The PGA TOUR finally makes its return this week with the 2021 Sentry Tournament of Champions, which is held at the Plantation Course (Par 73, 7,596 yards) of Kapalua in Maui. This track has been the host course of this event since 1999 and Justin Thomas is the defending champ, finishing at -14 a year ago. Hence the name of this tournament, every golfer who picks up a win on the PGA TOUR the previous season gains an invite to Maui every year. However, for 2021, the PGA TOUR decided to not only invite all of the eligible winners from the 2020 season, but also every golfer that made it to the TOUR Championship this past September. So, in total, we have 42 players in action for this no cut style event, compared to only 34 last season, and barring a withdrawal or disqualification, every golfer will play four rounds of golf in Kapalua.
Prior to the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Champions, the Plantation Course was closed for nearly a year due to renovations. All 18 fairways and greens were resurfaced and some bunkers were added to the mountainside track. Overall, the way the course actually plays wasn’t altered much at all and we can still confidently use data further back than last season for our research. Due to the elevation of this track, every player will gain some extra distance off the tee, but it has still been the bombers who have dominated in Kapalua the last few years. Thomas and Dustin Johnson, two the longest hitters in the world, both have a pair of Sentry wins over the past seven years, and while I wouldn’t eliminate shorter drivers, if juggling two golfers this week, I would give the edge to the better player off the tee. In fact, all of the last five winners in Maui have ranked inside the top-six in strokes gained off the tee during their victories. Just like with every golf course, your approach play is also pivotal at the Plantation Course, with each of the past five winners finding themselves inside the top-seven in strokes gained approach by the end of the week.
Furthermore, the most critical holes on the scorecard have been the par fours. Over the last five years, three of the golfers to take home the top prize here have led their fields in strokes gained on the par fours. Finally, the greens in Kapalua are Bermuda grass, so targeting players who have positive splits on this surface makes sense. With no cutline to sweat out during the second round, you are going to want some expensive players in your DraftKings lineup, considering they have the best win equity in this small field. So, to help you round out your stars and scrubs lineups this week, below are four of my favorite options under $7,500 on DraftKings.
Carlos Ortiz, $7,100
This will be Ortiz’s first trip to Maui, but that shouldn’t stop you from rostering the 29-year-old. He closed out the fall swing in outstanding form, picking up his first career PGA TOUR win at the Houston Open and then he proceeded to post T8 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic just last month. Unfortunately, we don’t have strokes gained stats from that T8 finish, but Ortiz was averaging 8.2 strokes gained tee to green and 4.9 strokes gained on approach in his previous two starts before that top-ten in Mexico.
He is generating a whopping 104.7 DKFP per start across his last three and unless something has drastically changed to his game over the past four weeks, Ortiz should make his DraftKings price tag look foolish.
Ryan Palmer, $7,000
In his last start, Palmer recorded T4 at the ZOZO Championship back in October, marking his third top-ten and his ninth made cut in his past ten events. His success during this run can mostly be attributed to his strong ball striking. The 44-year-old positively gained strokes tee to green in eight of those ten tournaments, and if we look at all of these golfer’s last 12 rounds, Palmer ranks 8th in ball striking.
The veteran carded a solid T17 in Maui last year and he has always rolled it best on Bermuda grass. Following his start at the Plantation Course in 2020, Palmer posted a pair of top-tens in his next five appearances on Bermuda. If he can carry over his excellent form from the fall, Palmer should have no issues outproducing his low DraftKings salary. Via DraftKings Sportsbook, he carries the best odds to win this event of all the golfers who cost less than $7,500 at +8000.
Kevin Na, $6,700
Na had an up and down season in 2020, but he is a worthwhile gamble at this low of a price. He is coming off an impressive T13 at the Masters, where he gained 7.1 total strokes and stuck 77.8% of the greens at Augusta National. This was the most total strokes he has gained in ten starts and the greens in regulation percentage was good enough to rank him second in the major field, only trailing the man who took home the green jacket, Dustin Johnson.
The 37-year-old has always been regarded as one of the best putters on the PGA TOUR, especially on Bermuda grass, and if his ball striking performance at Augusta was a sign of more things to come, Na has far better upside than his $6,700 price tag suggests. He has teed it up twice at the Plantation Course over his career, most notably with a T12 in 2012.
Martin Laird, $6,400
With no cut to worry about this week, I don’t see how you can keep Laird out of your player pool. Yes, the Scottish professional missed his final two cuts of the fall, but before this speed bump, Laird had produced the fourth PGA TOUR win of his career at the Shriners Open and had made it to the weekend in seven of his previous eight starts.
The 38-year-old will now be heading to a course that he loves in the Planation Course. It’s been six years since he was invited to Kapalua, but Laird has two top-fives to his name here in only three attempts. He possesses an average finish of 8.7 in Maui, which ranks 6th in this field for all the players who have played at this track more than once. Hopefully the back-to-back missed cuts in his game log scare people off him, because Laird is looking like an outstanding cheap flier at only $6,400.
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I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Hunta512) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.