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Punch Shot: Changes needed to Hyundai TOC?

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Is there any place you'd rather be right now than Maui, playing against a field of elite golfers for a a $5.7 million purse? Well, it's not all paradise at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. GolfChannel.com writers weigh in on what, if any, changes are needed to spice up the 2014 debut event.

By JASON SOBEL

This is my fifth or sixth time covering the festivities at Kapalua - and yeah, not being able to keep track is a humblebrag of the highest order - and I've spent a good portion of these visits trying to find a solution to this question.

Well, I've finally figured it out: There's nothing wrong with this tournament.

The No. 1 complaint is that the "big names" don't play this event. Let's be frank, that is basically a reference to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson electing to skip it every year; though this time they've also been joined by Graeme McDowell, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson.

But this entire question is about Tiger and Phil. If they played here annually, we'd never ask, instead considering the TOC a crown jewel to start the year. Well, the truth is, the PGA Tour could hold events this week two minutes down the road from where they each live, and they still might not play. Their prerogative. If they each want to take an extended winter break, they're welcome to. But we shouldn't consider this tournament "broken" just because they're not here. I'm fundamentally opposed to making changes just to possibly appease a few select players - and apparently the PGA Tour is, too.

As far as other issues, I was fine with the Monday finish until it started to coincide with the BCS Championship Game, which defeats the original purpose of avoiding being up against football. I'm fine with a select field of winners only; honestly, the range here can't accommodate a 60-man field as of right now. And I have zero problem with the year (not the season) starting in the Aloha State; it's a great visual for those stuck in snowstorms around the country.

So there you go. There's nothing wrong with this tournament. Trust me, I've spent years trying to figure it out. 


By REX HOGGARD

There is nothing wrong with the Tournament of Champions that a little tweaking and a healthy dose of reasonable expectations can’t fix.

The Kapalua stop has suffered from an identity crisis in recent years primarily because of its position on the schedule and, to a lesser extent, a golf course that is not among the favorites on the PGA Tour.

World No. 1 Tiger Woods hasn’t played the Tournament of Champions since 2005 and it has been more than a decade (2001) since Phil Mickelson made the trip to Maui. If tournament officials are serious about reversing that trend it will take more than a Monday finish and a new spot on the Tour’s wraparound schedule.

To woo the top players on a regular basis, officials should lobby for a more favorable spot on the calendar, say around the end of October or the middle of November when the game’s marquee is heading to or coming home from Asia.

It may also be time for a new ballpark.

The TOC has been played on the Plantation layout since 1999 and it has steadily fallen out of favor. Hawaii is dotted with quality golf courses and a venue upgrade could make it harder for players to pass on Kapalua.

There is no formula for the perfect field on Tour, but the folks in Hawaii could turn the odds in their favor with a little tinkering.


By RANDALL MELL

A Tournament of Champions works well if all your champions actually show up. If Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell were all there this week, it’s a more exciting opening event for the new year. And that’s what you would like to see to start the year, a big-bang event.

The PGA Tour schedule is packed full of more big-bang events than it’s ever had with majors, World Golf Championships and the FedEx Cup playoffs. Give PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem credit for creating so many more big events, for getting the world’s best playing against each other more often. The schedule’s lacking in that there’s no equivalent to Major League Baseball’s Opening Day. If you could sell your stars on playing the Accenture Match Play Championship as the first event of the new year, the PGA Tour would have its big-bang opener, regardless of whether it's actually a "season opener." Of course, golf's season never really seems to end anymore, with no offseason, so maybe there's no sense in trying to celebrate a start, especially during the NFL playoffs.


By WILL GRAY

While it might not be very feasible logistically, I’d like to see a change of venue for the winners-only event – at least occasionally.

The tournament’s current home at Kapalua definitely makes sense weather-wise, and the stability of next week’s Sony Open in Hawaii is also greatly enhanced by having this limited-field event as a nearby lead-in. The fact remains, though, that some of the game’s brightest stars have made it clear they have no desire to start their calendar year on the shores of Hawaii.

So whether a rotation of venues is in order, or if the event needs to return back to the mainland permanently, the event might be able to regain some of the cache it lost to the wraparound schedule by offering a field with fewer winners voluntarily on the bench.