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BlogSBS T. of Champ. Preview and Picks

SBS Tournament of Champions

January 5th – 8th, 2017

Plantation Course at Kapalua

Kapalua Maui, HI

Par: 73 / Yardage: 7,452

Purse: $6.1 million

with $1,220,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Jordan Spieth

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field of 32 has 20 players in the top-75 of the world rankings including 14 of the top-50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with six players from the top-ten: #1 Jason Day, #3 Dustin Johnson, #5 Jordan Spieth, #6 Hideki Matsuyama, #8 Patrick Reed and #10 Bubba Watson.   The other top-75 players are #17 Branden Grace, #18 Russell Knox, #21 Jimmy Walker, #22 Justin Thomas, #28 Brandt Snedeker, #34 Daniel Berger, #35 Ryan Moore, #50 William McGirt, #53 Siwoo Kim, #60 Brendan Steele, #62 Jason Dufner, #64 James Hahn, #66 Charley Hoffman and #71 Jhonattan Vegas

Last year there were 19 top-50 players in the field

The field includes 9 of the Top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2017.  Those players are #1 Hideki Matsuyama, #2 Justin Thomas, #3 Pat Perez, #4 Mackenzie Hughes, #5 Brendan Steele, #6 Rod Pampling, #7 Cody Gribble, #9 Russell Knox and #17 Daniel Berger.

The field includes only three past champions, last year’s winner Jordan Spieth, 2015 winner Patrick Reed and 2014 and Dustin Johnson – 2013.

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the SBS Tournament of Champions field is our performance chart listed by average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the SBS Tournament of Champions in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the SBS Tournament of Champions.  For our fantasy golf players looking to pick six players, check out our GOLFstats IQ section for the SBS Tournament of Champions, it will help you make those Draft Kings picks.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the SBS Tournament of Champions

Player The RSM Classic OHL Classic at Mayakoba Shriners Hospitals Sanderson Farms WGC-HSBC Champions CIMB Classic Safeway Open
Hideki Matsuyama
(77.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
2
(33.33)
DNP
Justin Thomas
(69.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
Win
(44)
T8
(16.67)
Cody Gribble
(69 pts)
CUT
(-3.33)
T15
(11.67)
T65
(0)
Win
(44)
DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
Pat Perez
(68 pts)
DNP Win
(44)
T7
(18.33)
DNP DNP T33
(5.67)
DNP
Mackenzie Hughes
(61 pts)
Win
(44)
CUT
(-3.33)
T68
(0)
T26
(8)
DNP DNP T13
(12.33)
Russell Knox
(58.33 pts)
DNP 3
(30)
DNP DNP T9
(15)
T10
(13.33)
DNP
Brendan Steele
(58.33 pts)
DNP DNP T31
(6.33)
DNP DNP T26
(8)
Win
(44)
Rod Pampling
(43.33 pts)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
T42
(2.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Daniel Berger
(33.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T2
(33.33)
T51
(0)
DNP
Ryan Moore
(31.67 pts)
DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
DNP T23
(9)
T17
(11)
DNP
James Hahn
(23.33 pts)
DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
DNP DNP 9
(15)
CUT
(-3.33)
Billy Hurley III
(13.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T15
(11.67)
DNP DNP T51
(0)
T34
(5.33)
Jhonattan Vegas
(13.33 pts)
DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP DNP T45
(1.67)
T45
(1.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
Tony Finau
(13.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T41
(3)
DNP DNP T33
(5.67)
T26
(8)
Branden Grace
(12.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T30
(6.67)
T33
(5.67)
DNP
Vaughn Taylor
(11.67 pts)
DNP T60
(0)
T61
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
Jim Herman
(11.33 pts)
T13
(12.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T33
(5.67)
DNP
Aaron Baddeley
(10 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
T67
(0)
Si Woo Kim
(8.33 pts)
CUT
(-3.33)
WD
(-1.67)
DNP DNP T63
(0)
T10
(13.33)
DNP
Dustin Johnson
(5 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T35
(5)
DNP DNP
Fabian Gomez
(4.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T57
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T26
(8)
William McGirt
(4.33 pts)
T27
(7.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Brandt Snedeker
(1.67 pts)
T45
(1.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Patrick Reed
(0 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T60
(0)
T51
(0)
DNP
Bubba Watson
(0 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T54
(0)
DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the SBS Tournament of Champions

