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Young Players Thrive on Road to Kapalua in PGA TOUR

December 3, 2015, 3:03 PM HST · Updated December 3, 3:03 PM
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Hyundai Tournament of Champions. File photo by Wendy Osher.

Hyundai Tournament of Champions. File photo by Wendy Osher.

The winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions returns to The Plantation Course at Kapalua on Maui from Jan. 6-10, 2016.

As the 2015-2016 PGA TOUR season got underway, it was clear that there would be a strong youthful presence at the Maui event.  Six of the first seven tournament titles of the season were captured by first-time winners, including three players who are under the age of 24.

These young winners will be joining an elite field of winners from the 2015 calendar year on the PGA TOUR, including Masters and US Open champion Jordan Spieth, Open Championship winner Zach Johnson, PGA Championship winner Jason Day and winner of THE PLAYERS, Rickie Fowler.

Frys.com Open
Emiliano Grillo won his first start on the PGA TOUR at the Frys.com Open to make his road to Kapalua a short one. The Argentinian won the Web.com Tour Championship at Dye’s Valley at TPC Sawgrass to earn his playing privileges on TOUR, making the Frys.com Open triumph his second consecutive professional win. Grillo, 23, continues a trend of young winners on TOUR, as the 2014-15 season saw the most winners in their 20s in any season since 1970 with 24.

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Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
Smylie Kaufman, 23, closed with a 61 to earn his first victory in his rookie season on the road to Kapalua at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open. The tournament has a history of first-time winners and winners in their 20s, as Kaufman’s win made him the 10th player since 2000 to post his first-career victory at the event. The tournament also boasts 10 winners in their 20s in the last 20 years, the second-most of any event in that timeframe (BMW Championship – 11).

CIMB Classic
Justin Thomas became the third consecutive under-24 PGA TOUR winner when he claimed the CIMB Classic at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club in Malaysia on the road to Kapalua. The 22-year-old had a solid rookie season on the PGA TOUR, recording seven top 10s on his way to a No. 32 finish in the FedExCup. His CIMB Classic win came in just the third event of the season. His second-round 61 set a new course record and matched the tournament record.

World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions
Entering the final round of the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions, Russell Knox held a share of the lead with Kevin Kisner at 16-under-par. The 30-year-old Scotsman carded a 4-under 68 on Sunday and posted 20-under 268, good for a two-stroke win over Kisner to earn his first trip to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

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Sanderson Farms Championship
When Peter Malnati won the Sanderson Farms Championship on the road to Kapalua, he was the fifth consecutive first-time winner, the first time the PGA TOUR produced five straight first-time winners since 2002. The 28-year-old made 497 feet, 7 inches of putts for the week. He was also the fifth consecutive former Web.com Tour player to win on the PGA TOUR.

OHL Classic at Mayakoba
Graeme McDowell’s road to Kapalua had seen ups and downs since his win at the 2013 RBC Heritage, but the 36-year-old Northern Irishman won his third PGA TOUR title at this fall’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. He has one career start at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, a third-place effort in 2011 following his win at the 2010 US Open at Pebble Beach. McDowell began the final round of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba three shots off the lead, but he closed with a 66 to win.

The RSM Classic
After several close calls, Georgia’s Kevin Kisner finally found himself a winner on the PGA TOUR at The RSM Classic on the road to Kapalua. Entering the event, Kisner had recorded four runner-up finishes in his previous 19 starts, including three playoff losses in 2015 (The Greenbrier Classic, THE PLAYERS Championship, RBC Heritage). With the win, Kisner qualified for his first Hyundai Tournament of Champions and also became the 11th former Georgia Bulldog to win on the PGA TOUR.

A complete list of qualifiers is posted online.

Hyundai Tournament of Champions Tickets:
A variety of ticket packages are also on sale now, including good-any-one-day tickets, daily tickets and weekly tickets. Clubhouse packages are also still available, both in weekly and daily tickets. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions returns to The Plantation Course in Maui, Hawaiʻi from Jan. 6 -10, 2016. Tickets are available at PGATOUR.com/Hyundai or via Ticketmaster. Fans are reminded that each year, youth 18 and younger are admitted free of charge to the tournament when accompanied by a ticketed adult.

Hyundai Tournament of Champions Pro-Am:
The Hyundai Tournament of Champions Official Pro-Am is taking place from Jan. 5-6, and is the only Pro-Am on the PGA TOUR that guarantees participants will be paired with a tournament winner. In addition to the rare opportunity to play with PGA TOUR stars, participants will also play both courses at one of the most famous stops on TOUR. For more information, contact Nancy Cross at (808) 665-9160 or [email protected]

All four competitive rounds will be broadcast on Golf Channel.

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