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BlogSentry T of C Preview and Picks

Sentry Tournament of Champions

January 7th – 10th, 2021

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:
Justin Thomas

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field of 42 has 34 players in the top-100 of the world rankings including 29 of the top-50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with eight players from the top-ten: #1 Dustin Johnson, #2 Jon Rahm, #3 Justin Thomas, #5 Bryson DeChambeau, #6 Xander Schauffele, #7 Collin Morikawa, #8 Webb Simpson and #9 Patrick Cantlay.   The other top-100 players are #11 Patrick Reed, #13 Daniel Berger, #14 Viktor Hovland, #18 Sungjae Im, #19 Hideki Matsuyama, #20 Tony Finau, #21 Adam Scott, #23 Abraham Ancer, #25 Jason Kokrak, #26 Kevin Kisner, #27 Cameron Smith, #28 Marc Leishman, #29 Harris English, #30 Ryan Palmer, #32 Scottie Scheffler, #37 Kevin Na, #42 Billy Horschel, #45 Joaquin Niemann, #46 Sergio Garcia, #47 Brendon Todd, #49 Mackenzie Hughes, #60 Carlos Ortiz, #61 Sebastian Munoz, #63 Lanto Griffin, #72 Cameron Champ and #85 Martin Lair.

Last year there were 13 top-50 players in the field

The field includes 18 of the Top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2021.  Those players are #1 Dustin Johnson, #2 Bryson DeChambeau, #3 Viktor Hovland, #4 Stewart Cink, #5 Patrick Cantlay, #6 Carlos Ortiz, #7 Jason Kokrak, #8 Justin Thomas, #10 Sergio Garcia, #11 Robert Streb, #12 Martin Laird, #13 Xander Schauffele, #15 Cameron Smith, #16 Brian Gay, #18 Harris English, #20 Sungjae Im, #22 Jon Rahm and #23 Hideki Matsuyama

The field includes five past champions: Justin Thomas (2017 & 20) Xander Schauffele (2019), Dustin Johnson (2018 & ’13), Patrick Reed (2014) and Sergio Garcia (2002).

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 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.  For our fantasy golf players looking to pick six players, check out our GOLFstats IQ section for the Sentry 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.