Player The RSM Classic OHL Classic at Mayakoba Shriners Hospitals Sanderson Farms WGC-HSBC Champions CIMB Classic Safeway Open
Charley Hoffman
(-10 pts)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Brian Stuard
(-5 pts)
CUT
(-3.33)
T35
(5)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T66
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
Greg Chalmers
(-4.67 pts)
DNP WD
(-1.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
T50
(0.33)
DNP DNP T62
(0)
Jimmy Walker
(-3.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T77
(0)
DNP DNP
Bubba Watson
(0 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T54
(0)
DNP DNP
Patrick Reed
(0 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T60
(0)
T51
(0)
DNP
Brandt Snedeker
(1.67 pts)
T45
(1.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
William McGirt
(4.33 pts)
T27
(7.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Fabian Gomez
(4.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T57
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T26
(8)
Dustin Johnson
(5 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T35
(5)
DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

One of the greatest perks on the PGA Tour for winning is getting to start the year off in Maui. For the average person, they would kill just to get to Hawaii.  The winners in 2016/17 they not only get to go to Hawaii, but they get a week at a Ritz Carlton on one of the prettiest  beaches in the world. Food couldn’t be any better; the scenery is the best and for those that like water sports from surfing to snorkeling the Kapalua area is the best. Yes, this is really hard work and to think, there is no hustle or bustle this week, play bad finish last and you’ll still make $60 grand. What a life.

But let’s face reality, not every pro on the PGA Tour (or European Tour) thinks that playing in the SBS T of C is their cup of tea.  For this year six players took a pass, Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Charl Schwartzel, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson and Danny Willett leaving the field to 32.

In past years we have harped on how players could miss out on this event, for those that aren’t here it’s understandable since four of the six are starting their seasons on the European Tour.  Still the field is healthy with 32 starters the same as last year.  Lots of oddities, for one only three past champions, are in the field (Patrick Spieth, Patrick Reed and Dustin Johnson).

Of the 32, 11 are playing for the first time, eight have only played once.  2013 champion Dustin Johnson has the most experience, playing in six, while Bubba Watson is next playing in five previous Hyundai’s.

So there isn’t a wealth of experience in this event and kind of begs the question, the field could be better if they took the winners of the last two or even three years.  But the PGA Tour or the SBS officials have stayed pat on just the last 52 weeks winners getting an invite.

Course information:

The Plantation course was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and was opened in May of 1991. Between 1992 and 1997 the course was the venue of the Lincoln Mercury Kapalua Open, with the Mercedes Championships moving to the Plantation course in 1999. The average green size at Kapalua is 9,500 square feet, which means that it has some of the biggest greens on tour. This will place a premium on putting, especially on long putts. The course has 95 bunkers and no water hazards, with fairways so wide that a 747 can land on them.

In 2016, the course played to a scoring average of 69.805 (remember it’s a par 73) that was just under three shots under par and it was the easiest course on the PGA Tour.

Let’s take a look at key stats that are important for those playing on the Plantation Course at Kapalua:

This is based on the most important stats for Plantation Course at Kapalua, based on data from last years Hyundai Tournament of Champions, and using data from all the players in the field for with stats from a combination of 2015 & ’16.
One thing that is important to know, the scoring average of the field in 2016 was 69.80, so with par being 73 that means the average score was just over 3 under per round, making Kapalua the easiest course to score on in 2016.
Now there is many reasons for this, first the Plantation Course is a resort course and not geared to be super tough. Another reason is the fairways, there is no way that you can’t hit the fairways at Kapalua, a 747 can land in them. Last year the course ranked 46th (of 50 courses) in driving accuracy with a 71.46 total. On top of that since the fairways are firm and many of them are downhill, it’s not surprising that for all the drives the average is 292.2 yards. So with that said many will say gosh this is a course for bombers, but it really isn’t. Yes long hitters have a big advantage, but look at some of the champions the last few years, Jordan Spieth was the 51st longest hitter on tour last year. Even better yet Zach Johnson won in 2014, Steve Stricker in 2012, Jonathan Bard in 2011 were three of the shortest hitters in PGA Tour history. Even guys like Geoff Ogilvy (who won twice) and Daniel Chopra were very average on tour in driving distance so the myth that this course is for bombers is not right, except for one small fact. Being on a hill overlooking the Pacific Ocean the Plantation course tends to get hit by some high winds and when that happens, especially if the winds are out of the north, it helps short hitters The same when it’s dry, it helps the short hitters. For this week winds are going to come out of the northeast and not be that bad, between 10 and 15 mph. So this favors the shorter hitter. But the one undisputed fact that many don’t understand about the winners, in most cases the best putter is the victor. Makes sense, since the course is wide open and the greens the largest on the PGA Tour hitting fairways and greens are easy. But just because you hit a green doesn’t mean it’s going to help you to win. You got to get it close to the hole but more importantly be a great putter, avoid those nasty three putts and make lot’s of putts from six feet and in. Last year’s winner Jordan Spieth made 59 of 60 putts from six feet and in. The year Zach Johnson won he made 63 of 65 putts from seven feet and in while in 2012 Steve Stricker made 58 of 61 putts from seven feet and in. Another key lack of three putts and all winners are good in scrambling.

