T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.
Hyundai Tournament of Champions | Five players to watch
Series: Golf Buzz
Published: Thursday, January 02, 2014 | 11:20 a.m.
The field for the 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua's Plantation Course in Maui features 30 PGA Tour winners from 2013.
Here are the five you'll want to watch:
5. Zach Johnson
Best finish in 2013: Won the BMW Championship
Reason to watch: First of all, Johnson is one of the most consistent players on the PGA Tour (just four missed cuts in 24 starts a year ago). Secondly, do you remember how he ended 2013? With an incredible hole-out on the final hole of the Northwestern Mutual World Challenge -- an unofficial event -- that eventually earned the past Masters champ in a playoff with Tiger Woods. Johnson took Tiger down in the playoff. We can't think of a more positive way to end a calendar year. Johnson must be thrilled to get 2014 under way.
4. Jordan Speith
Best finish in 2013: Won the John Deere Classic
Reason to watch: If 2013 is any indication, Speith is going to be an electric player to watch for years to come. To think -- when the 2013 Tournament of Champions was being contested last January, Speith had no status on the PGA Tour. He relied on sponsor exemptions, parlayed them into top finishes, won an event to snag a two-year Tour exemption, was a captain's pick for the winning U.S. Presidents Cup team and earned PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors. And he's only 20 years old.
3. Adam Scott
Best finish in 2013: Won the Masters and The Barclays
Reason to watch: It's hard to imagine that 2014 could be a better year than 2013 was for Scott. He became the first Aussie to ever win the Masters and proved himself to be a regular contender in all the majors. Add to that three victories in his homeland at the end of the year -- the Aussie Masters, Aussie PGA and the World Cup (alongside Jason Day) -- and a narrow defeat to Rory McIlroy in the Aussie Open. Scott has been on fire. He has also announced that he'll be taking six weeks off after the Hawaii swing on the PGA Tour, which means he'll miss the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Expect him to play great to go out on a high note before the break and certain major preparations.
2. Matt Kuchar
Best finish in 2013: Won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship and the Memorial Tournament
Reason to watch: Like Zach Johnson, Kuchar never makes any big mistakes. His name is just always hovering around the top of leaderboards throughout the season (15 top-25 finishes in 23 2013 starts). There's never one particular time of year when he's "hot" -- he's always consistent. Here's a look at Kuchar's last three finishes in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions: 3rd/2010; T6/2011; T9/2013. About the only thing left to do for Kuchar at Kapalua is win.
1. Dustin Johnson
Best finish in 2013: Won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Johnson is the defending champ in Maui. And, he also won the WGC-HSBC Champions in Asia in November -- which counts toward the 2014 season. Let's face it, he's got some of the most raw talent on Tour. The only thing that seems to stop Johnson these days are injuries. If he stays healthy, 2014 could be a huge year for DJ. He'll feel extremely comfortable at the Plantation Course.
Update: Yeah, about DJ and the whole staying healthy thing -- since this story published Thursday morning, word out of Maui is Johnson has withdrawn from today's Pro-Am with a stiff neck. We'll see if that keeps him out of the field once the tournament begins Friday when he's scheduled to tee off with Adam Scott at 12:50 p.m., local time.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.
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