To kick off the PGA Tour season, a field of 30 winners from the 2012 season teed it up in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua’s Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii.
Unlike most tour events, the Tournament of Champions starts on a Friday and ends on a Monday, usually. This years event was marred by mother nature, who didn’t want to see golf played. The start of the tournament, originally scheduled for Friday, wasn’t officially started until Monday, the day it was supposed to finish.
After beginning play on Friday, tour officials were forced to call the players in and later determined the round a “wash”, due to inclement weather. With heavy pockets of rain, and wins gusting above 40 MPH at times, the course was virtually unplayable. After being unable to play on Saturday, players and officials gave it another go on Sunday, starting the round but ultimately calling is a “wash” as well due to high winds. For the tour a "wash" means that any golf that has been played does not count and the scores resent with everyone at even par.
With the Sony Open scheduled to start on Thursday, tour officials had to make the decision to either scrap the whole tournament or shorten the event to 54 holes. The latter was the choice, and with mother nature being kind enough, the PGA Tour 2013 was officially underway on Monday. Players were forced to play 36 holes on the tough, long course on Monday before playing the final 18 on Tuesday.
Even with the smaller field, the tour used split tees to be able to finish the 54 holes. Players teed off from the first and the tenth tees on both days of play.
After the first two rounds of golf were finished, American Dustin Johnson found himself on top of the star studded field. On the par-73 course, Johnson used a four under 69 and a seven under 66 in his first two rounds to take a strangle hold on the tournament, leading by three over last years champion Steve Stricker through 36 holes.
On Tuesday, Johnson continued his hot play, shooting a third and final round 68 for his seventh career tour win. For Stricker, who plans to cut back in 2013 to roughly ten tournaments, played through pain in his left leg the entire tournament. After winning the event in 2012, Stricker tried his hardest to repeat in 2013, falling four shots short of Johnson.
Carrying a three shot lead on the back nine, Johnson hit a poor tee shot on the par-4 13th, that skidded through a fair way bunker and ended up in a local grass plant. After making finally finding his ball, Johnson finished the hole with a double bogey, knocking his lead down to one. The following hole, Johnson brought the magic back out, holing out an eagle chip to push the lead back to three, proving to be insurmountable.
Johnson finished the tournament at -16, with fellow americans Stricker -12, 2012 FedEx Cup champion Brandt Snedeker -10 and Keegan Bradley and Master champion Bubba Watson rounding out the top five. The four non Americans, Carl Pettersson, Ian Poulter, Jonas Blixt and Marc Leishman, finished eighth, ninth, 18th and 23rd respectively.
The win is Johnson’s seventh on tour, which is currently the most for any golfer under the age of 30. World number one and superstar Rory McIlroy is the closest to Johnson with six wins on the tour, four of which came in 2012.
For Johnson, the win also puts him in company with one of, if not the greatest golfer of all time, Tiger Woods. Johnson joins Woods as the only player to have won a tournament in each of their first six years on tour.
Also of note for Johnson, three of his seven tour wins have come in shortened events, including the first leg of the FedEx cup playoffs in 2011, The Barclays. The win to start off the season also guarantees Johnson a spot in the tournament for next season.
Poised for a breakout year, Johnson got off to the start he needed to. Playing with high amounts of confidence, Johnson will look to become the first player in ten years to win the first two events in the season. The last player to do so was South African Ernie Els, who won the then Mercedes Championship then Sony Open in back-to-back weeks.