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It's on again in Hawaii as PGA Tour re-starts

Leishman shared the 36 hole lead last year before finishing 7th and is in good form. (Photo: Bruce Young)
The PGA Tour’s traditional opening event of the year begins Thursday in Kapaula Resort on the island of Maui in Hawaii where 34 tournament winners from 2018 have earned the chance at least to get the new year off to the best possible start at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose have opted not to play thus depriving the event of three of the game's most signficant performers but those that are in the field are sure to provide an insight as to how the golfing year might evolve.

Amongst that field of 34 are two Australians, Jason Day and Marc Leishman, Day a two time winner in 2018 and Leishman winning in Korea late in the season to secure his start.

For Day it will be his 5th visit to the event while for Leishman he plays the Tournament of Champions for the 3rd occasion.

Day has yet to win the event but enjoys a good record at the Plantation Course at Kapalua having finished no worse than 12th in his four starts with a best of 3rd behind Patrick Reed in Day’s great year of 2015.

Leishman finished 7th last year, a poor third round of 76 after sharing the lead through 36 holes costing any chance of finishing much higher.

He bounced back on Sunday however with a final round of 67 and although a massive eleven shots from the winner, Dustin Johnson he was just three shots out of a share of 2nd place. Saturday’s round had proved very costly.

First played in 1953 it took nearly forty years before Steve Elkington became the first of three Australians to win the title although all three won the event on multiple occasions.

Elkington won in 1992 and again in his PGA Championship winning year of 1995, Stuart Appleby won in three consecutive years from 2004 to 2006 and Geoff Ogilvy won in 2009 and 2010.

A player’s capacity to win the event is often dependant on how they handled the off season and the preparation they have been involved in over Xmas and New Year and perhaps that is one of the reasons Australians have done so well especially in more recent years as most had played Australia’s flagship events late in the previous year ahead of beginning the golfing year in early January.

In that regard Leishman shapes as a likely contender for the title as it was only just over a month ago that he finished runner-up (along with Cameron Smith) at the World Cup at The Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne and then finished runner-up again when finishing behind Smith at the Australian PGA Championship.  

Day’s last event was at the Hero World Challenge in December but in a field of 18 he finished 16th and although he played better in China and Korea his current form and readiness is a concern for those who might fancy his chances.

Jason Day - plays the event for the 5th occasion

The likely favourites this week are the two most recent winners of the event, Dustin Johnson, (defending) and the 2017 winner, Justin Thomas, but also in the field is Rory McIlroy who will grace the fairways of the Kapalua Resort for the first occasion.

World number one Brooks Koepka lines up for the third occasion having finished 3rd on debut in 2016 although not having played competitively since a visit to Japan in late November leaves some concern for his chances. He did win in Korea earlier in November however.

One of the golfing world’s most recent winners, Jon Rahm, is also in the field and having finished runner-up on debut last year his chances appear good.

Rahm won the Hero World Challenge in December and finished 4th in his previous start at the DP Dubai World Tour Championship so there is no questioning his most recent form.

Others who must be considered good chances are former winner, Patrick Reed, and Webb Simpson, Simpson having found some good recent form of late and earlier in his career finished 3rd in this event on two occasions.  

The tournament carries prize-money of US$6.5 million with the winner to receive US$1.25 million.

    

 

 

 

   

 

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