Maui Sports

Road to Kapalua: Watson, Lee, Piercy, Johnson and Merritt

December 28, 2015, 2:18 PM HST
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Hyundai Tournament of Champions.  File photo by Wendy Osher.

Hyundai Tournament of Champions. File photo by Wendy Osher.

With the Hyundai Tournament of Champions a little over a week away, tournament officials are gearing up by highlighting each of the qualifiers for the winners-only event.

The tournament takes place on The Plantation Course at Kapalua from Jan. 6-10, 2016.

In this installment, 2015 victories are highlighted for players: Bubba Watson, Danny Lee, Scott Piercy, Zach Johnson and Troy Merritt.

Bubba Watson – 5th Appearance (Best Finish: T4, 2013)
After missing the cut in the US Open at Chambers Bay in June, Bubba Watson made the cross-country trip to Cromwell, Conn., for the Travelers Championship, the site of his emotional first career PGA TOUR victory in 2010. Watson played flawlessly for most of the week after opening with an 8-under 62, and took control of the tournament in the final round until a bogey on the par-4 17th opened the door for England’s Paul Casey. The blemish on the 17th hole was only his third of the week.

The two met in a sudden-death playoff, and Watson delivered the knockout on the second playoff hole with an approach to 10 feet for birdie. Once Casey found trouble out of the greenside bunker, Watson calmly rolled in his putt to grab his eighth career PGA TOUR victory and punch his ticket back to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

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“My dream is to make it to Maui. This is what we have always wanted to do is to play here, qualify for this event and then come here.”

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Danny Lee – First Appearance
New Zealander Danny Lee is another fresh face on the road to Kapalua after his breakthrough victory at The Greenbrier Classic in July. The 25-year-old emerged from a four-man playoff after defeating David Hearn, Kevin Kisner and Robert Streb in rainy conditions in West Virginia.

After Lee and Hearn both birdied the par-3 18th in the first playoff hole, the two returned to the long par-5 17th. With Hearn in trouble off the tee, Lee was able to find the green on his third shot and two-putt for his par and claim his first PGA TOUR victory. Lee became the first New Zealander to win on TOUR since Michael Campbell’s US Open triumph at Pinehurst No. 2 in 2005.

Scott Piercy – 3rd Appearance (Best Finish: T12, 2012)
With matching 6-under 65s on the weekend at the Barbasol Championship, Scott Piercy found the winner’s circle on the road to Kapalua for the third time in his PGA TOUR career and first since the 2012 RBC Canadian Open with a three-stroke victory over Will Wilcox at the Robert Trent Jones Grand National.

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Piercy entered the final round tied with Ricky Barnes and got off to a quick start with birdies on his first two holes, including an unlikely 57-foot birdie on the par-4 second. The San Diego State product added five more birdies on the round to cap off a stellar week in Auburn/Opelika, Ala.

Zach Johnson – 5th Appearance (Best Finish: 1, 2014)
The 11-time PGA TOUR winner and 2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions winner will best remember the 2014-15 season in one putt: a 30-foot birdie try on the 72nd hole at The Open Championship to join a three-man playoff at the Old Course at St. Andrews. With all eyes on Jordan Spieth and his pursuit of the Grand Slam, Johnson overcame a three-shot deficit with a final-round 6-under 66 and outlasted both Marc Leishman and Louis Oosthuizen in a four-hole aggregate playoff.

The native Iowan finished the four holes at 1-under, topping 2010 champ Oosthuizen’s even-par total and Leishman’s 2-over tally. In the process, he became the14th player to win the Masters Tournament and The Open Championship in a career and the sixth player to win majors at Augusta National and St. Andrews, joining Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Seve Ballesteros, Nick Faldo and Sam Snead.

“It’s great to be back in Maui,” Johnson said. “This is a pretty special place to start, and it’s one that certainly me and my family relish because it’s not easy getting back here. We love coming back.”

Troy Merritt – First Appearance
Troy Merritt arrived at the Quicken Loans National having missed five consecutive cuts and still searching for his first career win on Tour. After opening with rounds of 70-68, the Boise State product snapped his streak of missed cuts and was T35 heading into the weekend, seven shots back of leader Ryo Ishikawa.

Merritt made his move on Saturday at the Robert Trent Jones Golf Club, opening with five consecutive birdies and finishing with an 11-birdie performance for a 10-under 61 to head to the final round tied with Kevin Chappell. Merritt seemed to handle the Sunday pressure with ease, coasting to a 4-under 67 and a three-stroke triumph over Rickie Fowler for his first career PGA TOUR win on the road to Kapalua.

“These guys are the best players in the world and they’re only getting better. So you have to go out and have a great game plan, pure it all week, make some putts, get some good breaks and luck,” Merritt said.

All ticket options are available at the PGA Tour website for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

The Hyundai Tournament of Champions Official Pro-Am guarantees that participants will be paired with a tournament winner. Interested individuals can contact Nancy Cross at (808) 665-9160 or [email protected]

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