The PGA Tour is back in business for 2020. Check out our course and current form guides for those teeing-up at Kapalua this Thursday thanks to Andy Swales...
"As many as 15 (44%) of the 34 starters will be making their Kapalua debuts and, since 2000, only two of the tournament's 20 champions were Plantation Course rookies - the most recent of these 12 years ago."
It's back to work for the PGA Tour which reconvenes in Hawaii following a six-week break.
The traditional curtain-raiser to the American golf calendar takes place on the island of Maui, where the Sentry Tournament of Champions tees-off over Kapalua's Plantation Course.
This long-standing event only includes players who won official FedEx Cup tournaments during 2019.
Of the 42 golfers eligible to take part, 34 have accepted invitations to compete at this undulating, windswept and coastal location.
Those who are staying away are Brooks Koepka, Shane Lowry, Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Francesco Molinari, Cheng Tsung Pan, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods.
Pan had been hoping to tee-up but was forced to stand down because of injury.
Spaniard Top Of The Bill
Five members of the world's top 10 are taking part, while another four are among the eight golfers to have withdrawn from this event.
In the absence of Koepka and McIlroy, world No 3 Jon Rahm is the highest-ranked player in the field.
And there are many reasons why the burly 25-year-old Spaniard should be viewed as a likely champion this week.
Check out latest betting ahead of this week's Sentry Tournament of Champions
Although his only PGA Tour victory of 2019 came at the two-man team event in Louisiana, back in April, his overall form throughout the last 12 months was excellent.
He won three times on the European Tour, and posted eight podium finishes from 25 starts worldwide.
He should also find this week's course to his liking, thanks to its generously wide fairways which favour the longer hitters.
That said, the first event after New Year often tends to be a lottery, as it's difficult to determine how much relevant practice may have taken place over the festive period.
Although a number of players teed-up at the Presidents Cup in Australia during December, it's been a long winter break for most members of this week's field.
Dustin Johnson hasn't contested a stroke play event since the Tour Championship in late August, while world No 7 Patrick Cantlay's most recent FedEx Cup start was early October.
As many as 15 (44%) of the 34 starters will be making their Kapalua debuts and, since 2000, only two of the tournament's 20 champions were Plantation Course rookies - the most recent of these 12 years ago.
At the other end of the scale, Matt Kuchar will be returning to a course he first played in 2003.
Apart from Rahm, the names Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed and Gary Woodland may be worth checking out, with Thomas and Reed both former champs over this course.
Largest Greens on Tour
Opened in 1991, the Plantation Course will be staging the tournament for a 22nd time.
The undulating putting surfaces are the largest on the PGA Tour, and will certainly provide some tricky challenges - especially if the wind starts to blow.
To counter this, the fairways are fairly generous in width, and provide dramatic ocean views from virtually every hole.
The wide open terrain of Kapalua, which features seven holes over 500 yards - three of these par-4s - is an ideal playground for the big-hitter.
Wind is a constant companion that requires careful attention at a venue where there are many changes in elevation and some severely sloping fairways.
However, thanks to its wide landing bays there are always plenty of birdie opportunities available, with the average winning score at the Plantation Course greater than 20-under-par.
Twitter: Andy Swales@GolfStatsAlive
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