This week marks the eighth event of the 2014-15 PGA Tour season, as last year's winners head to Hawaii for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Each week, a panel of experts will offer up their picks from four groups of players, based on Golf Channel's fantasy game, Fantasy Challenge. We will also keep track of their scores and standings. The panel includes: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; editorial director Jay Coffin; associate editor Will Gray; 'Morning Drive' host Gary Williams; host Charlie Rymer and defending fantasy champion Ryan Lavner.
Group 1: Bubba Watson: Big hitter will have plenty of room in these generous fairways. Plus, in a tourney, devoid of much star-power, Bubba could offer some popularity in primetime.
Group 2: Hideki Matsuyama: The trick to making picks at Kapalua is figuring out which players are grinding and which are still on vacation. This dude is all business, all the time.
Group 3: Russell Henley: Granted, it was a different island, but Henley proved he can roll the rock in the Aloha State when he birdie-binged his way to a Sony Open win two years ago.
Group 4: Camilo Villegas: Four years ago, he was DQ’d from this event for signing an incorrect scorecard after a rules snafu. He hasn’t been back ever since – until now. Payback time.
Group 1: Matt Kuchar: Consider the Tour’s annual stop at Kapalua Kuchar’s personal ATM. In five starts at the Hyundai he’s finished outside the top 10 just once (2003) and has just three rounds over par.
Group 2: Zach Johnson: Because a Johnson always seems to win the Hyundai (Zach last year and Dustin in 2013) and the defending champion has a history of coming out strong to start the year.
Group 3: John Senden: Unlike many players in this week’s field Senden is still in mid-season form following his tie for ninth at last month’s Australian PGA.
Group 4: Sang-Moon Bae: Despite a looming legal battle regarding his mandatory military service back home in South Korea, Bae closed last year with a flourish including victories at the Frys.com Open and another triumph in November in Korea.
Group 1: Matt Kuchar: Finished ninth or better in his last four trips to Kapalua, and few enjoy the family-friendly setting more than Kooch.
Group 2: Chris Kirk: Top 16s in his only two appearances here, including a T-7 in 2012. Betting his late-2014 surge continues.
Group 3: Russell Henley: Streaky putter, but the birdie machine has plenty of experience playing on the Big Island and comes in with three top 12s in his last five starts.
Group 4: Sang-Moon Bae: Ignore, if you can, the visa issues in his home country. Bae has two wins in his last four starts, including the season-opening Frys.
Group 1: Matt Kuchar: Might as well start 2015 by backing one of the most consistent players in 2014. Kuchar has played this event four times since 2010 and hasn't finished worse than T-9 across that span.
Group 2: Chris Kirk: Kirk caught fire during the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and carried that momentum right through the fall season. One of the best all-around players last year will begin the new year with a strong result.
Group 3: Geoff Ogilvy: Horses for courses. Ogilvy hasn't teed it up here since 2010, when he won this event for a second consecutive time. The Aussie loves the Plantation Course, and the layout loves him back.
Group 4: Robert Streb: Pretty nice bargain to get the FedEx Cup leader in Group 4, so I'll jump on board with Streb, who sandwiched two top-10s around his win at the McGladrey Classic in the fall.