The Hyundai Tournament of Champions will see its three-year contract expire when the final putt drops on Jan. 7, when the event at the Kapalua Plantation Course will be the official opener for the PGA Tour for the last time.
But one year after six eligible golfers ranked among the top 10 in the world and three major winners skipped the event, the commitments are rolling in for the 2013 event.
In the last two days, 2012 FedEx Cup winner Brandt Snedeker, 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson, 2011 PGA winner Keegan Bradley, 2012 European Ryder Cup hero Ian Poulter, Jason Dufner, Zach Johnson, and Hunter Mahan have all committed to play in the tournament, which is for golfers who won on the PGA Tour in 2012.
Masters champion Bubba Watson has committed to play in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions set for Jan. 4-7 at the Kapalua Plantation Course. He is ranked No. 8 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Watson is currently No. 8 on the Official World Golf Rankings list, Dufner is ninth, Snedeker is 10th, Bradley is 12th and Poulter is 13th. Steve Stricker, the defending TOC champion, is also committed to playing here and he is ranked 18th. Johnson is 25th and Mahan is 26th.
The tournament has also run advertisements promoting popular young American Rickie Fowler as part of the field - he is currently ranked 31st.
"If you look at the season the PGA Tour is coming off of, with the excitement last year, with some of the drama, with some of the new winners, we couldn't be happier," Hyundai spokesman Steve Shannon said in a conference call with Stricker on Tuesday. "Terrific-looking field, some 14 of the top 30 players on the Official World Golf Rankings. That's really exciting to see."
Shannon also said that the shift to an October start to the next PGA season could help Kapalua in 2014. Six event that carry FedEx Cup points will be played before the TOC.
"We don't think it'll change that much," he said. "In fact, there could be some upside because with six events already having happened, now there's real points available, so we think people may be a little hungrier at that point in the season to get some points. I think there's also the case where almost - let's say spiritually or metaphysically - there's something still about the start of the year."
Shannon added that discussions are under way on a contract extension for the event to stay where it has taken place since 1999.
"We don't have anything to announce today, nor will we here at the tournament in a couple weeks," he said. "But I can say that we are having very, very optimistic, very fruitful, discussions with the PGA Tour. We like this tournament a lot, we like this golf space a lot. So all things look good."
Ty Votaw, the PGA Tour's Executive Vice President, International Affairs, said last week that Kapalua is on solid ground, even with the shift in the schedule.
"As it stands, the timing of dates and qualification process for the Hyundai, the 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions will not be greatly changed by the new season structure, the wrap-around season of '13 and '14," Votaw said. "Winners of official PGA Tour events in the 2013 calendar year will qualify for the 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions."
Votaw agreed that the shift in the schedule could help draw players to Kapalua and therefore to Waialae Country Club on Oahu the following week for the Sony Open in Hawaii.
"The new season begins in the fall of '13 and we actually think that there's a strong possibility that it is going to provide players with a greater incentive to play Hyundai because FedEx Cup points will have already begun to be collected in the six fall events in 2013," he said. "That will continue, obviously, with the start of the calendar year in '14 with Hyundai and the Sony."
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com