The 2015 PGA Tour season has already begun but most regard the Hyundai Tournament of Champions as the unofficial kickoff event of the tour season. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions once again takes center stage as the winner’s only event takes shape at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort Maui, Hawaii. Most of the big names in golf will be present at this no cut event to jumpstart the beginning of their chase for the money title, Fed Ex Cup Playoffs and exceptions galore.
Dates: January 9 – 12 2015
Course: Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort Maui, Hawaii
Stats: Par-73, 7,411 Yards
Television Coverage (Times):
Friday: Golf Channel 4:30 – 10 PM EST
Saturday: Golf Channel 1 – 7 PM EST, NBC TBA
Sunday: Golf Channel 2:30 – 9:30 PM EST, NBC TBA
Monday: Golf Channel 4 – 8 PM EST, NBC TBA
Purse: $5.7 million total purse, $1.16 million winner share
Three Holes That Matter
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. This allows 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. A 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 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 pitch of a third shot. 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 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.
Hyundai Tournament of Champions Top Choices
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 bring their family, relax and then begin their season is welcome to all. Who will win the 2015 edition? Let’s take a look at three players that I would predict to be right in the hunt coming down the stretch at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
|Matt Kuchar||Kuchar finished tied for sixth here last year, ninth in 2013, a sixth in 2011 and a third place finish in 2010 so he knows what it is like to get around the Plantation Course. He is not the longest guy on tour but does excel in approaches from 75-100 yards which he can expect a lot of at the Plantation course given his driving distance. Kuchar’s solid flat stick makes up for a lack of distance. Looking at all the figures and his historic solid play on Maui I would be hard pressed to back anyone other than Kuchar this week. I expect the new year to start out quite nicely for the Sea Island resident.|
|Billy Horschel||Many will think this is odd but it makes sense to me. Horschel will be making his second start at the Plantation Course and the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He finished in sixth place, five strokes behind Zach Johnson in 2014, but it was his weekend that opened things up for me. After getting used to the venue, he shot weekend rounds of -5 and -7 to make his way up the leaderboard. That knowledge will only help in 2015. At the Hero World Challenge in December, he shot a par of weekend 67s to finish tied for eighth. With that play and the course knowledge I look for a big step forward this year.|
|Bubba Watson||Bubba was not eligible to play in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions last year but if you look at his trajectory in his previous three starts then things are promising. In his first try he finished 25th in 2011 then came back the following year and managed an 18th place finish. In 2013, he stepped up and finished fourth in the weather shortened event. If you move forward he could continue to climb. His official tour slate for this season shows him with one start in the World Golf Championships- HSBC Champions. That Shanghai started ended in victory. Bubba has the game and most definitely has the length for the Plantation Course.|
Who will win the 2015 Hyundai Tournament of Champions
- Other (34%, 35 Votes)
- Matt Kuchar (26%, 27 Votes)
- Bubba Watson (21%, 22 Votes)
- Billy Horschel (19%, 20 Votes)
Total Voters: 104