A look at the Las Vegas odds

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 Mayakoba DP World, Dubai RSM Classic Masters Houston Open Bermuda Champ. Zozo Champ. CJ Cup Shriners Hospitals Sanderson Farms Corales U.S. Open
Viktor Hovland
(228 pts)
Win
(88)
T3
(90)
DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
DNP T47
(1)
T12
(12.67)
DNP DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
Dustin Johnson
(161.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(88)
T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T6
(40)
Justin Thomas
(158 pts)
T12
(25.33)
DNP DNP 4
(53.33)
DNP DNP T2
(33.33)
T12
(12.67)
DNP DNP DNP T8
(33.33)
Patrick Reed
(153.33 pts)
DNP T3
(90)
DNP T10
(26.67)
DNP DNP T14
(12)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
Sungjae Im
(142.67 pts)
DNP T14
(36)
CUT
(-3.33)
T2
(66.67)
T50
(0.33)
DNP T41
(3)
T45
(1.67)
T13
(12.33)
T28
(7.33)
DNP 22
(18.67)
Harris English
(137.33 pts)
T5
(46.67)
DNP T6
(20)
DNP DNP DNP T28
(7.33)
10
(13.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP 4
(53.33)
Cameron Smith
(123 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T2
(66.67)
DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
11
(13)
T24
(8.67)
DNP DNP T38
(8)
Bryson DeChambeau
(115.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T34
(10.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP DNP Win
(88)
Xander Schauffele
(113 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T17
(22)
DNP DNP T17
(11)
2
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP 5
(46.67)
Jon Rahm
(99 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T7
(36.67)
DNP DNP T2
(33.33)
T17
(11)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(18)
Tony Finau
(96.33 pts)
T8
(33.33)
DNP DNP T38
(8)
T24
(8.67)
DNP T11
(13)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T8
(33.33)
Hideki Matsuyama
(93.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
T2
(33.33)
DNP T28
(7.33)
T21
(9.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T17
(22)
Carlos Ortiz
(93 pts)
T8
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
DNP T35
(5)
T48
(0.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T8
(16.67)
DNP
Abraham Ancer
(92 pts)
T12
(25.33)
DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP DNP T35
(5)
T28
(7.33)
4
(26.67)
DNP T41
(3)
T56
(0)
Patrick Cantlay
(91.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T17
(22)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
T38
(4)
T8
(16.67)
DNP DNP T43
(4.67)
Webb Simpson
(87.67 pts)
DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
T10
(26.67)
DNP DNP T17
(11)
DNP T13
(12.33)
DNP DNP T8
(33.33)
Joaquin Niemann
(81.33 pts)
T23
(18)
DNP T44
(2)
DNP DNP DNP T17
(11)
6
(20)
T13
(12.33)
DNP DNP T23
(18)
Billy Horschel
(70 pts)
T5
(46.67)
DNP DNP T38
(8)
DNP DNP 69
(0)
T28
(7.33)
DNP DNP DNP T38
(8)
Jason Kokrak
(63.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T17
(11)
Win
(44)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T17
(22)
Sebastian Munoz
(54.33 pts)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T19
(20.67)
DNP DNP T14
(12)
9
(15)
T27
(7.67)
T23
(9)
DNP T59
(0)
Daniel Berger
(47 pts)
T23
(18)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T17
(11)
T28
(7.33)
DNP DNP DNP T34
(10.67)
Collin Morikawa
(47 pts)
DNP T10
(40)
DNP T44
(4)
DNP DNP T50
(0.33)
T12
(12.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
Brendon Todd
(46.67 pts)
T8
(33.33)
DNP T37
(4.33)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T47
(1)
T52
(0)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(18)
Sergio Garcia
(46 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T21
(9.67)
T43
(2.33)
Win
(44)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
Martin Laird
(44.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
T28
(7.33)
DNP DNP
Robert Streb
(40.67 pts)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP T55
(0)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Brian Gay
(40.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Scottie Scheffler
(38.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T19
(20.67)
T32
(6)
DNP T17
(11)
T52
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
T37
(4.33)
DNP DNP
Ryan Palmer
(36.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
T17
(11)
T34
(5.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
Kevin Kisner
(33.67 pts)
DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T14
(12)
T45
(1.67)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)

How Player Rankings are Computed

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

Player Mayakoba DP World, Dubai RSM Classic Masters Houston Open Bermuda Champ. Zozo Champ. CJ Cup Shriners Hospitals Sanderson Farms Corales U.S. Open
Hudson Swafford
(-13.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T63
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Richy Werenski
(-6 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T57
(0)
T28
(7.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T59
(0)
DNP CUT
(-6.67)
Nick Taylor
(4 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T29
(14)
DNP DNP T63
(0)
T61
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Mackenzie Hughes
(11.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T7
(18.33)
DNP T41
(3)
T65
(0)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
Marc Leishman
(11.33 pts)
CUT
(-6.67)
DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP DNP T70
(0)
T52
(0)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
Michael Thompson
(13 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
DNP 77
(0)
T65
(0)
DNP DNP DNP 48
(1.33)
Lanto Griffin
(22.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
T58
(0)
DNP T11
(13)
T7
(18.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T43
(4.67)
Adam Scott
(24.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T34
(10.67)
T32
(6)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T38
(8)
Andrew Landry
(24.67 pts)
DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
CUT
(-6.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T50
(0.33)
T61
(0)
T27
(7.67)
DNP T60
(0)
DNP
Kevin Na
(29.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T13
(24.67)
DNP DNP T28
(7.33)
T45
(1.67)
T43
(2.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
Cameron Champ
(30 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T19
(20.67)
DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
T42
(2.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-6.67)
Stewart Cink
(32.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP T64
(0)
T12
(12.67)
DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

First of all for all of you looking for Pick your Pro 2021, It will be up in a week or so.  Because of the way COVID-19 created horror stories for pick you pro, we came up with a different approach, Pick your Pro’s, pro for 2021.

