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BlogSentry Tournament of Champions Preview and Picks

Sentry Tournament of Champions

January 2nd – 5th, 2020

Plantation Course at Kapalua

Kapalua, Maui, HI

Par: 73 / Yardage: 7,596

Purse: 6.7 million

with $1,340,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Xander Schauffele

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field of 34 has 24 players in the top-100 of the world rankings including 13 of the top-50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with five players from the top-ten: #3 Jon Rahm, #4 Justin Thomas, #5 Dustin Johnson, #7 Patrick Cantlay and #9 Xander Schauffele.   The other top-50 players are  #12 Patrick Reed, #15 Paul Casey, #17 Gary Woodland, #23 Rickie Fowler, #24 Matt Kuchar, #27 Kevin Na, #35 Kevin Kisner and #36 Chez Reavie.

Last year there were 22 top-50 players in the field

The field includes 10 of the Top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2020.  Those players are #1 Brendon Todd, #2 Sebastian Munoz, #3 Lanto Griffin, #5 Justin Thomas, #6 Kevin Na, #8 Joaquin Niemann, #9 Cameron Champ, #11 Tyler Duncan, #21 Xander Schauffele and #25 Patrick Cantlay

The field includes four past champions: Xander Schauffele (2019), Dustin Johnson (2018 & ’13) Justin Thomas (2017) and Patrick Reed (2014)

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the Sentry Tournament of Champions field is our performance chart listed by the 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 Sentry Tournament of Champions in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.  

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 Sentry Tournament of Champions

Player Australian PGA RSM Classic DP World, Dubai Mayakoba Classic Turkish Airlines WGC HSBC Champions Bermuda Champ. Zozo Champ. CJ Cup Houston Open Shriners Hospitals Spanish Open Safeway Open
Jon Rahm
(176 pts)
DNP DNP Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
DNP
Brendon Todd
(142 pts)
DNP 4
(53.33)
DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP T28
(7.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Tyler Duncan
(96 pts)
DNP Win
(88)
DNP T48
(0.67)
DNP DNP T18
(10.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T56
(0)
Justin Thomas
(81.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T17
(11)
Win
(44)
DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
Cameron Champ
(78.33 pts)
T27
(23)
DNP DNP T33
(5.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP Win
(44)
Lanto Griffin
(69.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T76
(0)
DNP DNP T18
(10.67)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
T18
(10.67)
DNP T17
(11)
Sebastian Munoz
(66.33 pts)
DNP 3
(60)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T28
(7.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T33
(5.67)
Patrick Reed
(63 pts)
DNP DNP T28
(22)
DNP T10
(13.33)
T8
(16.67)
DNP T17
(11)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Corey Conners
(55 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T20
(10)
DNP T6
(20)
T12
(12.67)
DNP DNP DNP T13
(12.33)
Adam Long
(53.67 pts)
DNP T35
(10)
DNP T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP T51
(0)
T46
(1.33)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
Gary Woodland
(53.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 5
(23.33)
T3
(30)
DNP T55
(0)
DNP DNP
Kevin Na
(52 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T46
(1.33)
T20
(10)
DNP Win
(44)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Dylan Frittelli
(49.67 pts)
DNP T35
(10)
DNP T11
(13)
DNP DNP DNP T22
(9.33)
T43
(2.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T7
(18.33)
Paul Casey
(47 pts)
DNP DNP T18
(32)
DNP DNP T38
(4)
DNP T17
(11)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Xander Schauffele
(46.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
J.T. Poston
(40 pts)
DNP T14
(24)
DNP T41
(3)
DNP T24
(8.67)
DNP T27
(7.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Patrick Cantlay
(36.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP T40
(3.33)
Ryan Palmer
(30.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
T12
(12.67)
DNP T37
(4.33)
DNP DNP
Collin Morikawa
(30 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T22
(9.33)
T36
(4.67)
DNP T42
(2.67)
DNP T10
(13.33)
Keith Mitchell
(26.33 pts)
DNP T14
(24)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T27
(7.67)
T46
(1.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Matthew Wolff
(23 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(12.33)
74
(0)
DNP T18
(10.67)
DNP DNP
Sung Kang
(22.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T17
(11)
T26
(8)
DNP T29
(7)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Graeme McDowell
(18.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
DNP DNP DNP WD
(-1.67)
T16
(11.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Chez Reavie
(11.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T26
(8)
DNP T60
(0)
DNP 70
(0)
T46
(1.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T33
(5.67)
Joaquin Niemann
(11.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T33
(5.67)
T12
(12.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