So here is our four choices for the most important stats from players to do well at Kapalua:

*Proximity to Hole: In greens hit 80.82% where hit last year, making it the easiest course to hit greens on the PGA Tour. In proximity to the hole, players tended to have a tough time getting it close to the hole, last year they averaged 39 feet, 5 inch as only three courses saw approach shots go further away from the hole.

*Strokes gained Putting: The greens average 7,120 square feet at Kapalua, making them above average on the PGA Tour. So with shots ending up far from the hole, it puts a premium on putting, so players that gain strokes putting have an advantage. Overall putting stats place it the 8th hardest to putt, as one putts are at a premium. Three putts aren’t that bad as the course ranks 14th in 3-putt avoidance. But we can’t stop saying the importance of putting well at Kapalua and this is the kiss of death for a lot of players, balky putting.

*Par Breakers: The Plantation Course has always been a push over for the best players in the world. The field killed the course in 2016 averaging 5.02 birdies per round and a total of 642 birdies were made from the field of 32 players, so it’s important to be the best in this Par Breakers which is based on who makes the most birdies and eagles.

*Par 4 average: There are 11 par 4s on the Plantation course and only three of them, the first, seventh and seventeenth played over par. The rest played under par as the average of all par 4s is 3.91, or for the field 133 under so looking for players that do well on par 4s help. We don’t list it but of the Plantations four par fives, they played a total of 282 under in 2016, which means that each player averaged 8.8 shots under par on them.

Below is the average of positions on stats from 2016 & ’17 PGA Tour statistics

Click any column title in the table header to sort columns.

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the SBS Tournament of Champions:

Key stat for the winner:

  • The Plantation Course is not a driving course. A good driver has no advantage here so players just have to rear back and hit it as far as they can. The fairways are big enough to land a 747 on them and for those that miss the fairway, the rough frankly is of no worries, so this is one of the rare events that driving means nothing.  2013 was a perfect example, winner Dustin Johnson missed the most fairways of anyone in the field (missed 37 of the 60 attempts) but on the other end of the spectrum, Johnson’s average drive of 279.5 yards the second longest.  But in the long run, hitting it long does not have that much of an advantage.
  • Again in this case stats are misleading because even though you can hit it long, the course is one of those that everyone hits all the greens so everyone is in the same boat.
  • So along with players hitting it as far as they can, also look for players hitting lots of greens. Since they are so large averaging 7,200 square feet, you can see that players miss only three greens per round. So hitting lot’s of greens is a misnomer.  The average hit green is 39 feet away so you can see that lag putting is important since only three courses in 2016 had figures higher.
  • So two key stats standout as important, first approach putt performance which gauges who lag putts the closet to the hole? In 2016, those playing at Kapalua averaged getting their first putt within 2 feet, 4 inches away.  The other key stat is birdie or better conversion per greens hit, Kapalua was fifth as players birdied 34.73 of the greens they hit.

Here are some more key stats to look to for this week:

