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PGA Tour season gets underway

Last updated: 4th January 2013

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Steve Stricker: Defending champion

Steve Stricker: Defending champion

American Ricky Fowler will hit the first ball of the 2013 PGA season when the Hyundai Tournament of Champions tees off in Hawaii on Friday.

Some of the game's biggest names are featured in the field of 30 players - all of whom are winners on Tour in 2012 - and reigning champion Steve Stricker faces an arduous task if he is to defend his title successfully.

The 45-year-old American - who is only past winner in the field - finished with two 69s last year to win the title with Martin Laird finishing second, two strokes behind.

Stricker has an amazing record at the Kapalua course though, with his worst finish in the last four times he has been there a tie for 10th place, three years ago.

While Stricker is the slight favourite ahead of the tournament, major champions Webb Simpson (US Open) and Bubba Watson (Masters) are also contenders for the event.

"I'm excited about it," Watson said ahead of the start of the tournament.

"A great time for the family, hanging out with friends and seeing the scenery and playing the golf course is a challenge but it's a fun time to start off the year in Maui.

"For me it's about winning a golf tournament," he continued.

"And the second thing is making the team event. In the US we have a team event every year. This year it's the Presidents Cup, so that would be the second goal.

"I got my tour card for five years now. That would have been number three, but I'm good for five years."

The Masters champion also revealed that he had been hospitalized on three occasions during his career so far and the he is working on his mental preparation.

"I've had a lot of panic attacks off the golf course," he continued.

"I actually went to the hospital three times thinking I was having something wrong with my heart."

"I've done everything. I've done EKGs, we've done tests, all kind of things ... I need medicine that calms me down."

Other names to look out for are players champion Matt Kuchar, who tied for sixth in 2011 and Tour Champion Brandt Snedeker, who missed last year's event.

The Kapalua event signals the start of the PGA season after Tour organizers moved the tournament schedule to a 2013-14 structure from next season. The result is that there are seven fewer tournaments on Tour and that the Fall Series is now at the beginning of the season.

Another contender, Hunter Mahan, believes the shorted season adds to his workload and that it creates uncertainty among some of the players.

"With golf now, it's year-long," Mahan commented.

"The season doesn't end in September. I mean, it doesn't really ever end. It just keeps kind of looping over and over and over again."

He will play in a group that includes another American, Zach Johnson, while Fowler is partnered with Jason Dufner.

The PGA Tour stays in after the Tournament of Champions for the Sony Open, which was won by two strokes by Johnson Wagner.



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