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

Player Australian PGA RSM Classic DP World, Dubai Mayakoba Classic Turkish Airlines WGC HSBC Champions Bermuda Champ. Zozo Champ. CJ Cup Houston Open Shriners Hospitals Spanish Open Safeway Open
Martin Trainer
(-10 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Max Homa
(-2 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T46
(1.33)
T65
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T62
(0)
J.B. Holmes
(-1.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP WD
(-1.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Kevin Kisner
(0.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T76
(0)
DNP T28
(7.33)
DNP T66
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Nate Lashley
(5 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP WD
(-1.67)
T20
(10)
DNP 62
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Matt Kuchar
(5.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
DNP T14
(12)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jim Herman
(6.67 pts)
DNP T35
(10)
DNP T80
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 77
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Joaquin Niemann
(11.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T33
(5.67)
T12
(12.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Chez Reavie
(11.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T26
(8)
DNP T60
(0)
DNP 70
(0)
T46
(1.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T33
(5.67)
Graeme McDowell
(18.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
DNP DNP DNP WD
(-1.67)
T16
(11.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

First of all, for all of you looking for Pick your Pro 2020, It’s done, just have to put it in the url, it will be up no later than tomorrow.  Sorry but it’s a couple of days late, in accessing reasons the main is the fact that I always take most of December off and start working right after Christmas.  But I started noticing last year that it was getting increasingly hard to get things done in time for Kapalua, last year Pick your Pro didn’t come out till the Friday of Kapalua.  The reason, the date on the calendar, use to be that the Sentry Tournament of Champions started on the 6th, 7th and 8th, now it’s ending on the 6th, 7th, and 8th.  This year’s TofC starts on the 2nd and finishes on the 5th of January, thus giving a lot less time.  Guess it’s no excuss to you folks who are paying bucks for this site, but I can say this I work very hard from January through September and then we do work a good pace in September, October and November taking a breather from Thanksgiving through Christmas.  At my advanced age and with Children gone, it’s hard when they are home for Christmas to shut myself in an office and say, geez sorry you came to spend some time with your mom and me, but I have to get Pick your Pro ready, that just doesn’t cut it.

The good news is the calendar and a leap year has January 1st fall on a Friday so the tournament won’t start till January 7th and end on January 10th so that will give us more time after Christmas to get things done.

On top of that one of the reasons that this preview didn’t get up earlier was because our program wouldn’t allow a 2020 preview to be posted on its own, since we tried to post it on December 30th and 31st it thought that it was still a 2019 preview and wanted to post over the one from last year’s Sentry, with all of those 2019 set-ups.  We figured it was easier just to wait for 2020 to hit instead of trying to screw around with code since that takes hours and who knows what we would have screwed up.  Trust me, sometimes modern technology is not easy.

So going back to our main problem the tournament being played early, have to think this is one of the reasons that a lot of players aren’t playing.  Of course, we know that Phil Mickelson dislikes the Plantation Course so he will never come, but Tiger has said the reason he doesn’t come is that it’s too close to the holidays and his birthday.  Have to think that possibly Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Shane Lowry would have considered coming if it’s a week late.  Still, Hawaii is a long way from Europe or Florida, even in first class and like I say must of them have families and probably enjoy spending the weeks around Christmas at home with them instead of being thousands of miles away.

Still one of the best 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 2019 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 arduous work and to think, there is no hustle or bustle this week, play lousy finish last, and you’ll still make $60 grand. What a life.

So of the 42 that have qualified only 34 are in the field.  Brooks Koepka didn’t make the trip as he is still rehabbing his left knee he injured at the CJ Cup in October.  As for Tiger, the first half of December was busy between hosting the Hero Challenge and being captain of the President Cup team in Australia.  We will see Tiger at Torrey Pines at the end of January.  As for C.T. Pan, he was planning on coming but withdrew due to illness.  So shall we say that the field of 34 does not show a wealth of experience in this event and 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 Sentry officials have stayed pat on just the previous 52 weeks winners getting an invite.

Let’s just say that if the event would invite those that won in the last 24 months, 2 years we would have Marc Leishman, Bryson DeChambeau, Webb Simpson, Jason Day, Ian Poulter, Brandt Snedeker, Billy Horschel, Keegan Bradley and Bubba Watson in the field, which would have made this a much better event.

So what’s the deal with Brooks Koepka?