It’s a great way of looking at the top-155 players which will be the players you pick for 2021 and it has a lot of great information that you have never seen before, how players do in each month, on different segments of the PGA Tour and how they do on certain grasses.  Lot’s of hints on improvements and weaknesses for players along with which event they play the best.  So hopefully you will enjoy it.

So this week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions looks radically different this year.  Since 11 events were cancelled due to COVID-19 the TofC added another eligibility criteria for this year.  Along with all the winners in the 2020 calendar year, the top-30 in the FedExCup standings and played in the 2020 Tour Championship also becomes eligible for the Sentry Tournament of Champions.  So of the field of 42, 15 weren’t a winner in 2020.  Going a step further, for Abraham Ancer and Scottie Scheffler they have never won on the PGA Tour.

Many will question if this was the right way of doing it.  I know some wondered why they didn’t just add the winners from 2019 and ’18, have to think Ponte Vedra felt they were throwing a bone to sponsor FedEx and it does give more reason to write FedEx into a story.  In players responds, they love the event and getting to go to Maui, but at the same time hope this is just a one year thing and in future the event remains a tournament for winners in a calendar year.  The good news they got a really great field, probably the best one they have ever had, too bad Rory McIlroy won’t play.

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 20120 along with those in the top-30 of the FedExCup 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. But if you play well and win, it’s a $1.3 million payday. What a life.

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.  The event has been played on this course since 1999 and looking at the champions, there are as many short hitters on their winners roles as long hitters.  What makes the course difficult is mother nature, without an abundance of trees the course is completely open to the elements.  Along with the Maui sunshine, winds effect the course every single day, some times as a gentle breeze but on most days wimping from off the ocean up the hillside winds of 15 mph are the norm.  When the winds go higher, sometimes in the 40 mph range, the Plantation Course at Kapalua is very hard to maneuver around.

Last year, the course played to a scoring average of 72.09 (remember it’s a par 73) that was just under a shot under par and it was the 24th hardest 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 year’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, and using data from all the players in the field with stats from a 2021 season.
It is important to know that the scoring average of the field last year was 72.23, so with par being 73, that means the average score is three-quarters of a shot under par, making Kapalua the 20th hardest course on tour. The year before, the average score was 70.92, a notch over 2 under per round, making Kapalua the easiest of 6th easiest courses to score on in 2019. That is all based on weather conditions. This course needs mother nature to protect itself.
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 you can’t hit the fairways at Kapalua, a 747 can land on them. Last year the course ranked 41st (the easiest course on tour to hit fairways in 2020) in driving accuracy with an 80.93 total. One thing about the course, since the fairways are firm and many of them downhill, you think the average drive would be big. But it isn’t, in 2020, the average drive was 265.4 yards making it the shortest average on the PGA Tour for last year.
Still, many think that the course is 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 that year and 2nd at Kapalua with a 296.3 average. In 2019, winner Xander Schauffele was 19th in driving distance on the PGA Tour and 14th at Kapalua with a 280.4 average. Last year’s winner Justin Thomas was 13th on the PGA Tour in driving distance with an average drive of 299.5 yards, but at Kapalua was 11th averaging 271.5 yards per hole.
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, 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. When that happens, especially if the winds are out of the north, it helps short hitters. The same thing when it’s dry, firm, and fast, it helps the short hitters. For this week, winds will come out of the northeast, and they are predicted to be for Thursday at 19 mph and then on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 14 mph, so look for a lot lower scores this year. Now there isn’t going to be any rain, so that it will help shorter hitters with the fairways firm and fast.
After play in 2019, the Plantation Course was closed and had an intensive, $11 million renovation project. The course was re-grassed and reshaped to make it play firmer and faster, which it did, and it made it a bit harder. They also redid the greens taking out the slope and undulations, making the course a bit easier.

