Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Year on PGA Tour Can't Start Soon Enough for Players

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

New Year on PGA Tour Can't Start Soon Enough for Players

Article excerpt

KAPALUA, Hawaii * Dustin Johnson sat outside the Honolua Store on the first day of the new year, scarfing down the "Hobo Breakfast" of steamed rice and eggs as the sun was just starting to filter through the Cook pines that line the entrance to Kapalua.

He abruptly closed the lid on his carton and announced, "Let's go."

That about sums up the anticipation of the start to a new year in golf.

Johnson is No. 1 in the world, a 33-year-old entering his prime who won four times last year. Right behind him in the world ranking are Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama, four players 25 or younger.

Still to come: another return of Tiger Woods, this time with strong indications that he is healthy again.

"I think this year, the unknowns are very exciting," Spieth said. "I think with the amount of depth and talent at a younger age, mixed with the guys in their 30s that are playing No. 1 in the world, D.J. some other phenomenal players that you would call in maybe in their prime, and then obviously the major question, which is what's it going to be like with Tiger coming back ... it's a pretty special time to be a part of professional golf."

The Sentry Tournament of Champions is reserved for those who did something special last year win on the PGA Tour.

Even though Johnson, Spieth, Thomas and Matsuyama are among those who won multiple times last year, winning is not getting any easier. Only nine players who were at Kapalua a year ago made it back to paradise, and 14 players in the 34-man field are making their debut this week.

Thomas is the defending champion, courtesy of an 8-iron from 214 yards that settled 3 feet away for birdie on the 17th hole that secured his three-shot victory and sent him on his way to a season that ended with his first major (PGA Championship) and being voted PGA Tour player of the year.

The encore is never easy.

"I think the hardest part is going to be staying in the moment and recognizing that it's a new year," Thomas said as last year was ending. …

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