Rory McIlroy observers expect the former world No 1 to sweep back to the top with a dominant display in 2016. He may well do so but the Co Down man has his work cut out on the evidence of Jordan Spieth's impressive victory in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions in Hawaii.
The 22 year old Texan crushed the winners-only field by eight strokes over the Plantation Course at Kapalua, closing with a six-under 67 to become only the second player in PGA TOUR history to finish a 72-hole tournament at 30-under par or lower.
An 8-foot birdie on the final hole put him at 30-under 262, one short of the record Ernie Els set at Kapalua in 2003.
It was Spieth's eighth win since he captured the 2014 Emirates Australian Open with a closing 63, leaving McIlroy 15 strokes behind. He also matches Tiger Woods in the list of players with the most PGA Tour wins before age 23 (since 1970) with seven — four more than Rory McIlroy or Sergio Garcia.
The Hyundai Tournament of Champions was also a good week for Pádraig Harrington, who closed with a six under par 67 to snatch a share of sixth place on 17 under and his first Top 10 anywhere since he won the Honda Classic last year.
The 44-year old Dubliner rises 22 places to 120th in the world as he battles to return to the top 50 who will qualify for the Masters in April.
Harrington has had just four top 10 finishes in 60 events since January 2014 - a share of fifth int he Volvo Golf Champions two years ago, his wins in the BANK BRI Indonesia Open at the end of 2014 and the Honda Classic last year and Sunday night's T6 in Hawaii.
Graeme McDowell tied for 29th in the 32 player field in Hawaii, posting a two under 71 on the last day.
Both Harrington and McDowell have entered this week's Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
Darren Clarke (with Shane Lowry in the side), leads Europe against Asia in the EurAsia Cup presented by DRB-HICOM in Malaysia.
Lowry, who secured the biggest win of his career to date at last year’s WGC – Bridgestone Invitational, said: “I am looking forward to it – to play for Europe at any level is an honour, but to be able to do it as a professional playing alongside so many great players is going to be fantastic.
“One of the main reasons I wanted to play the EURASIA CUP so much was to get invaluable team experience in a Ryder Cup year. A lot of the lads on our team next week are looking to qualify for The Ryder Cup this year and next week gives us a great chance to show Darren what we are capable of and hopefully impress him.”
On the European Tour, Paul Dunne returns to action in the Joburg Open after missing last week's BMW SA Open due to food poisoning.
The Greystones player, who has received invitations for the Farmers Insurance Open and AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am on the PGA Tour, is joined at Royal Johannesburg and Kensington by Michael Hoey, Kevin Phelan and Ruaidhri McGee.