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The surf has been particularly strong on Maui this week, and it creates quite the contrast. Players working their way along the way back nine can look down the cliffs and see the ocean littered with surfers off the point at Honolua Bay.

It’s relaxing, but it’s still work.

The winners get a small head start on the rest of the PGA Tour in a short field with no cut, essentially free money from the $5.6 million purse and a jump in the FedEx Cup standings.

It worked beautifully last year for Jonathan Byrd, who won his final event of 2010 to qualify for Kapalua, then opened his season with a playoff win over Robert Garrigus.

Byrd was walking through the Maui airport when he saw promotional posters of him on the wall. His son, Jackson, looked at the poster and said, “Dad, I think you’re famous.”

“I said, `At least for this week I am,’” Byrd replied. “You get out there and you just get excited to get the year started.”

So many of these players are looking for an encore, especially Bradley.

A year ago, he was getting ready for his rookie season to begin at the Sony Open and being more nervous than he cares to remember. He never would have imagined winning a major, much less returning to Hawaii a week earlier to start his season.

“I was a mess. I was so uptight about it,” Bradley said. “At this time last year, I wasn’t thinking this tournament at all. I was thinking about how I wasn’t ready to play on the tour, how I needed to practice 12 hours a day to get ready. So it’s pretty remarkable to be here.”

Now comes the hard part.

Bradley will try to build on his big year, the same as FedEx Cup champion Bill Haas and Webb Simpson, who was second in the FedEx Cup and lost out on the money title to Donald in the final event. Simpson didn’t qualify for this tournament until the week before the FedEx Cup playoffs began.

Vegas won the Bob Hope Classic, and then didn’t do much the rest of the year. Woodland won in the Florida swing and made the cut in every major. He has big potential to go with his big swing, though he starts the year by taking on a new agent (Mark Steinberg) that wound up costing him his old coach (Randy Smith).

And while the 28-man field ties the Kapalua record for the smallest number of players, it could get even smaller. Lucas Glover sprained his right knee while paddle boarding over the weekend and is not sure he will be able to play.

“I hate to come out here and not be able to compete,” he said. “But it could be worse. I could be somewhere not as pretty.”