The one undisputed fact that many still don’t understand about the winners at Kapalua will probably continue, in most cases, the best putter has been the victor. Here is a stat that will blow your mind, of the 22 Kapalua winners since 1999, the highest any of them have ranked in putts per round is 4th, that is until last year. Justin Thomas ranked T-11th, which is the highest of any winner. Still, if you looked at the playoff, Patrick Reed was in it and ranked 1st in putts per round.
Now Thomas didn’t putt that great in his win last year, in putts inside 10 feet, he ranked 29th (out of 34 players in the field), making 66 of 78 putts. But what Thomas did right was hitting greens, he ranked 3rd, hitting 56 of 72. Now, of the last four winners, they all ranked inside the top-ten, so hitting greens is important. Another important item in putting is the lack of three-putts. Last year Thomas had one three-putt over the 72 holes, which ranked T-2nd. In 2019 winner 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 were good in scrambling except for last year with Thomas. He ranked 32nd as he only got it up and down in 7 of the 16 greens missed. In 2019 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 Thomas victory last year was how ugly it was. He made bogey on 16 and 18 to force the playoff but made up when he went birdie, par, birdie in the playoff. The year before, Xander Schauffele’s victory was historic as he shot 62, which is the lowest round shot by a champion at Kapalua.

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, 70.02% were hit last year, making it the 29th hardest 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 45 feet, which is the farthest on any course in 2020. As for Thomas, he averaged 37 feet, 4 inches and ranked 2nd best, 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 9th hardest to putt, as one-putt is at a premium. Three putts aren’t that bad as the course ranked 7th in 3-putt avoidance last year. Last year Thomas was 13th in one-putts and T-2nd in 3-putt avoidance.

*Par Breakers: The Plantation Course has always been a pushover for the best players in the world. The field averaged T-17th in birdie average and 17th in Par Breakers last year. Thomas made 24 birdies, the most of anyone in the field.

*Scrambling: With big greens, it’s near impossible to miss them, still if you do miss a green, you have to get it up and down. Last year the course ranked 24th on tour in scrambling, but that was a bit misleading because, for those that win, you better get it up and down. Last year Thomas missed 16 greens and got it up and down 7 times (43.75%) to rank 34th, still, in past years, this stat has been important.

42 of the 42 players from this year’s field with stats from 2021 season:

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

For all stats of the 42 players at the Sentory Tournament of Championship

DraftKings tips

Of the 42 in the field, 28 have played at least once at Kapalua in the Sentry TofC since 2015.

*Here are the players with the most under par totals at the Sentry since 2015:
  • Dustin Johnson is 78 under in 20 rounds, playing 5 years
  • Patrick Reed is 74 under in 20 rounds, playing 5 years
  • Justin Thomas is 69 under in 20 rounds, playing 5 years
  • Hideki Matsuyama is 53 under in 12 rounds, playing 3 years
  • Xander Schauffele is 41 under in 12 rounds, playing 3 years
  • Jon Rahm is 37 under in 12 rounds, playing 3 years
  • Kevin Kisner is 28 under in 12 rounds, playing 3 years
  • Marc Leishman is 28 under in 8 rounds, playing 2 years
  • Billy Horschel is 22 under in 12 rounds, playing 3 years
  • Daniel Berger is 22 under in 8 rounds, playing 2 years
  • Patrick Cantlay is 20 under in 8 rounds, playing 2 years
  • Bryson DeChambeau is 17 under in 8 rounds, playing 2 years
  • Cameron Champ is 16 under in 8 rounds, playing 2 years
  • Robert Streb is 16 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
  • Brendon Todd is 14 under in 8 rounds, playing 2 years
  • Tony Finau is 14 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
  • Webb Simpson is 13 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
  • Joaquin Niemann is 10 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
  • Collin Morikawa is 9 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
  • Cameron Smith is 8 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
  • Lanto Griffin is 6 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
  • Mackenzie Hughes is 6 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
  • Nick Taylor is 6 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
  • Andrew Landry is 5 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
  • Ryan Palmer is 3 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
  • Sebastian Munoz is 3 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
  • Hudson Swafford is 2 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
  • Kevin Na is 10 under in 4 rounds, playing 1 years
*Here are the ones with the best under par totals averaging it per years played (2 or more starts)
  • Hideki Matsuyama is 53 under, playing 3 years (-17.7)
  • Dustin Johnson is 78 under, playing 5 years (-15.6)
  • Patrick Reed is 74 under, playing 5 years (-14.8)
  • Marc Leishman is 28 under, playing 2 years (-14.0)
  • Justin Thomas is 69 under, playing 5 years (-13.8)
  • Xander Schauffele is 41 under, playing 3 years (-13.7)
  • Jon Rahm is 37 under, playing 3 years (-12.3)
  • Daniel Berger is 22 under, playing 2 years (-11.0)
  • Patrick Cantlay is 20 under, playing 2 years (-10.0)
  • Kevin Kisner is 28 under, playing 3 years (-9.3)
  • Bryson DeChambeau is 17 under, playing 2 years (-8.5)
  • Cameron Champ is 16 under, playing 2 years (-8.0)
  • Billy Horschel is 22 under, playing 3 years (-7.3)
  • Brendon Todd is 14 under, playing 2 years (-7.0)

