Date: January 03, 2013
Author: Bruce Young /

Tour returns this week in Hawaii

The PGA Tour begins its 2013 schedule this Friday (Hawaiian time) when the Hyundai Tournament of Champions is played over its now traditional home of the Plantation Course at Kapalua on the island of Maui. A field of 30, as the name of the tournament would suggest, have earned the right through winning a title on the 2012 PGA Tour to line up in this event although seven are not playing the tournament despite being eligible. Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Luke Donald, Justin Rose, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Brandt Snedeker and Keegan Bradley are those who have chosen not to play or are unable to play despite winning titles on the 2012 schedule. Nine of the field are playing the event for the first occasion and only one (Steve Stricker) has won previously, Stricker winning when victorious last year by three over Martin Laird. Stricker also finished runner-up in the tournament in 2008 and 4th in 2010. The best finishes at the Hyundai Championship in previous years by other players in the field are the 3rd place finishes by Webb Simpson (2012) and Matt Kuchar (2010). Bubba Watson is the leading world ranked player in the line-up but in his two attempts here he has a best of 18th in the restricted field event. Watson did, though, put together several good finishes towards the end of the season including when 2nd behind Charl Schwartzel in Thailand a month ago. Matt Kuchar has played this event just twice but has done well on each occasion. He finished 6th in 2011 and 3rd in 2010 and played well enough throughout the latter stages of the 2012 season for him to again be a factor. He is in the field because of his Players Championship victory. Steve Stricker obviously has a liking for the layout and while his form in the last few weeks of the 2012 season was average by his standards he is too good a player to dismiss this week. Ian Poulter was another to play well late in 2012 after his heroics at the Ryder Cup seemed to inspire him for the last few weeks of the year. Poulter has played this event just once, that coming when he finished 6th in 2011. His last round of 66 that year in his first and only appearance at Kapalua should inspire him to another good week. Marc Leishman is the only Australian in the field as he was the only Australian to win on the PGA Tour in 2012. His breakthrough win at the Travelers Championship gave him the right to debut this week and even though his form since has been nothing to write home about just being in the field reflects what had been another good PGA Tour season in 2012.