PGA Tour preview: Hawaii tees off calendar season

Hyundai_PGA_golfPreview – PGA Tour – Hyundai Tournament of Champions – Kapalua Resort Plantation Course – Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii –

Professional golf returns this week, headlined by the PGA Tour’s 2016 calendar season opener at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Maui, Hawaii featuring a limited field of tournament champions from last year.

Kapalua’s Plantation course (par-73 at 7,452 yards) hosts the 72-hole event featuring a bevy of young stars including Official World Golf Ranking No.1 Jordan Spieth, PGA champion Jason Day, Players champion Rickie Fowler. The field also boasts popular veterans like Bubba Watson, Padraig Harrington and Davis Love III.

To qualify for this invitational, players needed to win PGA Tour event last season.

Jordan Spieth current official PGA TOUR headshot (Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR) ***Local Caption*** Jordan Spieth

Jordan Spieth current official PGA TOUR headshot
(Photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR) ***Local Caption*** Jordan Spieth

While Rory McIlroy (a two-time winner last year) is among those skipping this tournament, several new faces are in Hawaii including Justin Thomas, Emiliano Grillo and Fabian Gomez.

Traditionally, a long hitter triumphs in Hawaii to jump-start the season. The event carries FedEx Cup points for the competitors. The tournament could come down to who plays the “Home Hole” the best — the par-5 18th hole that measures 663 yards.

Winds are expected to challenge players along with the Plantation Course’s sloppy greens. Look for 400+ yard drives in Hawaii this week thanks to elevation changes and sloped fairways.

Australian-born players won this tournament five of seven years from 2004-2010 (Stuart Appleby three times and Geoff Ogilvy twice). But, Americans have captured the last five editions: Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Jonathan Byrd, Zach Johnson and last year’s champion Patrick Reed.

2015 Result:

  • Reed (21-under) outlasted Jimmy Walker in a playoff. The 16-t0-1 betting pick heading into the event, Reed rallied with an eagle-birdie stretch on the 15th and 16th holes in the final round to shoot 67. Day was T-3 (carding 62 in the 4th liveputtround) along with Russell Henley and Hideki Matsuyama.

Golf Channel has television coverage Friday through Sunday and Monday’s final round.

FANTASY: This week can be difficult to handicap with rusty players (Day is making his first stroke-play start since the Tour Championship), equipment changes (Brooks Koepka and Zach Johnson are rolling out new sticks) and first-time visitors to Kapalua’s sloppy greens. Take Reed and Walker. Both contended in events late in 2015. Reed rolls into Hawaii with six straight worldwide Top 10 finishes. Spieth is always a fantasy starter and he was second in 2014.

BETTORS: Spieth (4-to-1 at is the betting favorite, but consider the value of other contenders. Take Reed (10-1), who has a pair of runner-up finishes late in 2015. If you want an Aussie, look at Steven Bowditch as a long shot at 125-1. Walker (25-1) is worth a look this week as he usually plays well this time of year.

Other Golf News:europeantourlogo15

  • The European Tour re-starts its 2016 season Thursday at the BMW South African Open Championship in Johannesburg. Branden Grace is the betting favorite at 4-1 odds in a field that includes Andy Sullivan, Retief Goosen and Ernie Els.
  • Zach Johnson signed with Parsons Xtreme Golf (PXG) to play its equipment. PGA TOURThe long-time Titleist player joins Ryan Moore, Chris Kirk, James Hahn and Billy Horschel. PXG is a new player in golf, created by the founder of Koepka is also changing equipment now playing Nike brand.
  • Watson, who captured the Hero World Challenge late last year, is a 10-1 selection in Hawaii. He finished T-4 at Kapalua in2014.