Historical ParBreakers

Here is a look at those playing this week and who has made the most eagles and birdies:

 

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

 

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

DraftKings tips

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

  • Dustin Johnson – $11,000
  • Justin Thomas – $10,700
  • Jon Rahm – $10,400
  • Bryson DeChambeau – $10,200
  • Xander Schauffele – $10,000
  • Patrick Cantlay – $9,800
  • Patrick Reed – $9,600
  • Webb Simpson – $9,400
  • Viktor Hovland – $9,200
  • Hideki Matsuyama – $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 Dustin Johnson at $11,000.  Makes sense since he is world number one and has played the best since the FedExCup playoffs.  Since then in his last seven starts hasn’t finished worst than 6th along with winning the FedExCup in 2020 and the Masters last November.  But his record at Kapalua makes him the favorite with two wins.  Next up is Justin Thomas at $10,700, he too plays well at Kapalua winning twice in the last four years.  Jon Rahm at $10,400 will be many people’s favorite but I am a bit down on him.  After a runner-up finish in 2018 in his first attempt in this event, he has gone downhill to T-8th in 2019 and 10th last year.  Another thing that could be a problem for a bit, after playing with TaylorMade clubs for the last five years he is moving completely to Callaway this week.  He will use 13 clubs and the ball, planning to switch to the putter at a later date.  I know that he shot 59 last week using the clubs, but frankly even though he has had a month to practice with them, this is his first try with them and that could be a problem, avoid him this week.  I also don’t know what direction to go with Bryson DeChambeau at $10,200.  Conventional wisdom says that bombers just don’t cut it at Kapalua, but DeChambeau is hitting it so far that he could make a joke out of the course.  On top of the three par 5s which will be short irons in for his second shot, there are three par 4s the 6th, 12th and the 14th that if the winds are right he can drive, so his par could be 67.  If he putts well he will run away with it so keep that in the back of your mind.  As of a few days ago, Xander Schauffele at $10,000 was my favorite.  He has played great the last two years and seemed to own the place.  But we are finding out his had COVID-19 last week and was bedridden a few days as it struck him hard.  Things have since cleared up, he past his COVID-19 test and will be playing this week.  But he hasn’t practiced much which is a problem, I also think that Kapalua is one of the most demanding walks of any course, wouldn’t be surprised if the walk was too much for Schauffele.  So best to pass him up.  Patrick Cantlay at $9,800 is also someone to watch, he won the Zozo Championship two months ago and plays well at Kapalua, finished 4th last year.  In looking at his stats from last year’s Sentry, Cantlay did the right things in being 1st in Proximity to Hole, T-4th in Greens in Regulation, 4th in Strokes Gained Putting and 3rd in Putting inside ten feet.  Yes he could win this.  Patrick Reed at $9,600 should be respected, he won on this course in 2015 and lost a playoff last year.  So he is another to watch along with Webb Simpson at $9,400.  In such a talented field he will probably be ignored but still will find a top-ten finish this week.  Viktor Hovland at $9,200 is one of those players to watch, he is playing at Kapalua for the first time.  Just don’t think his putting will hold up on this course.  Now the player I am high on is Hideki Matsuyama at $9,000.  We know his weakness is putting, but in the three times he has played at Kapalua his putting wasn’t that bad and his tee to green game is good enough that could be all it takes for him to win.  I will say this, if those are smart they will have a team that consist of Cantlay, Reed and Matsuyama could be a winning combination.