  •  Still, the king of stats is putting.  With big greens, putting is important.
  • Look at Jordan Spieth last year.   He was T-11th in hitting greens and averaged 34 feet, 11 inches from the hole that ranked 3rd.  So when Johnson was 1st in strokes gained putting and 1st in total putting, again we can see why he won by 8 shots.
  • Another example was Patrick Reed, who won in 2015.  He was T-15th in hitting greens but of the greens he hit averaged 44 feet, 8 inches from the hole that ranked 26th.  Now, Reed may of been 16th in strokes gained putting and T-15th in total putting, but again look at some important putting stats for Kapalua.  First, Reed one-putted 28 of the 72 greens, which ranked T-5th.  Of the 60 putts of five feet or under, Reed only missed three.   One last item Johnson only took 114 putts that ranked 4th.  This is an amazing comparison of the 16 winners at Kapalua, 12 of them finished either first or second in putting (8 led that category).
  • In 2013 over 54 holes, Dustin Johnson was T-2nd in putting taking only 92 putts.  Going a step further, on putting from three feet, five feet, and ten feet in.  Johnson was perfect 32 for 32 on putts of three feet and in.  On putts of five feet and in, out of 46 attempts he missed only two and of putts inside 10 feet he only missed six of 55 attempts.
  • In 2012 Steve Stricker won and was perfect 44 of 44 on putts of three feet in.  On putts of five feet and in, Stricker was 56 of 58 and inside ten feet 62 of 71.
  • In 2011 Jonathan Byrd won and was a perfect 39 of 39 on putts of three feet in. Putts from five feet and in he missed only one of 56.  On putts ten feet and in he was 66 of 73, the best in the field.
  • And in 2010 Geoff Ogilvy was nothing short of near perfect as he made all 55 of 55 putts from five feet and in.  He only missed four putts from ten feet and in, it’s very hard to be better than that.  So of the last five winners since 2010 none of them have missed a putt shorter than 3 feet and all of them missed only an average 1.6 putts per event under five feet.  So the tournament is won with the putter.
  • Every year we see how Kapalua is a very unpredictable place. The Plantation Course was built on the side of a mountain and is exposed to winds off the ocean, so if they get winds of 20 and 30 mph, which is common the scores will climb. A perfect example of this was in 1999 when benign conditions the first three rounds brought the scoring average down to 70.58. But in the final round, trade winds came and the scoring average was two and a half strokes higher at 73.00. In 2000, all four days were played in high winds with scoring average being 73.03 while in 2006 a combination 74.893 scoring average made it the fourth toughest course played on the PGA Tour in 2006. But the last five years has seen big changes.  Conditions couldn’t have been better and the scoring average have gone down to the point that Kapalua is one of the easiest courses on the PGA Tour over the last five years.  In 2013 with the poor weather and some wind, the course still played under par at 72.111 but wasn’t the easiest as it was ranked 32nd out of 43 courses.
  • So what does this year look?  According to the ten-day forecast on Weather.com the weather will be perfect each day with no rain and very little wind, so look for very low scores again this year.
  • One important thing to look at is a player who ended last year strongly. Hideki Matsuyama won Tiger’s tournament, the VISA Taiheiyo Masters, the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Japan Open.  He was the hottest player in the world when 2016 ended and I see him carrying this over to this year.  There is reasons to think this way, Jonathan Byrd won the last event of 2010 and then won at Kapalua. Geoff Ogilvy had played well in Australia the month before he won at Kapalua and Daniel Chopra won late in 2007 before he won again at Kapalua in 2008. So lets look at the field and find someone that has won lately?
  • Nobody from the Franklin Templeton Shootout that did well is at Kapalua.  So you have to go back to Mackenzie Hughes winning the RSM Classic just before Thanksgiving, frankly I am not very high on Hughes chances this week. On the other end of the spectrum, Jason Day hasn’t played in a event since the Tour Championship in September, he had back problems and is making a comeback from the problems.  So it will be interesting to see if Day will be rusty.

 

Who to watch for at the SBS Tournament of Champions

Best Bets:

Jordan Spieth

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
Win 2

Based on his putting he will be very tough to beat this year.

Hideki Matsuyama

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T3

Hottest player in the world right now and you know he will content. Showed he liked the course by finishing T-3rd in 2015.

Patrick Reed

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
2 Win T16

Another of those players that does well on the Plantation Course and again he will do well this week.

Best of the rest:

Brandt Snedeker

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T3 T11 3 T10

Another that plays well at Kapalua, he is high on putting stats and is great on playing par 4s.

Pat Perez

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T10

Watch this player, he was great in the fall and it could carry over to the next couple of months.

Dustin Johnson

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T10 T6 Win T9 T16 11

Another strong player who gets the ball close to the hole and does make lot’s of birdies. It all comes down to his putting, which is probably the most inconsistent part of his game.

Ryan Moore

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T20 10 T28 T6

A good putter that does get it close to the hole.

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
First time playing in this event

Solid contenders

Branden Grace

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
First time playing in this event

Just got married the end of November and had to travel 12,000 miles to play a course he has never seen before. But he could be the person that is forgotten and could do well this week.

Fabian Gomez

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T6

Showed a lot last year in his T-6th finish.

Aaron Baddeley

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
21 T12 27

On paper he should be ok since he is a good putter, but hasn’t played well the three times he has visited Kapalua.

Long shots that could come through:

Cody Gribble

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
First time playing in this event

Showed a lot in the fall and has all the key stats to do very well this week.

Vaughn Taylor

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T4 T8

Watch him, he played well the two times he has played in the event, but that was a decade ago.

Daniel Berger

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
First time playing in this event

Another SBS rookie, he could do well this week.

Be spending more time working out the kinks

Jason Day

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T10 T3 T9

Hasn’t played since September, that will catch up with him this week.

Comments

  1. Jeff Aaron says:

    For no reason other to pick a golfer who is off the radar screen this week to start the golf fantasy league – I selected Justin Thomas. Hope he can putt like his buddy the “Golden Child” Jordan……something seems wrong w/ Patrick Reed and matsuyama, speith I must save for a major – we can only use a golfer ONCE unless he wins – pull back rule. Thank You for the awesome Stats, Info on the PGA Golf Tour!

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