For most of the second part of the 2019 season Koepka had a lot of pain in his knee and after the Tour Championship had stem-cell treatment on it.  After spending a month resting and then rehabbing it, he went off to the Shriners Hospitals Open missed the cut then went to defend his CJ Cup Nine Bridges title in Korea and slipped on a wet surface, reinjuring the knee.  He had to take more time off and it was thought he was rehabbing to get ready for the Hero Challenge, Presidents Cup and Sentry, but it seems he wasn’t ready.   He now has released this video via his twitter account showing all the hard work he is doing to get ready:

So we will see what happens, he is supposed to play in Abu Dhabi in three weeks and then Saudi Arabia before playing in Mexico in late February.  He is not a big west coast swing guy.

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 8,700 square feet, which means that it has some of the largest 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 vast that a 747 can land on them.

Last year, the course played to a scoring average of 70.92 (remember it’s a par 73) that was just over two shots under par and it was the sixth easiest course on the PGA Tour.  Surprising it’s the second time in a row the average was over 70 since 2014 when the course played to an average of 70.58.  In 2016 it played to an average of 69.80.

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 year’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, and using data from all the players in the field for with stats from a combination of 2019 & ’20.
One thing that is important to know, the scoring average of the field last year was 70.92, so with par being 73, that means the average score was just a notch over 2 under per round, making Kapalua the easiest of 6th easiest courses to score on in 2019.
Now there are many reasons for this; first the Plantation Course is a resort course and not geared to be super tough. Another reason for the course being easy is the fairways, there is no way that you can’t hit the fairways at Kapalua, a 747 can land on them. Last year the course ranked 48th (of 49 courses so 2nd easiest) in driving accuracy with a 76.62 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 276.7 yards. So with that said many would say gosh this is a course for bombers, but it isn’t. Yes, long hitters have a big advantage, 2018 winner Dustin Johnson finished 6th on the PGA Tour in driving distance. But last year’s winner Xander Schauffele finished 24th for the year in driving distance In other years, short hitters have won. Look at some of the champions the last few years, Jordan Spieth was the 51st longest hitter on tour in 2016. Even better yet, Zach Johnson won in 2014, Steve Stricker in 2012, Jonathan Byrd in 2011 where 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 and the Pailolo Channel 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 East-northeast, and they are predicted to be for Thursday at 14 mph and then on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 25 mph, with some gusts up to 30 mph. Now there isn’t going to be any rain, but there is going to be another major thing that will help short hitters this year.
The Plantation Course closed after the final putt after last year’s Sentry and an intensive, $12.5 million renovation project took place to reshaped and re-grass the course to make it play firmer and faster. They also redid the greens taking out some of the slope and undulations out so with this the short hitter will have an advantage this year.
The one undisputed fact that many still don’t understand about the winners at Kapalua that will probably continue, in most cases the best putter is has been the victor. Here is a stat that will blow your mind, of the 20 Kapalua winners since 1999 the highest any of them have ranked in putts per round is 4th. Of the 20 champions, nine have led that stat while five were second and three were third. Last year’s winner Schauffele ranked T-4th in putts per round. So it 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 lots of putts from six feet and in. Last year’s winner Xander Schauffele made 57 of 59 putts from six feet in. 2018 champion Dustin Johnson made 61 of 63 putts from six feet in. The winner before, 2017 champion Justin Thomas and 2016 champion Jordan Spieth both made 59 of 60 putts from six feet and in. In 2014 when Zach Johnson won he made 63 of 65 putts from seven feet and in 2012, Steve Stricker made 58 of 61 putts from seven feet and in. Another key is lack of three-putts, last year Schauffele had 1 in the first round, in 2018 Johnson didn’t have a single three-putt while Thomas had just 2 three-putts. Also, all of the winners are good in scrambling, last year Schauffele was 8th, in 2018 Johnson was 6th while 2017 champion Thomas was 12th in scrambling but the year before Jordan Spieth was 3rd. The 2015 winner Patrick Reed was 2nd the same for 2014 winner Zach Johnson. Now one thing to remember about Schauffele’s victory from last year was the fact that he shot 62, which is the lowest round shot by a champion at Kapalua so this does alter a lot of traditional champion stats, still, Schauffele has stayed pretty close to the norm of the other Kapalua winners.

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

*Proximity to Hole: In greens in regulation 75.38% were 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 38 feet, 11 inches as six courses saw approach shots go further away from the hole. So you have to not only get on the green but Proximity to hole is important

*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 ranked 8th in 3-putt avoidance last year. 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 pushover for the best players in the world. The field killed the course in 2019 averaging 4.40 birdies per round and a total of 581 birdies were made from the field of 33 players, so it’s important to be the best in this Par Breakers which is based on who makes the most birdies and eagles.