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

Many will think that Tony Finau at $8,900 would be worth it, I say no he just isn’t that good of a putter.  The same could be said of Collin Morikawa at $8,800.  yes he finished T-7th last year but is a weak putter.  The opposite of Harris English who is $8,700 and a good putter.  Only played once back in 2014 when he finished T-11th.  English could be ok.  Many will say Daniel Berger is good at $8,600, I say no.  Scottie Scheffler is $8,500 and thinks he is the future of golf, playing for the first time at Kapalua I don’t think he breaks the top-ten.  So is there anyone I do like?  Joaquin Niemann at $8,400 is one, he finished T-5th last year and despite not being a great putter I think the course suits his game.  I also like Adam Scott at $8,100, he hasn’t played since 2014 and was T-6th.  Also like that he was runner-up in 2007 and 5th in 2005. His price is low enough to be worth the price.  My last player in this category is Abraham Ancer at $8,000, he is above average putter and plays well on firm and fast courses.  So don’t forget about him.

*So are there any “Bargains” out there?

Of the field of 42, 7 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.  Jason Kokrak at $7,300 could be one of those bargains who could find this course good.  I also almost forget about Marc Leishman at $7,400, he has played well in the past at Kapalua, was 4th last year and T-15th in 2018.  Stewart Cink at $6,600 could be worth the money, he plays well on courses by the sea, remember he won the British Open at Turnberry and was T-4th in Bermuda.  Cink is a relict of another time, he is the only player in the field that played in this event when it was played at La Costa, he finished T-6th in 1998.  Also don’t forget about Martin Laird at $6,400.  He won on a fast, firm course in October at the Shriners Hospitals, now the last time he played at the Sentry was in 2014 when he finished 20th, but he was runner-up in 2012 and T-4th in 2010 so he knows how to play well at Kapalua.  And digging deeper in our bottomfeeders is Robert Streb at $6,000 at the bottom.  Now Streb played once at Kapalua and was T-8th in 2015.  Do we need to be told that Streb got to Kapalua by winning the week before Thanksgiving at the RSM Classic  Streb is an ok putter and average iron man so he does have the skill to play well this week.  One other thing to point out, his two wins at the RSM are on courses by an ocean.

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the Sentry 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.  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.  Thomas in 2020 was T-19th hitting 47 of 60 fairways but was 3rd in Greens in Regulation hitting 56 of 72 and ranking 3rd.  The motto in this, 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 lot’s of greens is a misnomer.  The average proximity to the hole is 45 feet which made the pins the hardest to get close to in 2020 so you can see that lag putting is crucial.
  • So two key stats standout as necessary, first approach putt performance which gauges who lag putts the closet to the hole? In 2020, those playing at Kapalua averaged getting their first putt within 2 feet, 6 inches away.  The other key stat is birdie or better conversion per greens hit, Kapalua was 16th as players birdied 29.12% 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 last years winner Justin Thomas.  He was 3rd in hitting greens and averaged 37 feet, 4 inches from the hole that ranked 2nd.  That is how he won it, because he didn’t putt great was 13th in Strokes Gained Putting and was 29th in putting inside 10 feet. The year before Xander Schauffele won.  He was T-5th in hitting greens and averaged 40 feet, 0 inch from the hole that ranked 23rd.  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 74.893 scoring average made it the fourth toughest course played on the PGA Tour in 2006. But the last eight 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 few 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.  But in 2015 when the wind hardly blew the course played to a 69.80 average making it the easiest course of the year
  • So what does this year look?  Winds are going to come out of the northeast, and they are predicted to be for Thursday at 19 mph and then on Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 14 mph so look for a lot lower scores this year.  Now there isn’t going to be any rain, so with the fairways firm and fast it will help shorter hitters.  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.
  • Last but not least we need to access the true changes made to the course.  Lot’s 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 on 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 Brian Gay’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:

Dustin Johnson

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T7 T4 Win T6 T10 T6 Win T9 T16 11

Who else would be the favorite? Has played the best of anyone at Kapalua, in his last seven starts he is 108 under par. In his last seven starts hasn’t finished worst than 10th. In his last starts on the PGA Tour has not finished worth than 6th, won the FedExCup and the Masters. Yes he is the best and favorite.

