Scott chasing first Hyundai title
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions | Preview | 31 Dec 2013
The 2014 golfing year begins in Kapalua on Maui this Friday with Adam Scott the favourite to continue his pursuit of the number one position in the game following his brilliant season in 2013.
With Tiger Woods not having played the event since 2005 and absent again this year, Scott, the world number two and one of the game’s great performers in 2013, is left as the obvious favourite, especially with several eligible players who might otherwise have been a strong contender for the title not in the field.
Those players include Woods, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson.
Scott has played the restricted field event on five previous occasions with several good finishes more especially earlier in his career. His best was when runner-up in 2007, finishing two shots behind Vijay Singh. Interestingly Scott he is the only player from the 2007 line-up in this week’s field perhaps further reflecting the changing nature of winner’s list on the PGA Tour.
Scott won two PGA Tour events in 2013 in addition to his great run during the Australian domestic season. The limited nature of his tournament schedule these days suggests Scott is ready to peak whenever he tees it up and there would be little surprise if he was well and truly ready to go despite having the last four weeks away from tournament play.
Matt Kuchar has had two weeks less away from tournament play having played Greg Norman’s event in mid December and has played this event in three of the last four years and finished inside the top ten on each of those occasions.
One of the game’s most consistent players in recent years, Kuchar, like Scott, won twice on the PGA Tour in 2013 and finished inside the top ten in each of his last four starts. On paper he appears Scott’s biggest threat.
Dustin Johnson is the defending champion but played sparingly late in 2013, one of those starts however a victory at the HSBC Champions event in China. Johnson defeated Steve Stricker by four shots in the weather reduced event last year.
Webb Simpson began to play very well late in the year which included a win in Las Vegas. Simpson finished third in this event on debut in 2012 and then 11th last year. In the form he was in late in 2013 he has a chance of that continuing this week.
Brandt Snedeker finished third behind Johnson and Stricker last year, the problem for Snedeker is a lack of form over the last few months of 2013. He is however a class player at his best and if he can find anywhere near that then he stands a chance.
Of the debutantes at Kapalua the likes of Harris English and 2013 Rookie of the Year, Jordan Spieth, appear good chances. Spieth’s win at the John Deere Classic got him into this field but he also recorded three runner-up finishes. His great start on the PGA Tour is expected to continue in 2014.
English won his last start in Mexico in breezy, seaside conditions with bermuda greens, similar to those he will face this week.
The event gets underway on Friday to avoid a finish that clashes with the NFL playoffs but given the new look schedule on the PGA Tour and the wrap around season that now exists the event takes on a new dynamic.
The event has unfortunately lost some of its gloss in recent times with many of the game’s leading stars not making themselves available and it is perhaps now worth thinking of options, either in scheduling or format in order to allow the event to receive some of the profile it deserves and return to the status it previously held as the season opener.