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Saturday, January 4, 2014

And the New Season Resumes

Yes, it seems funny to say "resumes" rather than "begins," but such is the conundrum known as the wraparound season. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions is actually the 7th event of the 2014 season... and you could tell. It looks like the players came ready to play.

Jordan Spieth

But it also seems as if the Plantation Course was eager to make up for last year. Of the 30 players who teed it up, only 3 didn't break par:
  • Jimmy Walker shot even par
  • Jonas Blixt shot 3-over
  • Derek Ernst shot 6-over
At the other end of the scoreboard, 4 players are tied for the lead at -7 and 4 more are a stroke back at -6. Webb Simpson, one of the leaders, said the greens were very receptive. And Curt Byrum said the winds weren't from the usual directions, so that had an effect on scoring as well. For those of you keeping track, the trade winds (from the north) are the scoring winds and the kona winds (from the south) make the course harder. Friday's winds came from the west.

Today I just want to note the players I think you should keep your eyes on.

Three of the leaders have won in the first 6 tournaments of the 2014 wraparound season:
  • Webb Simpson (-7) won the Shriners
  • Chris Kirk (-7) won the McGladrey
  • Ryan Moore (-6) won the CIMB Classic
To them you can add:
  • Zach Johnson (-6) won Tiger's World Challenge
These guys are clearly still in good form from before Christmas.

Obviously all of the players at this event are winners, and several others (like Kuchar and English and Scott) have played well recently but they aren't leading at this point. That certainly doesn't rule them out but, if this turns out to be a scoring frenzy -- and it looks that way after the first round, especially since the weather is supposed to improve going forward -- the lead players have a clear advantage.

But the guy I think will be the most dangerous this week is Jordan Spieth. (You might have guessed that since I posted his picture! It's from the PGATOUR.com site, obviously.) Here's the reason: Spieth is playing well -- he and Simpson were paired together and were the low pairing on the course -- but he's playing well despite not playing much since the 2013 season ended. He finished 17th at the WGC-China and T16 at Tiger's event... that's it. But here he is, back at the top of the leaderboard and he appears to be very relaxed.

I think either Webb or Jordan will win it this week. If I had to pick one, it would be Webb just on the experience edge -- this is Webb's third trip to Kapalua vs Jordan's first -- but I think it's too close to call. I won't be surprised if Jordan gets his 2nd Tour win this weekend.

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