There are 34 players set to tackle The Plantation Course at Kapalua in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and here is a power ranking to break down the field.
Since the field has enjoyed a few weeks off, and some much longer, I leaned less on the form at the end of 2014 and more on course history relative to my normal mix. Adding to that, the various wind conditions and elevation changes lend themselves well to those with experience.
Rather than the Dandy Dozen and the Next 5, we’ll go ahead and rank everyone!
Here we go:
- Matt Kuchar – While there are never any guarantees in golf, it’s hard to think of a bigger lock for a top-10 finish that Kuchar. The field isn't that strong after the first few names, and he’s cracked the top 10 in each of his last four visits to Maui. He finished third here in 2010. His last start leading up to this event went for a T8 in the Hero World Challenge after a couple of top 25s to begin the 2014-15 season.
- Bubba Watson – Trendy in terms of finishes at Kapalua, with a T25-T18-T4 run in his three trips, the bomber also logged a win in the WGC-HSBC Challenge before messing around in some events outside of the PGA TOUR.
- Jason Day – Aussies have a strong history in this event through the years, and Day tied for ninth here in 2011 in his only visit. He tied for fifth in the Hero World Challenge leading up to this and should stand a nice chance at hoisting the hardware.
- Patrick Reed – The HTOC is typically an event that requires tons of birdies, and Reed is a candidate to go on a big birdie binge. He posted a middle-of-the-pack T16 here last year, which isn’t all that bad for a rookie in this event. It stands to reason that he could follow a formula similar to Bubba, where he improves incrementally each trip. Also, T3 in the Hero.
- Zach Johnson – The defending champ gets a vote of confidence, in part because the field is missing several of the classier players who qualified with a win. His T8 at the Hero World Challenge was his first top 10 since a runner-up at the John Deere Classic.
- Billy Horschel – Much like Reed, I like the thought of a player like Horschel getting hot and posting some deep numbers. The caution is that he clearly spent more time celebrating his 2013-14 FEC title as opposed to pulling himself together for the start of 2014-15, but this is a good place for him to snap out of it. He tied for sixth here last year, with all four of his rounds under par.
- Ryan Moore – Sliding Moore into the latter half of most top-10 lists is never a bad idea, and his history here solidifies that this week. He has two top 10s in three previous trips. He showed that he can be a course horse when he won the CIMB Classic for the second consecutive year.
- Hideki Matsuyama – He’s the first rookie to crack this list and with good reason. He has secured top-25 finishes in seven of his last eight starts, including a win in the Dunlop Phoenix. He was 10th in Par Breakers on the PGA TOUR last year, which should come in handy this week.
- Jimmy Walker – Looks like a great fit on paper, but his T21 last year is worth a pause. When one considers he won the Sony Open a week later, it can be inferred that his game was in good shape at Kapalua and he still couldn’t crack the top 20 in a field of 30. On the flip side, the experience could only have helped him.
- Hunter Mahan – The expectant father has a T3 on his record in the 2014-15 PGA TOUR season and a T5 on his ledger in this event. The problem is, his more recent returns in both the season and this event have not been as good.
- Chris Kirk
- Kevin Streelman
- Charley Hoffman
- Robert Streb
- Sang-moon Bae
- Geoff Ogilvy
- John Senden
- Angel Cabrera
- Russell Henley
- Tim Clark
- Scott Stallings
- J.B. Holmes
- Brendon Todd
- Ben Martin
- Camilo Villegas
- Brian Harman
- Matt Every
- Steven Bowditch
- Ben Crane
- Chesson Hadley
- Seung-yul Noh
- Matt Jones
- Nick Taylor
- Kevin Stadler
Let the games begin!
My Yahoo! and Golf Channel picks are listed in Playing the Tips on Rotoworld. I encourage you to check it out, along with my Rotoworld colleagues.
As for the one-and-done, I’ve always felt that this is a week to draw a big gun. Limited field + lots of first timers = a good chance for a classy veteran to win.
I narrowed my focus to Matt Kuchar, Patrick Reed and Billy Horschel. My gut wanted to go with Reed, but my head says it’s the right week to go with Kuchar. He has as good of a chance to win this week if any, maybe better, and he’s a top 10 machine.
Best of luck to all!