In the 19 years since the Tournament of Champions moved to Hawaii, 13 of the Sony Open in Hawaii winners were involved in the field at the year opener the previous week.
That will be welcome news to 20 of the 144-man field entering at Waialae Country Club this week, including world numbers two and four Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas, Marc Leishman and Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele.
For Thomas that could prove a double advantage. Not only is the 24-year-old defending champion this week after racing to a seven-stroke victory last year, but in the first round last time out he became the youngest, and seventh, player to score a PGA Tour 59. He also broke the 72-hole aggregate score for the event with 253.Embed from Getty Images
Thomas will not be without competition, though. Spieth racked up his seventh consecutive top 10 with a ninth place finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions last week, whilst Brian Harman (third), Leishman (tied seventh) and Siwoo Kim (10th) all enter too after positive performances last week.
Nor will Thomas be the only past winner to enter in Hawaii this week. Fabián Gómez (2016), Jimmy Walker (2014 & 15), Russell Henley (2013), Mark Wilson (2011), Ryan Palmer (2010), Zach Johnson (2009), K.J. Choi (2008), Vijay Singh (2005) and Jerry Kelly (2002) complete a plethora of returning past champions.Embed from Getty Images
Two players return to tour golf after withdrawing from the RSM Classic in November. Luke Donald returns for the first time since withdrawing with chest pains last year having passed recent medical tests. Webb Simpson is back after he withdrew to spend time with his terminal father.
The course up against the players is a 7044 yard par 70 at Waialae Country Club. It has played host to this event for its entire 53 year existence and so past entrants will have had plenty of outings to get to know the course over the years. As a result, players tend to get on top of this course and four of the past five winning scores have broken 20-under-par.Embed from Getty Images
The course is forgiving and therefore attackable. There is little need for accuracy and so players can let loose on the tee and give themselves a comfortable second shot, regardless of their position.
It is the first full field event of 2018 and – along with a standard 500 FedExCup points, a $1,116,00 winner’s prize fund and world ranking points – there is a huge psychological advantage heading into 2018 for the winner this week.