Winners only need apply for the first tournament of the calendar year being played in Hawaii this week, an event that pre-dates the founding of the present day PGA Tour.
First played in 1953 in Las Vegas (the PGA Tour was born in 1968), the Tournament of Champions has a rich history boasting a list of champions the equal of all but the most important events.
Any honour roll that includes the likes of Snead, Palmer, Nicklaus, Player, Watson, Trevino, Miller and Woods is one that any golfer would be happy to join.
Before the wrap around season began in 2013/14, this was the opening event of the schedule and while the timing is now more awkward it remains one of the more entertaining tournaments of the year.
Much of that is due to the location and course, The Plantation Course at Kapalua one of the more unorthodox the players face all year.
DEFENDING CHAMPION: Harris English was only in the field last year courtesy of COVID-19 but survived a one-hole playoff against Chile’s Joaquin Niemann to claim the title.
RIGHT: Harris English claimed victory here in 2021 despite not winning on Tour in 2020 PHOTO: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images.
With 10 tournaments cancelled on the 2020 roster thanks to the pandemic, the Tour expanded the field for last year’s tournament to include all 30 players who qualified for the Tour Championship and English – who did not register a win – was among those.
English had a share of the lead entering the final round but it was Niemann who produced the Sunday fireworks with a nine-under 64 to post a target well ahead of the leaders finishing.
English had a chance to end the tournament outright with a makeable eagle putt on the Plantation Course’s iconic 18th but the effort slid by to leave him deadlocked with Niemann.
However, it took just one more trip down the same hole to decide the title, English making birdie again to Niemann’s par to secure his first win since 2013.
COURSE: The Plantation Course at Kapalua, on the island of Maui, has been home to this event since 1999 and has proved popular with players and fans alike.
It has a place in golf architecture history, too, as the first completed design of what is now one of the most respected architecture firms in the game, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw.
Steep doesn’t begin to describe the site of what was formerly a series of pineapple plantations on the side of a volcano overlooking the ocean.
The pair’s 1991 design proved both thrilling and remarkably playable given the terrain and while some had reservations when the Tour moved the Tournament of Champions here eight years later, they proved unfounded.
Scoring is always low courtesy of the wide fairways and large greens though wind can be a factor given the course’s seaside location.
The Coore/Crenshaw team returned to the site in 2019 to completely renovate the course and while the design changed little there was no part of the course left untouched.
All bunkers and greens were redone with drainage added and the entire layout was regrassed.
The Plantation is best known for its dramatic finishing hole, a par-5 which measures more than 600 metres yet is usually reachable in two because of the steep drop from tee to green and a prevailing helping breeze.
The hole was the site of one of the most thrilling finishes seen on the Tour when, in 2000, Tiger Woods and Ernie Els arrived at the tee Sunday tied for the lead.
Both hit remarkable second shots and made eagle to force extra time then both made birdie again on the first extra hole.
Woods eventually claimed the trophy with a 40-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole, his fifth consecutive tournament win for the year.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: There were 39 players eligible for the event this year with only Rory McIlroy choosing not to take part so there is no shortage of talent in Hawaii for the week.
World No.1 Jon Rahm returns to action for the first time since missing the cut at Valderrama in October so he will undoubtedly be refreshed though perhaps not sharp.
World No.8 Justin Thomas is a perennial contender at this course with two wins and two third place finishes in six appearances.
The American had a strong finish to 2021 with three top five finishes in his last four appearances (admittedly two of those in limited field events) but will be comfortable this week and likely a danger.
The player most will likely be watching closely, however, is Collin Morikawa. The reigning Open champion has played here twice and finished T7 both times however, his 2021 performance likely still sticks in the throat a bit.
Morikawa was just one shot off the lead heading into Sunday and most thought him the player most likely.
But after opening 69-65-65, he produced a pedestrian and inexplicable even par 73 to slip back down the standings, an error he will be keen to correct this year.
While Morikawa makes his third appearance Jordan Spieth makes his fifth though first since 2018.
However, don’t be surprised if the 2016 champion features at the business end of the tournament.
2021 was a big year both on and off the course for the likeable Texan and with much turmoil now behind him, this week could signal the start of an exciting 2022.
72-HOLE RECORD: 261 (-31, Ernie Els 2003)
18-HOLE RECORD: 62 – K.J. Choi (2003), Graeme McDowell (2011), Jason Day (2015), Chris Kirk (2015), Xander Schauffele (2019).
PAST AUSSIE WINNERS: Steve Elkington (1992 & 1995), Stuart Appleby (2004, 2005 & 2006), Geoff Ogilvy (2009 & 2010)
AUSTRALIANS IN THE FIELD: Cameron Smith, Marc Leishman, Matt Jones, Lucas Herbert and Cameron Davis.
Round 1: Friday (Fox Sports 503 10am –2pm)
Round 2: Saturday (Fox Sports 503 10am – 2pm)
Round 3: SSunday (Fox Sports 503 10am – 2pm)
Round 4: Monday (Fox Sports 503 10am – 2pm)
*AEDT, check local guides