Golf-Players in paradise for PGA Tour season opener

Thu Jan 3, 2013 8:08pm EST
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(Reuters) - If winning breeds winning, then the picturesque Hawaiian island of Maui is a paradise in more ways than one for the select group of players competing at this week's $5.7 million Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

The only way to qualify for the elite field of 30 in the PGA Tour's season-opening event was through victory on the U.S. circuit last year and, with no cut and a guaranteed check after Monday's final round, the pickings are certainly favorable.

"It's always great to be here," American Hunter Mahan, a twice champion on the 2012 PGA Tour, told reporters at the Kapalua Resort while preparing for Friday's opening round.

"Obviously you won on the PGA Tour the year before so it's a great start and every player enjoys coming here and wants to start here.

"It's exciting but it's also crazy ... I feel like the year never really ended last year, it just kind of keeps on going. But it's certainly fun to be here."

Masters champion Bubba Watson agreed.

"Who would not want to come to Maui and play golf?" the American left-hander smiled.

"Ride in a golf cart in the pro-ams and practice rounds wearing shorts and then the tournament starts and you have to walk. But other than that it's great.

"A great time for the family, hanging out with friends and seeing the scenery. Playing the golf course is a challenge," Watson said of the par-73, 7,411-yard Plantation layout, "but it's a fun time to start off the year here in Maui."   Continued...

Bubba Watson of the U.S. tees off on the second hole during the second round of the World Challenge golf tournament in Thousand Oaks, California, November 30, 2012. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson