Temperature on the island of Maui right now is around 79 degrees.
Should be between 78 and 81 out there this week as the PGA Tour returns to action in a place where they aren’t freezing.
Most of the continental United States is caught in a record Big Chill this week but that’s certainly not the case at the Plantation Course out in Kapalua.
Hawaiian weather is perfect and the table is set for the start of the 2018 season with this week’s event for winners only.
The Tournament Of Champions is the perfect place for defending champion Justin Thomas to see what he’s got going. He’s got a tough act to follow and that is his own performance from 2017 that saw him win his first major and capture PGA Tour Player Of The Year honors.
Fact is we could all use a little Maui right now. There’s even wind chill in Florida.
To the north it’s worse, a lot worse but everyone can take solace around their television sets starting Thursday night because this one, ladies and gentleman, is in prime time.
Dustin Johnson is there as the world’s No. 1. Jordan Spieth is No. 2, J.T., the defender is No. 3. Add No. 4 Jon Rahm and 2017 runner-up Hideki Matsuyama (No. 5) and the gang’s all there.
Hopefully Johnson and Spieth will fare better this year than last year’s numbers one and two.
Jason Day was No. 1 and Rory McIlroy No. 2 this time last year. Today McIlroy is No. 11, Day 13th, each trying to shake off a season where they both went winless.
Expectations for Thomas are high. Last year he was locked in a battle down the stretch with Matsuyama but put the hammer down on Hideki when he hit an eight-iron to three-feet at the par three 17th, made birdie and saw Matsuyama three-putt for bogey. Another birdie at 18 and J.T. posted a winning 22-under total.
This year the Plantation Course may be a bit tougher. The forecast calls for windy conditions all four days with 20-mile-per-hour gusts predicted for Sunday’s final round.
Thomas knows he’s got his work in front of him if he expects to perform like he did in 2017.
He made these pre-tournament observations:
“All I’m trying to do is just play every tournament I’m at the best I can. I’m not in any way comparing to last year because I know there’s a chance that I don’t do what I did last year, and there’s also a chance that I have a better year than I had last year. That’s the thing, you never know what’s going to happen, and you don’t know what person is going to come out, what Justin Thomas is going to be every week. Hopefully it’s great more often than not, but in reality, that’s not how golf works.
“I think the hardest part is going to be staying in the moment and recognizing that it’s a new year. It’s a new opportunity for great things and I just need to continue to work hard. I’m not going into this year thinking I have to win five times and a major and Player of the Year and FedExCup for it to be a great year. That would be a great year, but I’m just putting all expectations aside from what people are going to have of me, what I may have of myself.
“I think it’s pretty obvious my expectations are high and I expect a lot of myself, but a lot more goes into it. I had the stretch last year where I didn’t finish very well, but I thought I was playing better than the results were showing. A couple years ago, I probably would have lost my cool and just gotten impatient. Instead I stayed patient and I rolled off maybe the best month of golf I ever played starting with the PGA and in to the FedExCup Playoffs. So without that patience I wouldn’t have had that, so I just have to continue to keep that patience this year whatever may happen.”
Thomas and the rest of the players in the field understand it’s a long season.
With its limited field, this Tournament Of Champions is like a preseason reward for the performers of 2017.
Still, there will be guys who start strong, right out of the blocks.
Good news is that the weather is the good news.
Back in the continental U.S., it’s pretty cold.
We’re all caught up in The Big Chill.