COVID-19 prompts PGA Tour to round out Kapalua field with Tour Championship qualifiers, creating an unusual mix for 2021 opener
In addition to the winners from the previous year, the T of C will include all qualifiers from the season-ending Tour Championship after 10 events were canceled because of the deadly virus in 2020. A record 42 players will compete in the 72-hole, no-cut event, including two – Abraham Ancer and Scottie Scheffler – who never have won on the PGA Tour.
A “tournament of champions” with a couple of non-winners? Welcome to the continuing saga of golf in a pandemic-altered world.
Three qualifiers – Tyrrell Hatton, Jim Herman and Rory McIlroy – will not compete when play begins Thursday at Kapalua Resort’s Plantation Course on Hawaii’s Maui island. Herman, who won the Wyndham Championship, recently tested positive for the coronavirus, which has killed 350,000 Americans from among 20.5 million infections.
Dustin Johnson certainly earned his spot in the T of C via four victories after the season restart in June. Johnson, 36, the reigning FedEx Cup champion, will start 2021 atop the Official World Golf Ranking for a 20th consecutive week and bring a hot hand into the new year. Johnson ended 2020 by finishing no worse than T-6 in his final seven tournaments, including a runaway victory at his most recent start, the Masters in November. Johnson, who won the T of C in 2013 and 2018, will be among 14 of the top 20 in the world ranking scheduled to compete.
No. 3-ranked Justin Thomas, the defending champion, also owns an impressive recent history at the resort on the northwest shore of Maui. He has won twice and finished third in his past four appearances at Kapalua.
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