The Hyundai Tournament of Champions is a no-cut, exclusive-field event held the first week in January every year and is normally the first event of the PGA Tour season.
With six events now in September and October on the new wrap-around schedule, it will actually be the seventh tournament of the 2014 season.
This year, the big names have again chosen to pass up the guaranteed money and will wait to start their seasons either in California or in the Middle East for high appearance fees.
Why travel to Hawaii for a chance to win $1 million when a top player can show up in Abu Dhabi for $3 million guaranteed?
This will be the fourth year Hyundai has been the main sponsor of this event. The Tournament of Champions has been held since 1953 but moved to Hawaii from La Costa in California in 1999 to give the start of the PGA Tour a bigger bang.
While most of the continental United States battles cold and snow in January, trade winds blowing, palm trees swaying and beautiful views of the Pacific drew golf fans away from football and to the golf coverage in the early years.
The invitation list to the Tournament of Champions was supposed to guarantee a quality field and further garner golf fans’ interest in the event.
Lately, however, it just does not deliver the goods. Even with a Friday start and a Monday finish to avoid going head-to-head with the NFL playoffs, fans have grown weary of the event.
Part of the problem is the lack of participation by the best players. For several years, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have not bothered to disrupt their post-holiday stupor and make time to jet to paradise to play golf.
Henrik Stenson and Justin Rose have also chosen to skip the Hyundai Tournament of Champions this year. With Mickelson and Rose failing to appear, one half of the 2013 major champions are no-shows. Stenson was the hottest man in golf at the end of last season, winning both the FedEx Cup and the Race to Dubai.
Adam Scott is the only player ranked inside the top five; he and No. 7 Matt Kuchar are the only two players in the top 10 on the Official World Golf Ranking in the field this week. Most regular tour events draw a better field than that.
The Hyundai Tournament of Champions offers a total purse of $5.7 million, with $1.02 million going to the winner, but only 500 FedEx Cup points are available.
The tour has made the June-September schedule a priority. Most top names need the extra time off in January to prepare for the big push from the U.S. Open through the end of the FedEx Cup playoffs.
European, Australian and South African professionals play full schedules right up to December, and they need a respite also.
To get the big guns to change their schedules and play in Hawaii, something has to change.
A solution could be to make the Hyundai Tournament of Champions a WGC event, bump the purse to $8 million, throw in 550 FedEx Cup points and increase the field to the top 60 in the world. It would add a lot of glitz to the tournament, which would become a premier event in the world of golf.
If the PGA Tour really wants to compete against NFL football in the U.S., it needs to add some zing to its first tournament of the calendar year.
Hyundai is not nearly getting what it has paid for, and golf fans need something to get them excited while watching football and shoveling snow.
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