After a six-week hiatus, the PGA Tour returns to action with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Resort’s Plantation Course, beginning Friday. Dustin Johnson overwhelmed the 30-man field a year ago, winning by four strokes in the tournament that was basically a two-day, 54-hole sprint, because heavy winds pummeled Maui on what would have been the first three days of play.
Read that sentence again and you’ll understand why Johnson was the perfect winner for the TOC in 2013. The key words are “54 holes” and “30-man field.” Of Johnson’s eight career wins, three have come in weather-shortened events and six came in tournaments that did not feature the Tour’s standard 132- to 156-player field. Bigger, smaller, shorter, it doesn’t matter. As long as it’s out of the ordinary. The only thing Johnson hasn’t won is a longer event, with none of his eight titles coming in a playoff.
Field size/tournament length of Dustin Johnson’s PGA Tour victories:
|Event||Field size||Number of holes|
|2008 Turning Stone||132||72|
|2009 AT&T National Pro-Am||180||54|
|2010 AT&T National Pro-Am||180||72|
|2010 BMW Championship||70||72|
|2012 FedEx St. Jude Classic||156||72|
|2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions||30||54|
|2013 HSBC Champions||78||72|
Thirty golfers are scheduled to participate in the 2014 Hyundai. That’s the same number as last year, as five eligible performers - Graeme McDowell, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Tiger Woods - have opted out. If no one else withdraws, the Hyundai will match the Tour Championship as the smallest field on the PGA Tour this year.
Perhaps surprisingly, one thing that doesn’t make Johnson a favorite this week is his length off the tee. It’s not that long hitters have a disadvantage on Kapalua’s wide fairways. It’s just that the length advantage is negated somewhat because the contours of the course usually add distance off the tee to everyone in the field - provided, of course, the wind isn’t blowing a gale into your face. True, Johnson led the tournament in distance of all drives in 2013 (he was second in official driving distance), but the winners from 2010-12 were all in the bottom half of the field in that statistic. (2012 champ Steve Stricker and 2010 champ Geoff Ogilvy were 17th in the field in distance, and 2011 champ Jonathan Byrd was 18th.)
Last year’s wind kept the distance of all drives down to 282.3 yards, but in 2012 the average was 296.5 yards. Both numbers were higher than the Tour average. In addition to long drives, the Plantation Course also often yields a higher percentage of fairways hit and greens in regulation. Johnson took advantage in only one of those categories. He was second in greens in regulation at Kapalua in 2013 and last in fairways hit, no doubt a result of the heavy wind. Johnson hit 48 greens, 88.89 percent, while the tournament average was 80.37 percent. In driving accuracy, Johnson hit 23 of 45 fairways. His 51.11 percent was lower than the tournament average of 67.48 percent.
The Plantation Course’s averages in 2012-13 compared to the PGA Tour:
|Plantation Course at Kapalua||PGA Tour|
|Avg. distance of all drives||296.5 yards||282.2 yards|
|Greens in regulation||81.64%||63.98%|
|Plantation Course at Kapalua||PGA Tour|
|Avg. distance of all drives||282.3 yards||280.0 yards|
|Greens in regulation||80.37%||64.42%|
Does Johnson have a chance to repeat in 2014? Sure. This event has had its share of back-to-back winners recently with Ogilvy winning in 2009 and 2010 and Stuart Appleby winning from 2004-06. So Johnson has the field size and the repeat factor going for him. And if the wind blows - remember he also won the 2011 Barclays in New Jersey when Hurricane Sandy was bearing down on the East Coast - we like his chances even more.
In an effort to help fantasy golf players with their selections this week, here’s a primer on how the rest of the field has fared at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Click here for Power Rankings.
• Sang-Moon Bae: The only Korean in the field, Bae is making his tournament debut.
• Jonas Blixt: He was T-18 in his first start a year ago.
• Scott Brown: Making his tournament debut. No player has won the Hyundai after qualifying for it by winning an event held opposite a top tournament since Steve Pate, who won in 1988 after taking the 1987 Southwest Golf Classic, which was held the same week as the Ryder Cup.
• Jason Dufner: T-18 in his debut a year ago. The last reigning major champion to win the TOC was 2002 British Open champ Ernie Els, who won at Kapalua in 2003. With Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson opting out of this event, Dufner and Masters champ Adam Scott are the only players who can match Els this week.
• Ken Duke: Making his tournament debut.
• Harris English: Making his tournament debut.
• Derek Ernst: Making his tournament debut.
• Brian Gay: T-18 in 2009, 21st in 2011. He has never shot lower than 70, but all eight of his rounds have been under par.
• Bill Haas: Making his fourth start. He has one top 10, an eighth-place finish in his debut in 2011.
• Russell Henley: He’s the only player in the field who has won every PGA Tour event he has played in Hawaii, having won the 2013 Sony Open in his debut a year ago. But the Sony and the Hyundai are not compatible events: Waialae’s fairways were the second-toughest to hit in 2013, while Kapaula’s were 34th out of 43 courses. Waialae’s greens were the 29th-hardest to hit in 2013 while Kapalua’s were the easiest on Tour.
• Billy Horschel: Making his tournament debut.
• Dustin Johnson: With Mickelson and Woods not playing this week, Johnson is the only player in the field with a win in this event.
• Zach Johnson: He’s won in Hawaii, taking the 2009 Sony Open, but as we mentioned in the Henley note, these two events can’t be more dissimilar. Interestingly, 2009 was the only time in six previous starts that he finished in the top 15 at Kapalua (T-6).
• Chris Kirk: He had a pretty good debut two years ago, finishing T-7 in 2012 in his only appearance.
• Matt Kuchar: He’s played four times and has three top 10s, with a best of third place in 2010. Fourteen of his previous 15 rounds at Kapalua have been at par or better.
• Martin Laird: The Scot looks like a fit for the winds of Kapalua. He was T-4 in 2010 and second a year ago. He has never shot higher than 70 in eight rounds entering 2014.
• John Merrick: Making his tournament debut.
• Ryan Moore: Played poorly in the wind a year ago (T-28), but he was T-6 in 2010.
• D.A. Points: He was T-12 in 2012, his only appearance.
• Patrick Reed: Making his tournament debut.
• Adam Scott: The runner-up in 2007, Scott has three top 10s in five starts and 19 of his 20 rounds have been at par or better. The way he finished 2013, winning two of three Australasian Tour events, puts him of the short list of top contenders this week.
• Webb Simpson: T-3 in 2012 and T-11 in 2013. He has never shot a round over par at Kapalua.
• Brandt Snedeker: Recovering from injuries suffered in a Segway accident in November, he was T-10 in 2008, third in 2013.
• Jordan Spieth: Making his tournament debut
• Kevin Streelman: Making his tournament debut.
• Michael Thompson: Making his tournament debut.
• Jimmy Walker: Making his tournament debut.
• Boo Weekley: He was T-23 in 2008 and T-15 in 2009.
• Gary Woodland: He was 24th in 2012.
ONE FINAL NOTE: Austin is the only player in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions field to win a PGA Tour event after last year’s Masters who is not also eligible for the 2014 Masters. Austin won in Mississippi the week of the British Open and did not qualify for Augusta because the event did not award full FedEx Cup points.