Tournament: Hyundai Tournament of Champions January 7-10
Course: Plantation Course at Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii par 73, 7452 yards
Defending Champion: Patrick Reed, formerly of UGA, but finished his career at Augusta State (think Tray Matthews or Nick Marshall)
Television: Thursday-Friday, 6-10 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 4-6 p.m. (NBC), 6-8 p.m. (GC). Sunday, 6-10 p.m. (GC).
Former 'Dawgs in the Field: Chris Kirk, Kevin Kisner, Bubba Watson
This is a winners only tourney, and you get the invitation when you win a PGA Tour sanctioned event in the prior calendar year (2015 in this case even though the season runs November - October). So it's a small field with only 32 entrants, but it's a) played in Hawaii, 2) runs in prime time in the US TV markets while the NE freezes its baguettes off and c) has a guaranteed purse as long as you tee it up in the first round. The following week is a full-field PGA Tour event, so folks tend to stick around the islands. World #1 Jordan Spieth will be there along with #2 Jason Day, and plenty of good golfers like Rickie Fowler and others. Interestingly, Davis Love III won this tournament 23 years ago, and at 51 is by far the oldest entrant (he won the Wyndham in late summer).
The course is truly a thing of beauty, with incredible vistas from the high points of the course overlooking the Pacific Ocean - and often humpback whales at their feeding grounds. The course is extremely long, but combined with fairly steady trade winds, it can play either much shorter or much longer. You'll see several drives approaching 400+ yards on the downhill par 5 18th hole, and our own Bubba Watson usually pleases the crowd with some bombs.
Bubba gets in via his win at The Travelers Championship back in June. He won just over $6.8 million last year, and is now ranked 4th in the world. Kevin Kisner won the last tournament before the holidays, the RSM Classic, and is now ranked 17th in the world. Consider that he was 257th last April, and that shows what a great 8 months Kisner played. He won about $3.5M thanks to three 2nd place finishes. And Chris Kirk won The Crowne Plaza Invitational last summer and will be teeing it up alongside the others. Kirk broke his wrist late summer and fell to 49th in the world after hanging around in the 20's for most of the last 15 months.
So if Winter has finally arrived in your neck of the woods, tune in each night in prime time and see what playing golf in Hawaii should look like. It might make you drowsy, or it might make you pine for spring in the Southland. Either way, check it out and root on your favorite.
and GO 'DAWGS!!!!