Planet Golf — 06 January 2016 by GW staff and news services
Stellar field set for TOC at Kapalua

KAPALUA, HI — As an unseasonably warm holiday season ushers in freezing temperatures across most of the U.S., there may be no more welcome sights than the vistas at Kapalua Resort on Maui.

The Hyundai Tournament of Champions brings prime-time golf to the mainland this week with a cast of prime-time players. Thursday’s first round will be telecast from 3-7 p.m. PT.

As is the custom, the defending champion, Patrick Reed, is paired with the FedExCup winner, Jordan Spieth, in the final group for the first round. The other pairings are based on the 2014-15 FedExCup points with the rookie winners from the fall going off in the early groups. Here are some of the top pairings:

Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed: We couldn’t ask for more, could we? Not only are they ranked Nos. 1 and 10, respectively, in the world, these two have history. Reed beat Spieth in a playoff at the 2013 Wyndham Championship and the outcome was reversed last year at the Valspar Championship. Spieth is coming off a five-win season that included two majors while Reed’s win at Kapalua was his only one last year. But Reed had a standout fall — posting top-10s in both of his starts on Tour and losing a playoff at the BMW Masters in Shanghai while also tying for third in Hong Kong, both on the European Tour.

Rickie Fowler and Jason Day: These two twentysomethings gave golf fans some of 2015’s most memorable moments. Fowler won twice, including THE PLAYERS Championship where he played his final six holes in a phenomenal 6 under and then outlasted Sergio Garcia and Kevin Kisner in a playoff. Day, who became a father for the second time during the offseason, had five victories, four of which came in his final seven starts. He didn’t finish lower than 12th during that stretch, either.

Steven Bowditch and Kevin Kisner: Kisner enters the New Year as the FedExCup leader, owning a 12-point edge over Russell Knox. Kisner moved to the top of the standings thanks to a runner-up finish at World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions — his fourth second-place finish in seven months — and his first Tour win, which came in his next start at The RSM Classic, where he beat Kevin Chappell by six strokes. Bowditch, who made his first appearance in The Presidents Cup last fall, punched his ticket to Kapalua for the second year when he won the 2015 AT&T Byron Nelson Championship by four strokes.

Graeme McDowell and Emiliano Grillo: Each of these players earned their way into the field at Kapalua with wins during the fall. For the Northern Irishman, the win at the OHL Classic at Mayakaba was the third of his Tour career and ended a three-year victory drought. He also finished third at The RSM Classic the following week. The 23-year-old Grillo got the season off to an exciting start when he won his first start as a PGA Tour member, beating Kevin Na on the second extra hole of a playoff at the Frys.com Open. The rookie from Argentina also lost in a playoff in Puerto Rico a year ago.

Here are the tee times.

 

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