Planet Golf — 03 January 2013 by Bob Sherwin
Tropical start to PGA season

KAPALUA, Hi – The PGA Tour begins again Friday with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, featuring 30 winners from last year’s events.

There’s been some changes and alterations to the event and the Tour this year. Here’s a look at what’s ahead:

    • For the first time in the FedExCup era, the 40-tournament official money schedule will give the season a definitive end at the Tour Championship, the fourth event in the FedExCup Playoffs.
    • The 2013-2014 PGA Tour Season officially begins three weeks later with those tournaments that formerly made up the Fall Series; those events begin awarding full FedExCup points.
    • Year seven of the FedExCup includes 36 events before the Playoffs, one less than 2012 due to the Mayakoba Golf Classic moving to its own unencumbered fall date, in the 2013-14 PGA TOUR Season.
    • The CIMB Classic and World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions become official events on the PGA Tour (official victory, full FedExCup points, official money; winners qualify for Hyundai Tournament of Champions).
    • The Web.com Tour becomes the path for the PGA Tour’s 50 new membership cards. The top 25 players on the money list for the Web.com Tour Regular Season will earn cards but must play the Finals for positioning. The Web.com Tour Finals will determine an additional 25 cards, based on cumulative earnings in those events, as well as the positioning of all 50 Cards. The Web.com Tour Finals will coincide with the timeframe of the FedExCup Playoffs, with last event ending the week after the Tour Championship.
    • The field makeup for the Finals will include the top 75 players from the Web.com Tour money list, Tour members who are 126-200 on the FedExCup points list following the Wyndham Championship, and non-members who would have earned enough FedExCup points to place them 126-200 on the official FedExCup points list.
    • Sudden Death: How will 2013 season play out after a 2012 campaign that featured nine playoffs and seven players that came from six strokes back after 54 holes to win on the Tour.
    • Young stars: 15 of the 37 different winners on the Tour in 2012 were under the age of 30, accounting for a total of 19 victories: Kyle Stanley, Bill Haas, Hunter Mahan (2), John Huh, Rory McIlroy (4), Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson, Marc Leishman, Ted Potter, Jr. and Scott Stallings, Keegan Bradley, Ryan Moore, Jonas Blixt and Charlie Beljan.
    • WINNERS: Entering the 2013 season, 28 of the top 30 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are members of the TOUR. Last year, 20 of the 37 different winners in 2012 were inside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking as of January 1: Steve Stricker (6); Brandt Snedeker/2 (38); Phil Mickelson (14); Bill Haas (27); Hunter Mahan/2 (19); Rory McIlroy/4 (3); Justin Rose (18); Luke Donald (1); Tiger Woods/3 (23); Bubba Watson (21); Jason Dufner/2 (33); Rickie Fowler (32); Matt Kuchar (11); Zach Johnson/2 (37); Dustin Johnson (7), Webb Simpson (10), Keegan Bradley (31), Sergio Garcia (17), Nick Watney (12) and Ian Poulter (16).
    • Hyundai Tournament: There are 16 players from the top 30 in the 2012 FedExCup final standings in the field at Kapalua, the most from the top 30 ever to play at this event since the debut of the FedExCup six years ago. The 30 players in the field includes: FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker; Major champions Bubba Watson and Webb Simpson; Two-time winners Hunter Mahan, Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson; 2012 Ryder Cup stars and 2012 World Golf Championships winners Keegan Bradley and Ian Poulter First-time winners include Rickie Fowler, Tommy Gainey, Kyle Stanley, 2012 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year John Huh, Charlie Beljan and Jonas Blixt; veteran stars Dustin Johnson, Bill Haas, Matt Kuchar, Nick Watney and defending champion Steve Stricker, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Ian Poulter enter the week all ranked inside the top 15 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

HYUNDAI NOTES:

