One of the biggest perks that comes with winning on the PGA Tour is getting the chance to start the New Year in Maui.
This year’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions field will feature 34 of last season’s 36 champions — Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowery are not playing — on a mountain course that boasts some of the best views in golf. In 2015, the par 73 track played to a 69.93 average, the easiest of the 52 courses on Tour. What makes the Kapalua Resort unique is that the fairways are wide enough to land a 747 on, so driving accuracy is essentially meaningless. And while the greens were the easiest to hit last season (80.14 percent), at an average of 8,000 square feet, putting remains the key to success. In the 17 years the event has been played at Kapalua, 8 winners have led the way in fewest putts per round and no winner has ranked higher than 4th.
Another big key is going low on the Par 5s, as the champs have played the long holes in an average of 10-under, while last year’s winner Patrick Reed posted a 13-under. The track’s only defense is the wind that whips off the ocean, so players who are comfortable in the breeze have a big edge as well.
5 PLAYERS TO WATCH AT KAPALUA RESORT
Jordan Spieth — 2015: DNP; 2014: 2; 2012: DNP — Had the lowest putting average and putts per round in 2015
Dustin Johnson — 2015: DNP; 2014: T6; 2012: Win — 3rd in putting average, 5th in par breakers
Jimmy Walker — 2015: 2; 2014: T21; 2012: DNP — 2nd in strokes gained putting, 11th in par breakers
Jason Day — 2015: T3; 2014: DNP; 2012: DNP — 1st in par breakers, 2nd in putting average
Patrick Reed — 2015: Win; 2014: T16; 2012: DNP — Incredible streak last six starts, all top-tens, two runners-up
Jordan Spieth started last season at Phoenix, finishing T-7th, followed by the Farmers where he missed the cut. This year’s first month is going to be drastically different. Spieth will start in Kapalua for the Hyundai, then take a week off before heading to Abu Dhabi followed by the Singapore Open. After another week off he’ll return to the PGA Tour for the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-am, effectively circling the globe and racking up 32,247 air miles to play in those four events.