes will correlate as trade winds, and they could gust considerably. The terrain makes it tricky to forecast how much of an impact they'll have on golf, so experience navigating the property may prove valuable. Temperatures will top out right around 80 degrees every day.
Power Rankings: Hyundai Tournament of Champions Rank Player Comment Matt Kuchar One of the TOUR's steadiest performers -- nine top 10s and another four top 25s in 22 starts in 2012 -- has enjoyed success at Kapalua as well. A solo third in 2010 with a T6 in 2011. Ranked 26th in strokes gained-putting and fifth in adjusted scoring. Dustin Johnson Making his fourth appearance. Only golfer to post top 10s in every event of the FedExCup Playoffs to punctuate a season tainted by two injuries. Underrated mid-range putter (ranked 15th from 15-25 feet). Placed 23rd in par breakers. Scott Piercy Fearless. And after a T12 in his debut at Kapalua last year when his scores improved every day, he's familiar with the course and its greens. Ended his 2012 season with four straight top 15s, including a T2 at the WGC-HSBC Champions. Ian Poulter Qualified when he won the WGC-HSBC Champions immediately on the heels of a solo fourth at the BMW Masters. Then chased the victory with a solo second at the Talisker (Australian) Masters. Placed T6 in his only previous start at Kapalua in 2011. Steve Stricker The defending champ led the field in one-putt percentage (43.06%), fewest putts (114) and scrambling (76.92%) at Kapalua last year. The only former winner in the field is also the only former runner-up (2008). Led the TOUR in proximity to the hole. Webb Simpson Scored 68-68-69-68=273 at Kapalua in his debut last year, finishing with a share of third place. It was the first of seven top 10s, including his win at the U.S. Open. Ranked second on the PGA TOUR in par breakers and 21st in adjusted scoring. Bubba Watson Can't forget when he hit driver off the fairway at the 18th hole in his first round two years ago, but in his return trip, he was the only golfer in last year's field of 27 without a three-putt. Posted a T2 in his last start at the Thailand Golf Championship. Carl Pettersson Won once, placed second twice and added a T3 in 2012. Ranked 19th in adjusted scoring. Capped off his travel abroad with a solo seventh at the CIMB Classic, T16 at the WGC-HSBC Champions and T7 at the Nedbank Golf Challenge. Brandt Snedeker For the first time in three years, he didn't undergo any reported surgeries in between PGA TOUR seasons. The 2012 FedExCup champ tied for 10th in his only previous appearance at Kapalua (2008). Led the TOUR in strokes gained-putting at 0.860. Ryan Moore First start since winning the Shriners in the Fall Series a couple of weeks before his first child (a boy) was born. Concluded his season with four consecutive top 10s. Ranked 11th in par breakers. In his only previous appearance at Kapalua, tied for sixth in 2010. Keegan Bradley Back for more after a solo 16th in his debut at Kapalua a year ago. Co-led the field in the final round with a bogey-free 65. Led the PGA TOUR in the all-around ranking in 2012. In his last start, he was the runner-up at the World Challenge. Jason Dufner Only first-time winner in 2012 to hoist two trophies. Finished second in ball-striking, eighth in par breakers and fourth in adjusted scoring. Twice a runner-up abroad since the conclusion of the FedExCup Playoffs. Needs to learn Kapalua's greens. Scott Stallings Polished off a terrific late surge (that started with a win at the True South Classic) with a T5 at Disney. Tweeted “Made it to Maui!!!!” on Sunday after concern that his wife might deliver the couple’s first child en route. Baby is due in February. Nick Watney Two months after emerging with a relatively surprising victory at The Barclays, he shot a final-round 61 at the CIMB Classic to take that title, too. Closed in a pair of 68s at Kapalua last year to finish T12. Never rule out a patented run with his putter. Bill Haas Ended the year on a high note with a T16 at the CIMB Classic, a solo 10th at the WGC-HSBC Champions and a solo third at the Nedbank Golf Challenge where he was the only American in the field of 12. Finished alone in eighth place at Kapalua in 2011. Hunter Mahan Tied for 25th in his last appearance at Kapalua (2011), but he incurred a third-round 78 that week. Last competed at the Thailand Golf Championship, placing T22. Zach Johnson In five appearances, he's posted only one top 15 (T6, 2009) and broken 70 just six times. Last top 10 anywhere was a T9 at the Open Championship. Rickie Fowler The first-time qualifier put a lid on 2012 in style, finishing T4 at the World Challenge. Revealed that a sore back probably caused his second-half fade. Johnson Wagner While he's turned in top 10s in both appearance at Kapalua, he didn't record a top 25 in his last 20 starts worldwide. J.J. Henry Shared eighth place in his only previous appearance at Kapalua in 2007. Netted three top 10s in 2012, two of which in opposite events including his victory at the Reno-Tahoe Open. Jonas Blixt Led the PGA TOUR in sand saves, ranked second in strokes-gained putting and 14th in par breakers. Ended the year with a T10 at the Dunlop Phoenix. Marc Leishman Finally ended a drought of nine straight starts without a top 25 after his come-from-behind win at Travelers Championship with a pair of top 20s worldwide. Charlie Beljan Possesses the kind of skill set to bring Kapalua to its knees, but he's a first-timer and hasn't competed since winning at Disney in mid-November. John Huh His only weakness is inexperience at Kapalua where he is making his first appearance. Mark Wilson Zero top 15s in three trips to Kapalua. Just one top 40 in his last 14 starts worldwide (T10, McGladrey). Tommy Gainey Turned in one of the rounds of the year with a closing 60 to win The McGladrey Classic for his first PGA TOUR victory, but it was one of just two top 10 in 32 starts all season. Kyle Stanley Didn't post another top 15 after winning his first title on the PGA TOUR at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. No top 25s in his last seven starts worldwide. George McNeill His run of 13 straight starts without a top 35 is guaranteed to end this week. Shared 25th place in his only previous appearance (2008). Ben Curtis Better finish in two trips to Kapalua is a solo 30th in 2004. Just one top 20 in his last 14 starts worldwide. Ted Potter, Jr. His breakthrough at The Greenbrier Classic was his only top 10 of the year. In nine starts since, he's failed to crack the top 55.