ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. (AP) – The start of a new year on the PGA Tour at Kapalua lost some sizzle when Tiger Woods stopped going after 2005, which was four years after Phil Mickelson decided to go to Hawaii only for a vacation.
And when the PGA Tour went to a wraparound season two years ago, the Hyundai Tournament of Champions was in an awkward spot. Yes, it was the first event of the year, but the season had started three months earlier.
A new cast of stars is expected to give Kapalua its strongest field in a decade.
Depending on how Jordan Spieth fares in Australia and the Bahamas over the next two weeks, the 22-year-old Texan could give Kapalua the No. 1 player for the first time since Vijay Singh in 2005. Jason Day and Zach Johnson would give the field all four major champions for the first time since 2010.
Throw in Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Bubba Watson, Jim Furyk, Patrick Reed, Kevin Kisner and Brooks Koepka and that Tournament of Champions will feel like one.
Rory McIlroy and Shane Lowry won't be playing, which is not unusual. Kapalua tends to lose out on top European Tour players because their season doesn't end until late November and starts up in mid-January in the Middle East, which is 14 time zones from Hawaii.
Still to be determined is whether Justin Rose plays. If he does, the world ranking points for the winner might be pushing 54.
It hasn't been at that level since Woods was playing, and those ranking points are especially valuable in 2016 for Europeans trying to qualify for the Ryder Cup (five players come off a list based on world ranking points accrued) and for others who wouldn't mind a trip to Rio for the Olympics.
Graeme McDowell is playing after skipping the last time he was eligible. Padraig Harrington is playing for the first time.
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