Koepka will attract plenty of attention this week after announcing a new equipment deal with Nike. The Phoenix Open winner had a quiet fall, playing only in Napa, Vegas and the Bahamas over the final few months of the year. This is his first appearance at Kapalua. It is the fifth consecutive start here for Haas, whose finish in the limited-field event has gotten worse every year: 8-20-23-24. Haas also took some time off in the fall, playing the Presidents Cup, RSM Classic (T-33) and World Challenge, where he tied for fifth.
Despite playing in a big ballpark that should suit his creativity, Watson’s best finish at Kapalua is a tie for fourth in 2014. Last year, he shot 15 under, but that was only good enough for a solo 10th. Bubba won the Hero World Challenge last month and followed with a T-15 in Thailand. Johnson finished 12th in the Bahamas, his final start as a Titleist staffer. (He was announced Monday as part of the PXG stable.) Johnson won at Kapalua in 2014 and last year finished solo seventh, a result that could have been better if not for a third-round 73.
The Australian begins his 2016 campaign looking to build on last year’s T-3 at Kapalua, where he matched the course record with an 11-under 62 in the final round. This is his first stroke-play tournament since a T-10 in the Tour Championship. Prior to that, he had won four of six starts. Fowler, meanwhile, finished third at the World Challenge. In his only appearance at the TOC, in 2013, he tied for sixth during the weather-shortened event.
What will the world No. 1 do for an encore in 2016? We’ll get our first clue this week at Kapalua, where Spieth finished solo second in 2014. It’s part of a busy stretch for Spieth, who will play in Abu Dhabi, Singapore and Pebble Beach during the first few weeks of the new year. He'll play alongside Reed, his 2014 Ryder Cup partner, the defending champion here and arguably the hottest player on the planet. Since the Presidents Cup in October, Reed has six consecutive top-10s worldwide, including two runners-up.