Power Rankings: Hyundai Tournament of Champions
January 05, 2015
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
- Matt Kuchar has four top-10s in the last four years at Kapalua ... but no victories. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
Since it no longer leads off the schedule, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions has rapidly evolved into a soft reopening of the PGA TOUR season. With no cut and the second smallest field of the 47 tournaments -- 34 of the 38 qualifiers are slated to compete this week -- the winners-only event is the feel-good stretch after an extended nap.
When dreaming of The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort, it's easy to think only of the downhill, par-5 finishing hole (with Molokai in the distance) that can tip out at 663 yards. And while some of the longest drives are registered at No. 18, the par-4 seventh and 12th holes yield even longer pokes on a consistent basis. Overall, six of the nine longest drives during the 2013-14 season occurred on this course, but none of the knocks at 18 cracked the top 20.
Contrary to the assumption, Kapalua's average distance of all drives ranks a pedestrian 18th at 281.9 yards. But with wide fairways and greens that average 7,120 square feet, it's no surprise that last year's field eclipsed 77 percent in both driving accuracy and greens in regulation. The rub is that it averaged 39 feet in proximity to the hole, third-longest of any track on the docket.
The Plantation Course is the only par 73 on the PGA TOUR. With respective nines of 36 and 37, it boasts only three par 3s to complement a full set of four par 5s. It reads 7,452 yards on the scorecard, but the elevation changes give the bunters better than a fighting chance.
Twelve first-timers in this week's field will be trying to overcome a recent trend that experience matters. Daniel Chopra is the last to win in a debut (in 2008), and all of the last four victors needed at least three looks before breaking through. Defending champion Zach Johnson turned the trick in his seventh appearance.
Trade winds (from the east) will usher in the tournament scheduled to begin on Friday. They are expected to graduate into a heavier Kona wind (from the southwest) by the final round on Monday. Sunny skies and highs near 80 degrees are forecast.
NOTE: I will rank the 19 golfers not included below in the Fantasy Insider column, which returns on Tuesdays this year.