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Spieth ready for a new year, with new goals

Associated Press

KAPALUA, Hawaii (AP) — Jordan Spieth can appreciate better than most that life can move pretty fast.

One of his first duties when the 20-year-old Texan arrived at Kapalua for the Tournament of Champions was to attend something called "new member orientation." It's for players starting their first full season as a full-fledged PGA Tour member.

This particular new member already has won the John Deere Classic, had a chance to win the FedEx Cup and played in the Presidents Cup.

"It was more of a brief meeting than it normally is for new members," Spieth said. "But I'm excited that I'm not a rookie anymore."

He's more curious about what the new year will bring.

Spieth is among 30 winners who will tee it up Friday on the Plantation Course to begin a new year in golf. He already has made minor changes to his swing, a product of his new job. He has never played this much tournament golf in one year, and one of the challenges was keeping his swing consistent for weeks at a time. He worked his grip, the way he loaded his weight taking the club back so he could flatten his swing and hit his natural draw.

"I still don't own my swing yet," said Spieth, who at least now owns his own house. "The good news is I'm able to make it work if things aren't going well."

Every year brings change for so many players.

Some players have switched equipment. Some have new caddies. The biggest change for Spieth will be his goals.

At this time a year ago, he was hopeful of making his first start of 2014 in Hawaii — just not Maui. He only wanted to earn his PGA Tour card, most likely through the Web.com Tour, and then start off on Oahu at the Sony Open.

Through the course of the year, Spieth had to reset his goal a couple of times as he advanced from special temporary membership, to PGA Tour winner, to FedEx Cup contender to Presidents Cup players.

If he has to reset his goals for 2014, it could be some kind of year.

Spieth didn't get too specific with what he had in mind, but it was clear they centered around the majors and having more chances to win.

With a new year starting Friday, here are five things to watch — provided everyone is not watching the humpback whales breach off the shores of Kapalua:

WHALE WATCH: Kapalua offers some of the most scenic shots of the year, which is to be expected when the Plantation Course is built on the side of a mountain overlooking the Pacific Ocean. From the 12th tee, there are great views of surfing at Honolua Bay. With clouds (rain expected Friday), look for rainbows. And then there are the whales.

"My first year, I'm on the first tee on Sunday," Zach Johnson said. "I'm getting ready to hit and I hear this, 'Ohhhhhhh.' I haven't even hit it, what are they talking about? There were two whales breeching. And then they did it again. Now the crowd is going crazy. It took me five minutes to hit my tee shot."

THE PURSUIT OF NO. 1: Adam Scott finished off 2013 with two wins, a runner-up and third place in four tournaments in Australia, moving him to within range of Tiger Woods at No. 1 in the world. The Masters champion has two tournaments left in Hawaii before taking a six-week break (Woods will play at least twice during his break).

Scott is among the favorites at Kapalua, mainly because he's on such good form.

For some, this is the easiest tournament of the year to win. There are only 30 players in the field. Some of them haven't played in more than a month, while others are still getting over the holidays and see this no-cut event as a chance to starting shaking off the rust.

DUSTIN JOHNSON: Kapalua has a recent history of repeat winners. Stuart Appleby won three years in a row in the 2000s, while Geoff Ogilvy won back-to-back late in the decade. Both are Australians, who played a fair bit deep into the previous season.

Johnson won the HSBC Champions in Shanghai, and he arrived on Maui early enough to get in four rounds of practice before hardly anyone else showed up.

But there's a kink in this development — literally. Johnson slept awkwardly on his neck, and then tweaked it when he turned his head suddenly. It was sore enough that he withdrew from the pro-am, though he said he would be ready to go on Friday.

THE WEATHER: Kapalua is gorgeous in sunshine or rain. It was unplayable in the wind. A year ago, the tournament didn't even start until Monday (the day it was supposed to end), and then players completed 54 holes in a span of 29 hours. Wind is not in the forecast, but rain is expected to move in for the first few rounds.

The bigger issue is soft conditions that has allowed for very little roll during the practice rounds, making the Plantation Course a haven for big hitters, and a monster for those who are not.

THE ENCORE: Spieth technically began his second season last year in Shanghai at the HSBC Champions, though just like everyone else at Kapalua, this feels like a fresh start with the new year. Expectations are high, with some already penciling him in for the Ryder Cup.

He has played in only two majors and one World Golf Championship. Then again, he excelled during the FedEx Cup playoffs.

His sophomore season could determine how good this kid will be.

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