The 2014 PGA Tour season has already begun, but most regards the Hyundai Tournament of Champions as the unofficial kickoff event of the tour season.
Last year Dustin Johnson won a weather impacted and shortened event. For the PGA Tour and fans sake hopefully this year will come with a much better forecast and 72 holes of championship golf. Most of the big names in golf will be present to jumpstart the beginning of their chase for the money title, Fed Ex Cup Playoffs and exceptions galore.
The host course for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions is the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort, Maui, Hawaii. This event is as the title describes, is a winner’s only event. The event will be played over 72 holes with no cut and a total purse of $5.6 million with $1.12 million being the winners share. From 3-6 January 2014, the Plantation Course will play as a Par 73 covering 7,411 yards. Of the 18 championship holes at the Plantation Course there are five that should factor in deciding this year’s winner.
The third hole at the Plantation Course is referred to as “Easterly” and will play as a 380 yard Par-4. While this hole is not considered long by tour standards it does play into the trade winds adding distance. There is a slight left-to-right swing to the third and a group of bunkers that will have each player’s attention off the tee. The green at the third is protected by two prevailing bunkers as players attempt an approach to the left-to-right sloping plateaued green.
The ninth at the Plantation Course carries the nickname, “Long” The 521 yard Par-5 plays much longer than the scorecard says due to the prevailing winds. This hole is considered by many to be the most challenging hole of the Tournament of Champions. A solid tee shot is a must to an unassuming fairway. The solid tee shot will allow the players to carry the valley with their second shots and set up a manageable third while avoiding a forced blind approach from the wrong side of the valley. Another plateaued green awaits the players with more bunkers guarding the right side. It will take three quality shots to ensure players do not lose strokes to the field.
The final Par-3 at the Plantation Course plays to 164 yards and is called the “Bay.” At only 164 yards the 11th is not a hole that requires the players to reach back and power through. Rather a careful planned out shot shape can make all the difference. Players will be forced into one of two decisions. Either play a tee shot that will accept the wind and use the slope or play a shape that cuts and holds into the prevailing wind. Both shots are a challenge and any flag in the back portion of this green should be avoided and played to the center.
“The Low Road,” the 407 yard Par-4 13th hole and is unequivocally the most challenging Par-4 at the Plantation Course. 407 yards is not a short hole but when factoring in the winds that lace almost every hole you are left with a monster of a Par-4. A short iron will not be needed here unless it is a third shot pitch. Players will be forced to play a low boring tee shot off the box and be left with either a long iron or possible hybrid to reach this hole in regulation. A large and sloping green awaits approach shots that mange to find the putting surface. Three puts will not be uncommon and a score of par here all week should be considered a moral victory.
The absolutely stunning 18th hole known as “Home” is as much visually appealing as it can be tournament swinging. The closing hole is a Par-5 that will play 663 yards on the scorecard but the sloping landing area and prevailing downwind will actually make it reachable with two authoritative shots. The fairway landing area on “Home” is very receptive and almost every player will be giving it a true clobber from the tee. If struck cleanly and receiving a quality bounce than players will be afforded the opportunity to get “Home” in two. A bad decision or poor swing can easily cost you a shot here but if played to perfection the players can make eagle and possible steal the Tournament of Champions at the final curtain.
The Planation Course and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions will be a welcome test for last season’s tour winners planning on starting the season off right. The ability of the tours best to being their family, relax and then begin their season is welcome to all. Who will win the 2014 edition? Come back in a couple of days for who I think will gain victory and what longshot in the field has a real shot to take the title.
If you are looking for predictions for this years event check out my 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions Predictions