Marc Leishman’s stellar end to 2018 makes him one of the players to beat when the US PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule enters 2019 with the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua’s Plantation Course from Friday.

Thirty-four winners from PGA Tour tournaments in 2018 will tee it up in Hawaii with Tiger Woods, Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson the only players who have chosen to extend their off-season for at least an extra week.

Leishman secured his place in the field by winning the CIMB Classic in Malaysia in October – technically a tournament on the 2019 schedule – with Jason Day’s two-win season also securing him a return to Kapalua for the first time since 2017.

In his second appearance at the Plantation Course last year Leishman held at least a share of the lead through 36 holes thanks to an opening round of six-under 67, but it is the formline he carries into the new year that has pundits excited about his prospects.

After his win in Malaysia – the fourth PGA Tour title of his career – Leishman returned to Australia to partner Cameron Smith to a runner-up finish at the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf and then succumbed to Smith’s late surge to finish second at the Australian PGA Championship at RACV Royal Pines Resort.

With his Warrnambool upbringing bringing an affinity for playing in the strong winds that Hawaii is renowned for, Leishman looks perfectly placed to improve on his tie for seventh 12 months ago when a third round of 76 ruined his hopes.

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Having qualified for the winners-only invitational just once in his first six seasons on tour, Day has been a perennial contender in Hawaii with three top-10 finishes and a best of a tie for third in 2015. On that occasion Day used an equal course record of 11-under 62 in the final round to rocket up the leaderboard and returns to Kapalua for a fifth time courtesy of wins at the Farmers Insurance Open and Wells Fargo Championship last year.

With the arrival of son Arrow expanding the Day family to five in November, Day will be eager to continue his excellent results at Kapalua where he was tied for 10th in 2016 and tied for 12th two years ago.

The Plantation Course has been kind to Australians in the past with Stuart Appleby a three-time consecutive winner from 2004 to 2006 and Geoff Ogilvy going back-to-back in 2009-2010. Steve Elkington is also a two-time winner of the Tournament of Champions, triumphing in a playoff twice at La Costa Resort and Spa in California in 1992 and 1995.