KAPALUA, Hawaii – Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are sitting this one out, as they have for years now. Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell also stayed home because they are members of the PGA and European tours and played deep into 2013.
The field is a better reflection of just how hard it is getting to be to win on the PGA Tour.
The list of those who failed to qualify is nearly as impressive as those who did – Rory McIlroy, Steve Stricker and Sergio Garcia from the top 10 in the world, along with Jason Day, Ian Poulter, Luke Donald, Charl Schwartzel, Jim Furyk and Keegan Bradley to round out the top 20.
Also missing are Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson and Nick Watney.
Only nine players who were in the field at Kapalua have returned this year, starting with defending champion Dustin Johnson.
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This is worth keeping in mind going into a Ryder Cup year.
The strength of a team is not always who's playing, but who is not. Europe was at its strongest in the mid-2000s when players like Rose, Poulter, Casey and Garcia were not locks to make the team. That led Colin Montgomerie to suggest that Europe was deep enough to field two teams.
To consider the strength of the Americans right now, consider the Presidents Cup three months ago. The team featured the usual suspects of Woods, Mickelson and Stricker. But look at who didn't make that team: Furyk, Watson, Dustin Johnson.
That could shape up as one of the top story lines for 2014 as players try to make their respective Ryder Cup teams. It won't be easy.
''You've got to look at 10 guys vying for seven spots,'' McDowell said of Europe's team. ''There's going to be two or three guys who miss – good players, quality players. I would assume (Captain Paul) McGinley's wild cards are going to be very hotly contested. No doubt it's going to be a tough team to get on.''