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Punch Shot: Most anticipated early-season event

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The 2013 PGA Tour season begins this Friday at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii. In this Punch Shot, GolfChannel.com writers weigh in with the early-season tournament they most anticipate.

By RANDALL MELL

The WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, Feb. 20-24, will mark the first gathering this year of the game’s biggest stars.

Yes, you can argue that the season will feel as if it’s beginning in earnest Jan. 17-20 on the European Tour at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, where Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy will make their ’13 debuts, but the Accenture Match Play Championship will adorn Woods and McIlroy with a deeper all-star cast.

The World Golf Championship event gives us our best early perspective in how the stars are aligning themselves in the new season. Plus, the nature of match play, with its win-or-go-home finality, deliciously ratchets up the intensity right from the first tee shot. While stroke play is like a long-distance race, with contenders pacing themselves for the final back-nine Sunday push, match play creates pressure from the opening tee shot. There’s winning and losing from the first hole. The first day of the Accenture Match Play Championship may be the best day in golf outside the majors and the Ryder Cup.


BY RYAN LAVNER

Sure, Kapalua is loads of fun to watch – radiant sunshine, white-capped waves, a bombers’ track. But the field is too weak.

And yes, Abu Dhabi packs the most intrigue – Tiger and Rory, Rory and Tiger, making their 2013 debuts. But there is also a nine-hour time difference.

So the early-season event I’m most looking forward to? The Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, a U.S. Open test with majestic views, Tiger and Phil, Brandt and Rickie, DJ and Bubba.

Still not intrigued? Consider that there also is a mandatory players’ meeting on Tuesday of Torrey Pines week, when they are expected to discuss and decide when to implement the anchoring ban (perhaps as soon as October). Heck, that meeting alone could provide the early pyrotechnics. 


By JASON SOBEL

Sitting here at Kapalua right now, you can accuse me of drinking the Kool-Aid. At least, that's what I thought was in this tall glass with the mini umbrella on top.

I know the Hyundai Tournament of Champions doesn't have the greatest field; in fact, the eligible players who aren't here easily outshine the ones who are. And I also know that this event has some issues; the fact that players are rewarded this season because of something they accomplished last season has always bugged me.

But there's something about the gorgeous vistas that signifies a fresh start to the new year. Watching elite PGA Tour players compete while framed by a background of bright rainbows over the mighty Pacific is like golf's version of calling out, 'Gentlemen, start your engines!'

I love the Sony Open, because it provides a first opportunity to watch new players at the game's uppermost level and I can't wait for the Farmers Insurance Open and Abu Dhabi Championship to duke it out from opposite sides of the world on the same week.

Give me Kapalua, though, for what it symbolizes. And let me raise my glass of Kool-Aid for a toast: Here's to new beginnings.


By REX HOGGARD

Not far from the Yas Island links that will host this year’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship looms Ferrari World and what is billed as the world’s fastest roller coaster, a white-knuckle ride that leaves riders pinned into their seats by excessive G-Forces and in search of a Dramamine milkshake afterward.

It is, all things considered, the perfect metaphor for the unofficial start of the 2013 season. With apologies to this week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Kapalua – not to mention the Farmers Insurance Open, which previously held the title – Abu Dhabi has firmly established itself as opening day.

Last year’s stop in Abu Dhabi gave us Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy paired together for three days, in some ways a precursor to how the season would unfold, and this year’s event, which will be played Jan. 17-20, promises even more early-season intrigue.

Included in this year’s field will be world No. 1 McIlroy, who will likely be announced as Nike Golf’s newest staff player on Jan. 14 in Abu Dhabi, and No. 3 Woods, both making their ’13 debuts.

Adding even more intrigue to the week will be the European Ryder Cup captain’s announcement, and that’s all before the first official shot is hit at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. It’s a start almost as fast as that roller coaster at Ferrari World.

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