With the festivities and celebrations of Christmas and New Year now behind us, the attention of many sports fans turns once again to the PGA Tour, which resumes this week in Hawaii. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions promises to be a good one with all of last year’s tour event winners eligible to join the field this week; headliners include: Bubba Watson, Jason Day and Matt Kuchar. As standard, 500 FedEx Cup ranking points are on offer this week, to compliment the substantial $5,700,000 prize fund. At present, Robert Streb and Sang-Moon Bae occupy the top two FedEx Cup spots, both of whom are in the field for this one.
Kapalua Golf and Country Club is once again the familiar venue for the first calendar event of 2015, where Zach Johnson overcame fellow-countryman Jordan Spieth to claim his sole 2014 victory. The latter, despite a successful season, was winless on the PGA Tour during the 2014 campaign which automatically rules him out of this tournament, although Johnson returns in defence of his title.
In a predominantly American field, Kuchar and Watson are names that instantly stand out; the former for his consistency and work ethic and the latter for his flamboyance and crowd-pleasing bravado. Kuchar was branded a machine throughout the 2014 season, making 22 of 24 cuts, securing 11 top-10s and claiming victory at the RBC Heritage Tournament which qualifies him for this event. He accumulated in excess of $4.5m through tournament winnings, a quantitative indicator of his consistently impressive finishing. For us therefore, Kuch is always a must-have selection – 9/1 odds can be located for outright victory this week with BetVictor or Coral.
Watson on the other hand, has already tasted success on one occasion during the first weeks of the 2015 season. Winning the HSBC World Golf Championship Champions Tournament at Sheshan International in November could potentially give him the platform to build on for a record-breaking 2015. The American is the bookies’ favourite at 13/2 this week and when Bubba turns his game on, not may people are able to stop him.
A man who has somewhat slipped under the radar and is definitely worth consideration this week is Hideki Matsuyama, who won the Memorial Tournament at Muirfield which earned his ticket for this one. The 22-year-old performed with caution in 2014, as he regularly showed the quality to take the tour by storm but failed to cement high finishes in certain events – but perhaps 2015 is the season for him to come of age. To date in the current campaign, the young Japanese pro has made five out of five cuts with a third place finish at the Frys.com Open being the pinnacle of his achievements so far. Matsuyama is on a par with American Jimmy Walker in the betting market at 16/1 with Ladbrokes and Coral; in principle we would tip the latter ahead of Matsuyama although youth is often a sign of fearlessness and aggression – two potentially very important attributes this week.