Featured groups: Haas-Byrd in final pairing at Kapalua

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Bill Haas begins his defense of the FedExCup at this week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
January 05, 2012
Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM

KAPALUA, Hawaii -- Jonathan Byrd won the first event of the 2011 season. Bill Haas won the last event of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup ... and in the process, also took home the FedExCup.

Both players enjoyed success last year, but now the question becomes: What will they do for an encore?

Byrd, the defending champion of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and Haas, the reigning FedExCup champ, will be in the final twosome when the 2012 season starts Friday at the Plantation Course at Kapalua.

Tee Times
The Byrd-Haas twosome will tee off at 5:45 p.m. ET in Friday's first round. You can follow them on Golf Channel's coverage.
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Like every player in this week's 28-man field, Byrd and Haas are hoping to hit the ground running in Maui. A win this week -- actually, on Monday, since the tournament schedule has been shifted back one day from the usual Sunday finish -- can quickly eliminate a lot of stress.

"It's a good opportunity," Byrd said. "You're going to get four rounds in, you know you're going to knock some rust off and yes, I'm trying to have a great week this week. But i'm trying to keep it simple.

"I'm not thinking about winning. I'm thinking about taking care of the things I need to take care of, and hopefully that gets me in contention with nine holes to play."

A win also provides a quick boost in the FedExCup standings. When Byrd won last year, he was obviously the first-week leader in the standings, and lasted another two weeks at the top. In fact, he was one of just seven players not ranked outside the top 30 of the standings in any week during the 2011 FedExCup season.

Of course, Haas was the one who ended the season on top. But while his win at the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola was his crowning achievement a year ago, he did have a nice start to the 2011 season, produing top-10 finishes in each of his three starts on TOUR and playing his first 12 consecutive rounds under par a year ago.

MORE ON BYRD: A year ago, Byrd outperformed the field with his scrambling performance around the greens at the Plantation Couse. Of the 10 greens Byrd missed in regulation, he successfully salvaged par or better eight times (80 percent). A portion of Byrd's scrambling success can be attributed to his solid putting numbers inside 10 feet. For the week, Byrd converted a field leading 91 percent of his putting efforts inside 10 feet ... Byrd has played 15 of his 16 career rounds under par on the Plantation Course.

More Featured Groups
5:05 p.m. ET
Keegan Bradley was the only rookie to reach the TOUR Championship last year and ultimately won Rookie of the Year honors ... David Toms is making his eighth start in this event, more than any player in the field.

5:15 p.m. ET
Gary Woodland is making his first start in this event but said he played the Plantation Course 15 years ago on vacation ... Steve Stricker has three top-10 finishes in five previous starts here but has never won.

5:35 p.m. ET
Webb Simpson entered the final Playoffs event ranked first in FedExCup points but fell to second ... Nick Watney entered the Playoffs ranked first in FedExCup points but fell to ninth.

MORE ON HAAS: Watch out for Haas on Friday. His first-round scoring average in 2011 ranked seventh on TOUR ... Haas also ranked fifth in ball-striking and 11th in greens in regulation last year.