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Hyundai Tournament of Champions Preview and Picks
by Matt Fargo - 01/02/2013
The 2013 PGA Tour gets underway this week with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions from the Plantation Course at Kapalua. This is a Friday start with a Monday finish that is designated for 2012 winners only. Of the 37 qualifiers, 30 are slated to tee it up in the opening event. Last year, Steve Stricker won by three strokes over Martin Laird to capture his only win of the season as a hot start turned into a slow finish after winning twice in each of the previous years and three times in 2009.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua is a par 73, 7,411-yard track that is usually one of the easier stops on tour. It is a bombers paradise and the longest drive of the season took place here when Gary Woodland hit his tee shot in the first round on 18 a mere 450 yards. The scores tell the story as the last four years, the winners finished at -23 (Stricker), -24 (Jonathan Byrd in 2011), -22 (Geoff Ogilvy in 2010), and -24 (Ogilvy in 2009). Expect more of the same this year as long as winds do not play a factor.
Some notable players not making the trip to Hawaii this week are Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Luke Donald and Justin Rose. 26 of the 30 players are Americans with Carl Pettersson, Jonas Blixt, Ian Poulter and Mark Leishman being the only international players in the field. Surprisingly, Byrd was the first American to win since Jim Furyk took home the prize back in 2001 which was the last of six consecutive American champions.
Since 1994, the winner has been decided in a playoff eight times so there is the chance for some good Monday drama. There are six co-favorites this week with Matt Kuchar, Jason Dufner, Steve Stricker, Ian Poulter, Dustin Johnson and Webb Simpson all sitting at +1,200. 14 players are at +2,000 or shorter so it is a pretty wide open event where past history should be a big factor. There are nine first time players at the Plantation Course which we can eliminate right away.
Matt Kuchar (+1,200) did not play here last year because he was winless in 2011 but his last two starts at the Plantation Course resulted in a T6 in 2011 and a solo third in 2010. He recorded one win in 2012, a two-shot victory at THE PLAYERS Championship, but he did not record a top five the rest of the season. With the slow finish behind him, he has a great chance to start 2013 strong.
Webb Simpson (+1,200) made his debut here last year and it was a strong one as he finished T3, four shots behind Stricker. 2011 was certainly a breakout season as he won twice in his last seven starts with only one of those resulting outside the top ten. He carried that over into last year and even though he had just one win, it came at the U.S. Open and overall had seven top tens.
Ian Poulter (+1,200) made a name for himself at the Ryder Cup, going 4-0-0 and he then followed that up with a victory in the HSBC Champions at Mission Hills in China in November. He can carry that momentum into Kapalua where he finished T6 in his lone start here back in 2011. This will be his only tournament until the Accenture Match Play on February 20th so expect plenty of focus.
Bubba Watson (+1,500) won at the Masters last year which was his only win. However he still played great down the stretch as seven of his 11 starts after that resulted in top 20's including two top fives. He finished the season ranked first on tour in driving distance and second in greens in regulation which are two key stats here. He finished T18 in Kapalua last year.
Keegan Bradley (+1,500) took home the Bridgestone Invitational last year but he finished the season with only five top tens which can be considered a disappointment after winning twice the previous year. He comes in with a lot of momentum though as his Ryder Cup was exceptional and most recent, he finished second at the World Challenge at Sherwood Country Club last month, three shot behind Graeme McDowell.
Recommended Tournament Win Five Pack at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions – All for 1 Unit
Matt Kuchar (+1,200)
Webb Simpson (+1,200)
Ian Poulter (+1,200)
Bubba Watson (+1,500)
Keegan Bradley (+1,500)
2012 Record to date after 36 events: +51.6 Units
2013 Record to date: +0.0 Units