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January 9 2012

8:55 PM

First-timers get best conditions

KAPALUA, Hawaii – Having experience and course knowledge at the Plantation Course is generally considered a huge advantage for those in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions field. The two players in the final group – tournament leader Steve Stricker and defending champ Jonathan Byrd – are certainly evident of that.

But of the next four players on the leaderboard, three are making their first starts in this event – Bryce Molder, Webb Simpson and Kevin Na. And the other one – Martin Laird – is making just his second start here.

Molder said one of the reasons that the newcomers have played well here is that the conditions have not changed all week. The Trade winds have been mild and consistent, although they may blow a little bit harder for Monday’s final round.

Overall, though, it’s made for a quicker learning curve.

“The wind has been the same, so it’s been a little easier for guys like me,” Molder said. “It makes a big, big difference. It really does.”

Molder said he managed to judge the winds correctly during Thursday’s Pro-Am, and so “going into Friday the first round, there wasn’t any question as to which club (to use) off the tees.”

Since 2000, the only two players to win in their first look at the Plantation Course are Sergio Garcia (2002) and Daniel Chopra (2008). Chopra beat Stricker in a playoff that year.

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