Defending champ Byrd returning to Hyundai

December 09, 2011
PGA TOUR staff

KAPALUA, Maui, HI -- Tournament officials at the 2012 Hyundai Tournament of Champions began announcing player commitments on the tournament's Facebook page this week as 2011 PGA TOUR winners David Toms, Jonathan Byrd, Mark Wilson, Chris Kirk and Nick Watney all announced their plans to compete. The 2012 PGA TOUR season kicks off Jan. 5-9 at The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort with this unique winners-only event.

The commitment announcements began on Tuesday, as defending champion and five-time PGA TOUR winner Jonathan Byrd hosted a teleconference with local and national media followed by a chat with fans on Facebook. Byrd, who won last year in a playoff against Robert Garrigus, finished the 2011 season a career-best No. 27 in the final FedExCup standings.

"Every victory in your career means a lot. But for me, last year (at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions) was my biggest victory on TOUR to date," Byrd said. "I've won five times ... Hyundai has a small field, but it's the best field I've won against in 10 years on TOUR. To win the first tournament of the year, the Tournament of Champions, wow, what a great feeling starting the season."

Mark Wilson was the best player on TOUR for a portion of the early 2011 season with victories at the Sony Open in Hawaii and the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Wilson will be playing at Kapalua for the third time in his career. Wilson finished No. 22 in the FedExCup standings, reaching the FedExCup season finale, the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, for the first time in his career.

David Toms' path to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions was one of the more unique journeys of all of the players who have qualified for the 2012 event. Toms nearly made THE PLAYERS Championship his 13th PGA TOUR career victory, but a missed 3½-foot putt on the first hole of a playoff with K.J. Choi at the iconic 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass, that left Toms with a second-place finish. But instead of staying mired in disappointment, Toms rebounded the very next week to win the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

"I'm not dreaming, am I? This is actually happening, right," Toms asked after his victory at Colonial. "To come back, after what happened (at THE PLAYERS), is probably the most satisfying victory I've ever had out of all of the ones, even the major championship, even winning in my home state, to win after this time frame and to come back after what happened, certainly means more to me than any other victory."

Toms, who is a die-hard LSU Tiger fan, will play in Monday's final round at this year's Hyundai Tournament of Champions and then immediately find a place to watch his Tigers take on the University of Alabama in the NCAA's BCS title game. Toms will be teeing it up for the ninth time at Kapalua , finishing runner up in 2002.

Like Wilson and Byrd, Nick Watney also enjoyed a career season on the PGA TOUR in 2011. So good, in fact, that the 30-year-old is on the short list of candidates for 2011 PGA TOUR Player of the Year. For the season, Watney won twice, first at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship and again at the AT&T National. For the season Watney collected 10 top-10 finishes and ended the year at No. 9 in the FedExCup standings.

Finally, 2011 PGA TOUR rookie Chris Kirk was one of six rookies to account for seven PGA TOUR victories in 2011. Kirk won the Viking Classic during a season in which he recorded 4 top-10 finishes, including his victory, and a runner-up finish at the Shell Houston Open. Kirk nearly reached the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola, finishing 42nd in the FedExCup standings.

Fans and media are reminded to "Like" the tournament's Facebook page for the latest updates on commitments and other information.

Tickets for competition rounds Jan. 6-9 are on sale now at Limited spots in the tournament's pro-am on Thursday, Jan. 5, remain available. Those interested in being a part of the pro-am should contact the Hyundai Tournament of Champions tournament office at (808) 665-9160 or toll-free at (888) 665-9160 for more information.

Reminders - New to the tournament in 2012:

• The tournament dates for official play for the 2012 event begin with the Pro-am on Thursday, Jan. 5, continuing with four rounds of professional competition Friday, Jan. 6, through Monday, Jan. 9. The tournament is now scheduled to end on Monday, as opposed to Sunday.

• Thursday's pro-am round will be free to all spectators.

• The tournament will allow all youth 18 years-old and under accompanied by a ticketed adult into the tournament free of charge all week long.

• Military (active duty, retired and reserve) and their dependents will also be permitted onsite for free for the entire week. Military members should bring their military ID to the gate for admission.