*Scrambling: With big greens, it’s near impossible to miss them, still if you do you have to get it up and down. Last year the course ranked T-31st on tour in scrambling, but that was a bit misleading because, for those that win, you better get it up and down. Last year Schauffele missed 13 greens and got it up and down 9 of the time (69.23%) to rank T-8th so it’s important to look and find those that do scramble well.

34 of the 34 players from this year’s field with stats from 2019/20 year:

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

Here is the link to all 34 players from the Sentry Tournament of Champions

Of the 34 who are playing this week, 19 have played in the past and had history in this event.  The biggest key to picking is those that make the most eagles and birdies.  So here is a cheat sheet of the 19 to see which players are going under par the most at the Sentry Tournament of Champions:

So it makes sense that the top seven or eight on this list are guys that will make lot’s of points this week

 

DraftKings tips

*Here are the guys that cost the most on DraftKings this week:

  • Jon Rahm – $11,400
  • Justin Thomas – $11,200
  • Xander Schauffele – $10,600
  • Dustin Johnson – $10.100
  • Patrick Cantlay – $9,800
  • Rickie Fowler – $9,500
  • Gary Woodland – $9,300
  • Patrick Reed – $9,000

A happy New Year to you and happy picking in DraftKings for the year.

In looking at the prices for the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the first one is Jon Rahm at $11,400.  I believe he has a great chance of winning, in his last three starts he has two wins and a 2nd, but I just think that his value is not there.  $11,400 only works if he wins or comes in second.  The same with Justin Thomas at $11,200 who I also think has a great chance of winning but is a big risk.  You then have defending champion Xander Schauffele at $10,600 he was really good over the weekend and I trust he will again do well.  The course had some work done on it to make it run faster, of the three players this should help Thomas the most but there are others that we will talk about that will really benefit more.  Dustin Johnson at $10,100 won’t be one of them he already hits the ball a long way.  Now Johnson will be playing with a new Taylor made driver this week, be interesting to see if both Rahm and Schauffele will also use the new Taylor made SIM driver.  Talking about Johnson and why he may not be a great pick this week he had a rough last six months of the season, after finishing runner-up at the Masters and the PGA Championship he didn’t finish higher than T-20th.  After finishing 30th at the Tour Championship he had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, a similar procedure he had done on his right knee in 2011.  He looked fine and didn’t seem to get tired of his game didn’t falter at the Presidents Cup still, I want to see him play a bit before I feel comfortable in picking him at such a high price tag.  Next is Patrick Cantlay at $9,800 and yes I think he will gain the most benefits of the course changes along with Rickie Fowler at $9,500.  Fowler has played great in his previous three trips to Kapalua so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him start the year off with a bang and a win.  My personal favorite for this week is Gary Woodland at $9,300.  He played great last year and should have won if Schauffele doesn’t shot a final round 62.  Patrick Reed at $9,000 is also a guy that could gain some benefits from the course changes, he has played great before at this event and you can’t count him out he may be one of your picks.

*Players in that $7,500 to $8,900 price range, which ones are worth the money?:

The start of every year Paul Casey is among the players on the top of my list to play well in the upcoming year.  In 2020 Casey’s name appears and this week Casey is $8,800 and is a good pick.  He should do well, I am always surprised to see him not finish any better.  Collin Morikawa at $8,600 is one of the rookies that I can see playing very well this week, he should have a good time on the greens of Kapalua.  I also like the fact that as a 9-year-old while visiting relatives on a family vacation to Maui, Morikawa played the Plantation course and is very excited to be returning 13 years later.  I also like Brendon Todd at $8,100, he has played great he was good two weeks ago in the QBE shootout.  Last year I liked Cameron Champ and at $8,200 I think he will do good this week.  He is in good spirits after getting engaged on Christmas

*So are there any “Bargains” out there?

Of the field of 34, 15 of the players have never played in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.  So that will mean it will be hard to dig up a bargain or two this week.  Kevin Na is at $7,500 and has some experience at Kapalua finishing T-12th in 2012, he will benefit from the course changes and for the year is 2nd in Strokes Gained Putting for 2020  One person to watch will be Graeme McDowell at $6,700.  He seems to win on places that overlook oceans, he finished 3rd at Kapalua in 2011 and is 4th in Strokes Gained Putting for the year in 2019.  One last person to watch is Lanto Griffin who is $6,500 and a good putter, he is worth the low price.

