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The PGA Tour's '12 season begins Friday with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, but the list of who qualified for the event and are not playing "reads more like a ‘Who's Who’" of golf, according to Doug Ferguson of the AP. Major champions Charl Schwartzel, Darren Clarke and Rory McIlroy are "missing," and three of the four World Golf Championship winners "are not at Kapalua, either.” A field of 28 golfers will tee off Friday, "tying the record for the smallest field to start the PGA Tour season on the shores of Maui.” The event is limited to winners of tournaments from the previous year, and there are just 19 of the top 100 golfers in the world rankings, including just two in the top 10. That is compared to 19 of the top 40 players last year. The Tour has “toyed with the idea of expanding the field, either by inviting all past winners at Kapalua or by offering a two-year exemption to the Tournament of Champions for PGA Tour winners,” but that “wouldn't solve the problem.” Of the 11 players “who aren't at Kapalua, most have a valid reason.” Brandt Snedeker, Fredrik Jacobson and Dustin Johnson “are recovering from injuries,” while Martin Kaymer and Clarke are not PGA Tour members (AP, 1/3). GOLF.com's David Dusek wrote the Tour should "either delay the start of its season or move this event to California, Arizona or Florida so it's proximity to more PGA Tour players will make it more enticing." He suggested the Tour also should invite players "who have won a PGA Tour event during the past two seasons." Dusek: "Whatever they want to change, the folks in Ponte Vedra need to do something to start ... the PGA Tour season off with a bang instead of a whimper" (GOLF.com, 1/3).
LOOKING AHEAD: The final round of the Tournament of Champions will be played Monday, and PGA Tour Commissioner Tim Finchem said the possibility of more Monday finishes is "not just a television audience question." Finchem: "There are a lot of different factors. ... You have to look at all the stakeholders in a tournament, the fans, the television partners, the sponsors, the corporate hospitality bars, the people who play in the pro-ams, the fans who want to come out and watch. What makes the most sense for everybody?” Finchem also addressed the decision to keep the FedExCup points structure the same as in '11. He said, "I am not so sure we wouldn’t make a change in that area in the next couple of years, but we wanted to get into a pattern where the fans could get used to the system. That is happening, and the Cup has really grown every single year” (“Morning Drive,” Golf Channel, 1/4).
SO MANY QUESTIONS, SO LITTLE TIME: In California, Larry Bohannan listed his top questions for the '12 season, with the top one being whether the "European surge" will continue.” Europe has “been the story in golf for two years now, with major championship winners from Northern Ireland, Ireland and Germany.” England's Luke Donald “is the No. 1 player in the world, just ahead of countryman Lee Westwood, and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy is the game's reigning young star.” Bohannan also asked if this was the year Tiger Woods "comes back for good" and which "hot 2011 player will continue to roll in 2012” (Palm Springs DESERT SUN, 1/4).