- Associated Press - Thursday, January 3, 2013

KAPALUA, HAWAII (AP) - Ian Poulter was still in the holiday spirit with the Tournament of Champions looming, and he didn’t decide until Tuesday whether to open his season in Hawaii. He reluctantly packed his bags and didn’t have high hopes for the first tournament of the year.

He playfully told one follower on Twitter to “save your money” when he saw odds of Poulter winning at 12-to-1. And when he arrived on the Plantation Course _ right about the time the rain returned, of course _ he conceded to not be as ready to play as he normally is.

“I figured I might as well knock some of the turkey rust off me and come and play for a few days,” Poulter said Thursday before his pro-am round. “I might be a little rusty, but I’m going to play and see how we go.”

With only a 30-man field, he only has 29 guys to beat.


And while it was a big flight over from Florida, what’s another 5,000 miles after all the places Poulter has gone the last few months?

After a short break following the Ryder Cup, Poulter’s travels took him from Shanghai to Hong Kong to Melbourne to Dubai to Los Angeles to Florida, and then a brief trip to London for the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year awards.

But don’t think it wasn’t tempting to sit this one out. Poulter has a six-week break that starts after Maui and ends with the Match Play Championship.

“It would have been nice to have taken 10 weeks off,” he said. “I think that’s exactly what Luke (Donald) has done, and there’s a couple of others doing the same.”

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HYUNDAI FUTURE: Hyundai is in the final year of its contract as title sponsor of the Tournament of Champions, and its vice president of marketing sounded optimistic that the South Korean automaker would be sticking around.

“We are very bullish,” Steve Shannon said. “We don’t have anything to announce this week, partially because we are so focused in executive another great event. But we’ve had discussions with the PGA Tour. They have been great partners of ours. Certainly, our bias is to continue, but we just need to get this tournament behind us and then have some more discussions with them.

“We have done a lot of things each year to improve our involvement, and we would look to do that in the future again.”

The PGA Tour season opens with as many questions about who’s not at Kapalua as who is. The top four in the world ranking are taking the week off _ Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Luke Donald and Justin Rose. Ernie Els is playing next week in South Africa., while Sergio Garcia and Phil Mickelson also opted not to come.

Shannon didn’t seem overly bothered by that, saying the “dynamic is what it is.” Golf has changed over the last several years with more international players trying to juggle the PGA Tour and their home tours. Europeans and Australians, for example, play deep into November.

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