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

The 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.  2017 winner Justin Thomas was T-17th in driving accuracy hitting 44 of 60 fairways while he was 3rd in driving distance for the week at 301.6 yards per drive.  But in the long run, hitting it long does not have that much of an advantage.
  • Again in some cases, 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 8,700 square feet, you can see that players miss only three greens per round. So hitting lots of greens is a misnomer.  The average proximity to the hole is 38 feet, 11 inches so you can see that lag putting is crucial since only five courses in 2019 had figures higher.
  • So two key stats stand out as necessary, first approach putt performance which gauges who lag putts the closet to the hole? In 2019, those playing at Kapalua averaged getting their first putt within 2 feet, 4 inches away.  The other key stat is a birdie or better conversion per greens hit, Kapalua was 13th as players birdied 32.23% of the greens they hit.
Here are some more key stats to look for this week:
  • Still, the king of stats is putting.  With big greens, putting is essential.
  • Look at winner Xander Schauffele last year.  He was T-5th in hitting greens and averaged 40 feet, 0 inch from the hole that ranked 23rd.  So he won it with great putting he was 2nd in putting average, 3rd in strokes gained putting and T-2nd in 3-putt avoidance so you can see how he won.
  • 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 favorable 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 the scoring average being 73.03 while in 2006 a combination of 74.893 scoring average made it the fourth toughest course played on the PGA Tour in 2006. But the last seven years have seen significant changes.  Conditions couldn’t have been better, and the scoring average has gone down to the point that Kapalua is one of the easiest courses on the PGA Tour over the last six 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, it’s going to be windy on Thursday with 15 mph tradewinds out of the north, then on Friday, Saturday and Sunday the winds will get worst with it blowing at 25 mph from the east/northeast with a gust of up to 35 mph. There won’t be any rain with partly cloudy skies and 80 each day
  • Last but not least we need to access the true changes made to the course.  Lots of times these changes are just cosmetic in nature, but in the case of these changes we won’t see the changes on TV, but the players will experience them.  Already Dustin Johnson has said how much tougher the course will be, on how some holes that he use to hit wedge in he will now hit 6 iron.  He also talked about how much he has to be careful about driving the ball, that now the ball can roll into danger because there is more roll in the fairway.  What could be misleading this year is the winds, they will be high and with the changes to the course, many will say that the high scores are because of the work done to the course.  So it will be interesting to see if more of the shorter hitters, the Patrick Cantlay’s, the Patrick Reed’s, the Matt Kuchar’s and the Kevin Kisner’s of the world will have a better chance and will content this week on a really long course.

Who to watch for at the Sentry Tournament of Champions

Best Bets:

Jon Rahm

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T8 2

He is going to be really hard to beat, has been on a roll of late winning two of his last three starts and the one he didn’t win he finished 2nd in.

Patrick Cantlay

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T15

Think he will benefit from from the changes to the course making it faster which will make his drives go a lot further.

Gary Woodland

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
2 T13 24

He will be looking to redeem himself from having victory stolen from him last year, the course is good for him.

Best of the rest:

Rickie Fowler

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T4 5 T6

He always plays well on this course, renovations should help him.

Justin Thomas

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
3 T22 Win T21

He is good on this course and will be tough to be beaten on.

Paul Casey

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T16 T10

He too will gain some from the renovations done to the course, he is a good putter and should do well.

Xander Schauffele

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
Win T22

Should continue his good play from last year.

Brendon Todd

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T8

He has been on a real roll over the last two months and will be looking to continue the roll.

Solid contenders

Kevin Na

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T12

He will get a boost from the renovations, it will be up to his putter.

Cameron Champ

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T11

Just got engaged so he will be on a high and be looking to turn it into a win this week.

Graeme McDowell

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T29 3

Looking to regain the magic he had in 2011 when he finished 3rd.

Patrick Reed

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T25 T6 2 Win T16

He has done very well on this course in past years, just have to wonder if some of his personal problems from the Hero will affect him.

Dustin Johnson

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
T4 Win T6 T10 T6 Win T9 T16 11

Have to give him a pass this week as this is the first event back from the surgery on his knee in September. He seemed ok at the Presidents Cup, but the up and down hills at Kapalua is very demanding. One thing in his favor, he always plays well on this course.

Which Kapalua rookies will perform great this week:

Collin Morikawa

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
First time playing in this event

As a nine-year-old played the course when he was visiting relatives 13 years ago.

Matthew Wolff

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
First time playing in this event

Young stud that would like to be the newest superstar of 2020.

Joaquin Niemann

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
First time playing in this event

Player that always has had a lot of talent just has to figure out how to use it.

Lanto Griffin

2020 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08
First time playing in this event

His game and putter may be the best suited for this course.

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