Justin Thomas

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
Win 3 T22 Win T21

Defending champion also has won this event twice. He is 69 under in five Kapalua starts.

Bryson DeChambeau

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
                                       7                 26

Conventional wisdom says that bombers don’t win this event. But he hits the ball so long he has a great advantage over the field. His ability of hitting par 5s in two with irons, he also with the right wind can drive three of the par 4s makes Kapalua a par 67 for him.

Off the wall picks that many will miss:

Hideki Matsuyama

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T4 2 T3

In three starts at Kapalua was T-3rd in 2015, 2nd in 2017 and T-4th in 2018. In those three starts is 53 under par. Yes he is a weak putter, but at Kapalua has putted better. In 2017 was 5th in 3-putt avoidance and 8th in putts made inside ten feet. In 2015 was 1st in 3-putt avoidance and 11th in putts made inside ten feet. In 2018 he had 3, three-putts and was 9th in putting average which means he putts a lot better at Kapalua than most courses on the PGA Tour.

Patrick Cantlay

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
4 T15

Was 4th in 2020 and T-15th in 2018. In those two starts was 20 under par. Won the Zozo Championship just two months ago

Adam Scott

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T6 T21 T18

Played at Kapalua six times, was 2nd in 2007, T-5th in 2005, T-6th in 2014 and 7th in 2004. In those four events was 58 under par.

Solid contenders

Webb Simpson

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T8 T3 T11 T3

In four starts was T-3rd in 2012 & ’14, T-8th in 2019 and T-11th in 2013. In those four events was 53 under par. 2020 was a good year for him with two wins at Phoenix and Heritage.

Patrick Reed

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T2 T25 T6 2 Win T16

In six starts won in 2015, was 2nd in 2016 and 2020 were he lost in a playoff. In thos six starts is 84 under par.

Joaquin Niemann

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T5

Was T-5th last year at the Sentry TofC. Stats from last year’s Sentry TofC, Niemann was 7th in Proximity to Hole, T-10th in Greens in Regulation, 7th in Strokes Gained Putting and 2nd in Putting inside ten feet.

Harris English

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T11

Has played great in the last year, was T-11th at Kapalua in 2014

Long shots that could come through:

Martin Laird

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
20 2 T4

Has a great record at Kapalua including 2nd in 2012 and T-4th in 2010.

Abraham Ancer

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
First time playing in this event

Everytime he pops up at some event, seems to play well. First time at Kapalua.

Robert Streb

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T8

A good putter that surprised us by finishing T-8th in 2015.

Has this one problem which will hold him back:

Xander Schauffele

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
T2 Win T22

Great record at Kapalua, won in 2019 and lost in a playoff last year. Was my favorite until the world found out he had COVID-19 last week and was dragging. Got better over the weekend, past the COVID test which allows him to play this week. Only thing he has missed a lot of practice, I also don’t like that Kapalua is one of the hardest courses in the world to work and it may fatigue Xander.

Jon Rahm

2021 ’20 ’19 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09
10 T8 2

If anything he seems to be getting worst on each start at Kapalua. Was runner-up the first year he played in 2018, was T-6th in 2019 and down to 10th last year. But what made my mind up on not backing him, after playing his five year professional career with TaylorMade clubs, he has switched to Callaway clubs and ball. Yes he shot 59 in a practice round playing the clubs at home in Scottsdale, and yes Rahm played Calloway clubs while in College. But in most cases, making a complete change of clubs sometimes has growing pains and that could be the case for Rahm this week.

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