    • Player ages: 20s – 11; 30s – 18; 40+ -1
    • Brandt Snedeker: Will start the 2013 Tour season as the reigning FedExCup Champion. The four-time winner controlled his own destiny heading into the Tour Championship as he was ranked fifth in the standings thanks to a win earlier in the season at the Farmers Insurance Open and a runner-up finish at the first Tour Playoffs event – The Barclays. Snedeker won the Tour Championship by three strokes with a steady final round. Snedeker totaled two wins, one runner-up finish and seven top-10 finishes in his 22 starts in 2012.
    • Most Sub-Par Rounds in 2012 FedExCup Playoffs: Snedeker played a Tour leading 14 sub-par rounds in the FedExCup Playoffs. Over this stretch, Snedeker finished second at The Barclays, sixth at the Deutsche Bank Championship, T37 at the BMW Championship and first the Tour Championship.
    • Steve Stricker: The defending champion will be playing in the Hyundai for the seventh time and the fifth since 2008. Stricker, whose previous best finish before winning in 2012 was a playoff loss to Daniel Chopra, returns with hopes of winning for the 13th time on the Tour. Stricker leads the field with 12 PGA Tour victories. Next on the list of PGA Tour winners is Zach Johnson (9) and Dustin Johnson (6) followed by Hunter Mahan, Carl Pettersson, Nick Watney and Mark Wilson with five apiece.
    • Stricker (45) is the oldest player in the field and the only player in his 40s.
    • Dominant Short Game: During the week of his win at last year’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Stricker missed 13 total greens and successfully salvaged par a field leading 10 tmes (77 percent – 1st). Stricker’s average chip shot from around the green landed a field leading 3 feet 11 inches (over 5 feet closer than the field average of 8 feet 8 inches).
    • Ian Poulter: He comes to the Hyundai after a strong end to 2012, his memorable performance for Europe at the Ryder Cup followed by his second career World Golf Championships win at the HSBC Champions at Mission Hills in Shenzhen, China.
    • Poulter was one of just six players on Tour in 2012 to go the entire season without missing a putt from inside 3 feet. For the year he went a perfect 391 for 391 (100%) from this distance. Moving back one more foot, Ian Poulter missed just two putts from inside of four feet on the 2012 PGA TOUR going an impressive 472 for 474 from this distance.
    • Keegan Bradley: He comes to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions thanks to a come-from-behind win at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational.
    • Bradley was No. 1 on Tour in the all-around rankings category. This ranking includes scoring, putting, eagles, birdies, sand saves, greens in regulation, driving distance and driving accuracy.
    • Webb Simpson: Simpson, whose 2012 season included his first major championship victory at the U.S. Open, started with a T3 at last year’s Hyundai.
    • The 112th U.S. Open champion Simpson became both the ninth consecutive first-time major championship winner and the 15th different major winner in as many majors. Simpson’s victory vaulted him from 32nd to ninth in the FedExCup standings moving him inside the top 10 of the standings for the first time since week five of season. Simpson went onto to finish 16th in the 2012 FedExCup.
    • Simpson played his final 36 holes at the U.S. Open a combined 4-under-par and was the only player in the field to shoot his final two rounds in the 60s. In comparison to Simpson’s 68.00 weekend stroke average, the field average was 72.45 (nearly 4.5 shots higher than Simpson on the weekend) and was a combined +353 over par in the final 2 rounds.
    • Bubba Watson: He enters the Hyundai  for the third consecutive year after earning his first major championship in 2012. The reigning Masters champion now has four wins in his last three years on the Tour and has reached the Tour Championship the last three seasons.
    • Watson had one of the more memorable shots in Hyundai history when he carved a driver off the fairway that reached the green in two on the par 5 18th hole in 2011. It will again be fun to watch Watson attack No. 18 this year as Watson has been No. 1 or No. 2 on Tour in driving distance seven times. Since 1980, only one other player has been No. 1 or No. 2 more times (John Daly – 12 times).
    • John Huh: The 2012 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, Huh ended the year with four top-10 finishes including a victory at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. He was the only rookie to qualify for the Tour Championship and just the fifth to do so since the inception of the FedExCup. Huh is the first player of Korean descent to win the award.
    • Kick-off: To start the first competitive round of the 2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions in style, an Aloha Kick-Off featuring a traditional Hawaiian Blessing will precede the first tee time on Friday, January 4, by approximately 40 minutes.
    • NBC Changes: NBC and the Golf Channel are again bringing significant enhancements to the broadcast. For the first time in 15 years, the Hyundai will air on broadcast television, with NBC’s third round coverage leading in to Golf Channel’s primetime telecast on Sunday. The Announce team will be led by Dan Hicks and lead analyst Johnny Miller for NBC’s third round lead-in coverage on Sunday and Golf Channel’s final round on Monday.
    • For the second consecutive year, the Golf Channel will employ a fixed wing airplane to provide similar aerial coverage of Kapalua and the event that was incredibly popular in its debut in 2012.
    • LANDING ZONE: Landing Zone, a new graphic representation that measures the yardage of tee shots, will make its debut on the 18th hole at the Plantation Course. Similar to the “First and 10” graphic lines used during NFL broadcasts, the Landing Zone graphic lines will be marked off in 25-yard increments on the 18th fairway, which regularly sees some of the longest drives during the entire Tour.
    • INTRODUCING: Players competing in the Hyundai  will introduce themselves on the first tee during Friday’s opening round in a new graphic package that models NBC’s Sunday Night Football broadcasts. Players will introduce themselves by name, hometown and the 2012 tournaments they won.

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Bob Sherwin

Bob grew up in Cleveland, an underdog city with perennial underdog teams, and that gave him an appreciation and an affinity for the grinders in golf, guys such as Rocco Mediate, Jhonattan Vegas and star-crossed John Daly. This is the 44th year for Bob as a sportswriter, the first 34 working for newspapers throughout the west, Tucson (Daily Star), San Francisco (Examiner) and Seattle (Times), and the past 10 years as a freelancer. He has covered just about every sport, including golf tournaments, Tucson Open, Bing Crosby/AT&T Pro-Am, the 1998 PGA Championship, the 2010 U.S. Senior Open, the 2010 U.S. Amateur and the annual Champions Tour Boeing Classic. He also writes articles for golf magazines. For most of his 20 years at the Seattle Times his primary beat was the Mariners. He then picked up Washington men's basketball in the winter. He also was the beat writer for the Sonics, including 1996 when they played the Bulls for the NBA title. After a lifetime hacking on public courses, he finally gave in and joined a country club in 2011, the Members Club of Aldarra near Seattle. He won't win the club championship any time soon with his 14 handicap and default-swing slice but he does have a pair of aces – 37 years apart – and in 2009 came agonizingly close to his ultimate golf goal of scoring in the 70s when he finished with an even 80. He lives in Seattle, and spends part of his winters in Marco Island, Fla.

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