January 7 2013
Now that all players are on the course Monday in what appears to be a first round that will actually count at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, here are a few early observations:
> Ian Poulter posted a drive of 426 yards at the 420-yard par-4 12th hole. Poulter's tee ball landed in the rough, right of the green. He then pitched to 7 feet but missed his birdie attempt. Poulter was even par through 13 holes
> Is it any surprise that Dustin Johnson is in contention? He currently is the tournament leader at 4 under through nine holes. Of Johnson's six career PGA TOUR wins, two of them have been in 54-hole shortened events.
> Also, is it any surprise that Mark Wilson is in contention? Maybe. Or maybe not. He's currently shot a shot back, 3 under through 12 holes. All five of Wilson's PGA TOUR wins have come in the first three months of the season -- including a 2011 wins at the Sony Open in Hawaii, which starts on Thursday. But he hasn't fared all that well at the Plantation Course -- he's never finished better than a tie for 18th in three previous starts in the limited-field event. Monday's set-up, however, has shortened the course significantly, which plays better into Wilson's game.
> Webb Simpson was 3 under through 7 holes on Friday before that score was wiped out. Starting on the 10th hole in Monday's first round, he hasn't managed to duplicate that fast start. He's even par through 14 holes, with a double bogey at the par-4 13th (he found trouble off the tee) canceling out his two birdies.
> Rickie Fowler and Jason Dufner, the first group out of the first tee, were on pace to finish their rounds in approximately 3 hours, 50 minutes.
> Kyle Stanley, making his first appearance in this event, had a tough start, dropping four strokes in his first four holes, including a double bogey at the 12th when he was forced to take a penalty stroke after an errant tee shot.
> In his opening nine holes, FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker rolled in four birdie putts at a cumulative link of less than 8 feet. But on the 10th hole, Snedeker showed why he ranked first in strokes gained-putting last year, rolling in a putt of 35 feet, 3 inches. That moved Snedeker to 3 under.
> Keegan Bradley's rollercoaster round consisted of four birdies, three bogeys and five pars in his first 12 holes.