Gamers, time to put down the Eggnog and Champagne and get back to business!
The PGA TOUR kicks off the 2020 segment of the schedule with a winner’s-only field on the newly refined Plantation Course at Kapalua in spectacular Maui this week.
The winners of the new season will join the other victors from 2019 to comprise the field of 34. On the line is a prize pool of $6.7 million, with $1.34 million (500 FedExCup points) and a really cool trophy going to the first champion of 2020.
The Plantation Course (Par 73, 7,518) was regrassed from corner to corner with new Celebration Bermudagrass with the exception of the greens (TifEagle Bermudagrass). Almost every green was reconfigured (expanded or shrunk), with slopes softened or rebuilt completely. The addition of new hole locations will provide a new twist and should slightly influence scoring. New tee boxes will also add or reduce yardage and enforce strategic decisions around shifted and newly-added bunkers.
Repeat customers to Kapalua will have to recalibrate their yardage books and green maps but new challenges rarely bother multiple-time winners on TOUR. They’ll remember how handle the elevation changes, side-hill lies and the shots required when dealing with gusting winds and the new folks will have to adjust quickly.
The field of 34 will all get four cracks at the newness this week, as this is a no-cut event.
2019: Xander Schauffele (-23, 269)
Fourth winner of the last five picked up the trophy in just his second try on the Plantation Course. Schauffele, as he’s wont to do, won his third, limited field title as he closed with course-record tying 62 (31-31) to defeat 54-hole leader Gary Woodland by a shot. Trailing by five, he threw caution to the wind (there wasn’t any on Sunday) after an opening bogey and circled eight birdies and two eagles in an epic performance. He became the fifth consecutive winner in the top three in bogey avoidance and fourth consecutive winner in the top TWO in Putting: Birdie-or-Better Percentage.
Notables: Woodland led by three after 36 and 54 holes and tied Justin Thomas for most birdies with 25 in his first trip since 2014. … Thomas, the 2017 champ, closed with 65 but was five behind in solo third. … 2018 champ Dustin Johnson was the only player in the top 10 to have a round OVER par (74, Round 2) yet still cashed T4. … Rory McIlroy (not entered) was the best first-timer last year as he also cashed T4.
2018: Dustin Johnson (-24, 268)
The bomber continued his dominance on Maui as he boat-raced the field in gusty conditions by eight shots to win for the second time (2013). He closed 66-65 (-13) and that would have been good enough for T7. Became the fourth consecutive winner to lead the field Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green and third consecutive winner to lead the field in Par-4 scoring. His 23 birdies were the most of anyone entered for this week’s event.
Notables: Jon Rahm was second alone on debut (-16). … Rickie Fowler picked up his third consecutive top-six paycheck with T4. … Johnson, Rahm and Fowler were the only three players INSIDE the top 14 returning this year. … Only five rounds above par in the top 20 players even with gusty winds all four rounds.
2017: Justin Thomas (-22, 270)
A trio of 67s set the 54-hole lead by two and Thomas won by three to pick up another win in the Pacific. Leading the field in ball-striking, Strokes-Gained: Tee-to-Green and Par-4 scoring, Thomas made it look easy as he won for the second time that season after he picked up the title, again, at the now defunct CIMB Classic in Kuala Lumpur. Thomas circled 25 birdies to just three bogeys.
Notables: Johnson couldn’t find anything better than 69 over four rounds but still picked up T6. … Patrick Reed, read more below, had the T-low round of the week with 65 and also T6. … Jim Herman cashed T12 on debut.
Key stat leaders
Top golfers in each statistic on the 2019-20 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week.
* – previous top 10 finish here
@ – first-time event
Strokes-Gained: Tee -to-Green
2 *Justin Thomas
5 Patrick Cantlay
6 *Paul Casey
8 *Dustin Johnson
9 @Corey Conners
10 *Jon Rahm
11 *Xander Schauffele
16 *Gary Woodland
23 @Joaquin Niemann
29 Chez Reavie
30 *Matt Kuchar
4 *Graeme McDowell
13 *Rickie Fowler
20 *Kevin Kisner
26 Patrick Cantlay
36 *Jon Rahm
40 @Nate Lashley
41 *Matt Kuchar
44 *Patrick Reed
46 *Xander Schauffele
50 @JT Poston
3 *Justin Thomas
3 *Jon Rahm
3 Patrick Cantlay
8 @Nate Lashley
8 @Joaquin Niemann
8 *Patrick Reed
8 *Rickie Fowler
8 *Xander Schauffele
8 Ryan Palmer
8 Chez Reavie
23 *Gary Woodland
23 Dylan Fritteli
23 *Kevin Kisner
23 *Paul Casey
23 *Matt Kuchar
Dustin Johnson: The only multiple winner in the field, Kapalua has been Johnson’s personal playground as he’s cashed seven top-10 paychecks from nine starts. His scoring average of 69.03 includes only ONE round above par from 35 chances. Top six in four of his last six visits, which includes both wins.
Patrick Reed: After T16 in his first visit, Reed rebounded with a playoff win in 2015, solo second in 2016 and T6 in 2017 before stubbing his toe (T26) in his return last year. Of his 20 rounds, six are 67 or better, including a pair of 65s.
Jon Rahm: He’s 29 under in the last two years and it’s not surprising he’s a quick study. His worst round is 71 and best is 66.
Rickie Fowler: The knock on Fowler is that he doesn’t win enough but this will be his fourth visit to Maui. Each trip has produced a better result, as T6 in 2013 was followed by solo fifth in 2016 and capped with T4 in 2018. His stroke average in 11 rounds is a stout 69.18.
Matt Kuchar: After ripping off four straight top-10 finishes in the early part of the decade, Kuchar’s last two trips in 2015 and last year have cashed T17 and T19, respectively.
Paul Casey: His first visit in 2010 saw 15 under go for T10. His return last year cashed T16 with four rounds of par or better.
Patrick Cantlay: Looking to become the fifth winner in the last six to pick up the check on his second try. All four rounds last year were under-par but none broke 70.
Kevin Kisner: Eight rounds of red but the last six are all in the 70s. He’s cashed solo ninth and T17 in two trips since 2016.
Cameron Champ: T11 on debut last year with rounds of 71, 67 and 68. Now, about that 74 in Round 2…