World No. 1 Jordan Spieth seems to say the right things at the right time. When asked about starting his year this week at the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions, he aced his answer.
"This is one [tournament] that we strive to make each year, and if I am eligible to play in this tournament and I'm not [playing in it], I hope every single one of you calls me and bashes me for it," he said to the assembled media before this week's event.
It hasn't always been that way when other star players start the year on the PGA Tour. Some history for you:
Winning the PGA Tour comes with two main perks: a trip to Augusta for the Masters and another one to Maui for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. In 2000 at the Tournament of Champions, Tiger Woods famously beat Ernie Els in one of the great playoff finishes in tournament history. The 14-time major winner teed it up at Kapalua until 2005, and then the most famous golfer of all time wouldn't even consider this trip because the paid appearances overseas later in January became too lucrative and "controlling his schedule" became paramount.
Over the years, many other top players, including Phil Mickelson, have also decided to skip this tournament despite qualifying. Before these PGA Tour pros became stars, if you would have told them they could take a trip to Hawaii, play a great golf course and have to beat only 31 other players to win a million bucks, don't you think they'd take that every single time and twice on Sunday? Augusta National is sacred ground, and I would never compare the two events, but players who skip an event like the Tournament of Champions need to change their mindset. There is no excuse for skipping it; if you win on the Tour, this has to be your first tournament of the calendar year. If for no other reason, you have the opportunity to earn FedEx Cup points and pocket a guaranteed paycheck regardless of finish.
That's why the appearance of Spieth and five other top-10 players from the Official World Golf Ranking this week in Maui is notable. This younger group of stars -- the Jordan Spieths, Jason Days and Rickie Fowlers of the world -- is starting to change the no-show trend. I hope their example is a reminder to others who have been blessed with this immense talent that, no matter how famous you get or how much money you make, there is still a duty as the best players on the best tour to show up for tournaments like this.
This week feels big.
And it should.