This week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions on the PGA Tour marks the first event of 2014, but not the first event of the new season.
With the Tour's wraparound schedule firmly in place -- 2014 season events started in October of 2013 -- this week's trip to Maui serves as a restart to the wraparound schedule and the seventh official event of the 2013-14 season.
While the scheduling is different than year's past, the start of the year is not. Kapalua's Plantation Course in Maui is once again the breathtaking host to a tournament reserved for only the winners of the previous year's events.
Dustin Johnson returns as the defending champion at the 7,452-yard, par 73 course that features spectacular views and severe elevation changes.
Among those joining Johnson in the field this week are Masters champion Adam Scott, PGA Champion Jason Dufner and 2013 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth.
Before the tournament teed off, we had a chance to chat with Kapalua PGA Head Professional Scott Carroll for a little Q&A.
PGA.com: Is it at all strange to you that while this week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions is the year-opening event on the PGA Tour, it's also the seventh event of the new season because of the new wraparound schedule?
Carroll: It does make for interesting conversation and presents cause for a few more questions, but it really doesn’t “feel” any different. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions is still the first event of 2014 (by calendar) and we feel privileged that we can be a part of it. We shall see how the changes play out over the next year or two but at the outset, the feeling is similar to years past and the field is still comprised of champions from the past year.
PGA.com: The Tournament of Champions is just that -- only the winners of tournaments from the last calendar year. Among the great champions in the field, do you have one favorite moment in an event from 2013 that gained one of those players entry to Kapalua?
Carroll: My favorite moment over the past year was Jordan Spieth at the John Deere Classic. When he holed it out on hole No. 18 from the bunker to get in the playoff it catapulted him to the playoff victory and gave him entry into the event.
You can watch Spieth’s John Deere Classic hole-out here:
PGA.com: Can you tell our readers a little about how much of a role the elements can play at the Plantation Course? There are a lot of elevation changes.
Carroll: There are numerous factors that will play a role in the outcome of the scores -- the elements just may be the largest. The Plantation Course was designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore to be playable with the understanding that the elements on the island can be very dynamic. The extreme elevation changes combine with the wind to make for some really fun shots throughout the course. Every club in the bag will be tested and the champion will have to be in total control of the trajectory and shape of his shots. In addition to a little wind, sun, and maybe a blessing of a rain shower or two, complete focus will need to be put on the golf shots and that can sometimes be difficult with whales breaching, surfers enjoying the waves, and rainbows in the background.
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PGA.com: What's it like to live and work in Maui -- a place most people consider to be a dream vacation destination?
Carroll: My wife and I feel very fortunate to live and work in Maui. It’s a very special island that is graced with natural beauty, warm waters and fantastic golf courses, as well as gracious and hospitable people. We work hard and feel lucky to be able to raise our family here. We enjoy hosting friends and family and are proud to show them around the island. It is a place that is truly amazing and we try not take anything for granted.
PGA.com: The Plantation Course offers arguably one of the best, most exciting finishing holes we'll see all year. Can you talk about No. 18 and what makes it so special?
Carroll: Hole No. 18 is certainly one of the most exciting finishing holes we’ll see all year. Although it measures 663 yards, it can be reached in two shots under the right conditions. In years past, from a tournament standpoint, it’s provided an incredible stage for the dramatic and we hope that this year it will once again provide some excitement. On a daily basis, we hear from many of our guests how memorable it is because of the potential for the “longest drive of my life.”
This is something that many of our guests talk about and it gives them a very special memory of The Plantation Course.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.