The PGA Tour season resumes Thursday with the SBS Tournament of Champions. This tournament is a small, winners-only field and used to kickoff the season before the tour changed to the wrap-around format a few years back.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua is one of the most scenic courses in the world. Even if you are not a golf fan, the Hawaiian vistas this course provides makes this tournament a must-watch. Course is a par-73 and is wrought with elevation changes. The signature hole is the downhill par-5 18th, which has some of the longest drives of the year and some of the most compelling approach shots in the game.
Most Memorable Moment:
The most memorable moment at this tournament came in 2000 when Tiger kicked off his historic season with a win. The win came after an historic duel with Ernie Els – both players hit spectacular shots and sank putt after putt in the fading Hawaiian light. That tournament is a throwback to some Tiger fist pumps and represented one of the few times Els did not crumble when paired with Tiger.
Last Year’s Event:
Jordan Spieth took the title last year with a scorching -30 total and an eight shot margin of victory over fellow American hero Patrick Reed (Reed won the event in 2015). Spieth earned his seventh win at the event and became just the second player to ever shoot 30-under in a 72-hole event.
This is one of my favorite tournaments. The primetime coverage is great and the shots of the course are especially nice to look at for anyone surrounded by snow.
Low numbers are nothing new at Kapaulua. The conditions are generally blustery, but the wide fairways and five par-fives provide plenty of scoring opportunities. The winners-only mandate provides for a strong field and some made-for-tv pairings in the early rounds (Jason Day goes off with Patrick Reed, while Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson are paired together in the final to groups Thursday).
Despite the length of the course, the winner of this event is generally the player that can best navigate the grainy Hawaiian greens. The undulated fairways are often an equalizing force as the drives of long and short hitters tend to gather in similar spots.
Keep an eye on Pat Perez as a dark horse. Perez, who is one of the streakiest players on Tour, likes courses that offer plenty of birdie opportunities. His aggressive style of play fits perfectly with this event. Fun fact about Perez: Early in his career he was tied for the lead coming down the stretch of a tournament, but NBC couldn’t show him because he literally cursed after every shot.
Spieth blistered the field last year with a deft putting display, but I am picking the hottest player in the world – Hideki Matsuyama at -23. Putting is generally Matsuyama’s Achilles Heel, but he found his groove on the greens in the latter part of 2016 and look for him to ride that momentum into the first event of 2017.