Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2022 Tournament of Champions Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from Kapalua.
2022 Tournament of Champions: Field
Field: 39 Players | No Cut
Lineup Lock: Thursday, January 6
Defending Champion: Harris English
Due to the stoppage in the PGA TOUR schedule in 2020, last year’s Tournament of Champions field opened up beyond all the event winners from the previous season. This resulted in the strongest field in the history of the event. Most things around us have not returned to normal, but the Tournament of Champions actually has. Hey, Dustin Johnson, you didn’t win in 2021 (for the first time since 2008!)? Don’t bother showing up to the island.
Overall, there were 40 different winners in 2021, and shockingly, 39 of them have decided to take the trip to Hawaii for the guaranteed payday and FedEx Cup points. And no, it’s not Phil Mickelson ($6,500) who is skipping the event. Phil is actually going to be there in the flesh, hitting bombs with a scenic Pacific backdrop for the first time in over 20 years. Yes, 20 — this will be Phil’s first start at Kapalua since 2001. So it’s been two decades since Phil narrowly edged out Jim Carter for a T28 result.
Who is Jim Carter, you ask? Well, according to the Google machine, he’s an actor who looks like discount Eugene Levy.
That’s not fair to this Jim Carter. I know he’s in “Downton Abbey.”
Anyway, apparently, Phil is showing up as some sort of quid-pro-quo to get his massive PIP payout for being the most influential PGA TOUR player on the internet this year. Seems worth it if it means getting a $10M check.
The player who isn’t showing up is Rory McIlroy. Like Phil, Rory rarely makes the trek to Maui. In fact, Rory’s only played this event once in his career (T4 in 2019). As per usual, he’ll open his year in a few weeks in Abu Dhabi.
Of the 39 players, nine will be playing this event for the first time: Talor Gooch ($7,600), Joel Dahmen ($6,100), K.H. Lee ($6,000), Erik Van Rooyen ($6,100), Cameron Davis ($6,200), Seamus Power ($6,600), Lucas Herbert ($6,100) and Garrick Higgo ($6.400).
No first-time player at Kapalua has won since Daniel Chopra in 2008 and only eight golfers have finished inside the Top 5 in their first appearance since 2014. Sungjae Im collected a check for a T5 last year in his debut. Meanwhile, it should also be noted that the past 11 winners have been Americans breaking the run of nine straight international champions before that.
2022 Tournament of Champions: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Ball Striking
Par 4s Gained
Proximity Gained 100-125 Yards
Par 5s Gained
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2022 Tournament of Champions: Course
Course: Kapalua (Plantation)
2022 Tournament of Champions: Past Winners
2021: Harris English -25
2020: Justin Thomas -14
2019: Xander Schauffele -23
2018: Dustin Johnson -24
2017: Justin Thomas -22
2016: Jordan Spieth -30
2015: Patrick Reed -21
2022 Tournament of Champions: Notes
The Plantation Course at Kapalua has hosted this event since 1999.
The winning score generally breaches past -20, but the wind can always throw a wrench into the expected birdiefest. While it won’t completely stunt scoring, Kapalua typically plays as a driver, wedge, make a 10-foot putt course. If the wind starts gusting, those 10-footers turn into 20-footers and scoring remains steadier. Obviously, like betting, fantasy prognostication, basically everything I do, predicting the weather, especially wind, can make you look foolish. However, it’s worth keeping an eye on before the tournament begins. The weather station next to the course can be found here.
A section of the greens was flattened before the 2019 event to expand on the choices for pin placements in an attempt to make things more difficult on the field. They also flattened parts of some greens and added fairway bunkers to accomplish the same thing. After one year, it appeared as if the changes had been successful. Scoring was down, as Justin Thomas ($10,600) won in a playoff at -14 over Patrick Reed ($7,900) and Xander Schauffele ($9,500), but there were also two rounds with winds blowing over 20 mph and the other two settling in the mid-teens.
Last year, in fairly benign conditions, Harris English ($7,800) and Joaquin Niemann got to a playoff at -25, with nine players finishing -20 or better. It’s back to wedges and a hot putter.
Between the elevation changes and uneven fairways, there has been a lot of crossover success between Kapalua and Riviera CC, Augusta National and TPC Deere Run. Pebble Beach and Sedgefield CC are two others to consider, as well, because of the emphasis on short wedge play. TPC Deere Run seems like an outlier in this group, but it’s been a good predictor of which shorter-hitting players can compete at a longer course where wedge play will be highly emphasized. Since very few eagles are made at the Plantation Course (17 in 2018; 10 in 2017), bombers don’t have the advantage at this track many believe. Only hole No. 5 has an eagle rate over 2%. Since 2010 at Kapalua, four victors have won the John Deere Classic — Jordan Spieth ($8,900), Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker and Jonathan Byrd. It’s also more impressive when you consider most of the bigger names never play in the John Deere Classic.
Players hit these fairways at a higher rate than at any other course on the PGA TOUR (78% vs 64% TOUR Average). To quote Vincent to Tyrone in “Snatch,” “You could land a jumbo jet in there.” Strokes Gained: Off the Tee matters, but give an additional bump to those who generally get diminished because of a lack of accuracy.
The putting surfaces are large and very slow. A stat like Greens in Regulation is irrelevant this week since the field hits almost 80% of GIR. Instead, focus on the Fantasy National stat, “Opportunities Gained”, which is the percentage of times a player has a putt under 15 feet from the fringe or green in regulation. With three-putts being almost 50% more common at Kapalua versus a regular course (massive greens), finding the players leaving themselves makable putts against routinely lag putting will be imperative.
Four par 4s measure between 300 and 400 yards and hole No. 3 was lengthened over 40 yards in 2020. These mini holes are a way to keep the shorter hitters alive in this event. Unless Dustin Johnson decides he can simply pin seek from the tee, that is. Over the past 100 rounds, Patrick Cantlay ($9.700), Collin Morikawa ($10,800), Seamus Power ($6,600), Jon Rahm ($11,000), Xander Schauffele ($9,500) and Patrick Reed ($7,900) lead in scoring on holes of this distance. Weirdly, all four of these holes are on the back nine.
While statistical analysis should always only be one element of research, it tends to be less relevant, in terms of short-term stats at this time of the season. With so many players taking time off, and no Presidents Cup or Hero World Championship in December, along with a lack of Shot Tracker at many of the events in October and November, it’s extremely difficult to accurately assess where a player’s game currently rest versus optimal performance. Focusing on long-term numbers to gather baseline player skills is the better approach this early in the year.
2022 Tournament of Champions Picks
Collin Morikawa ($10,800)
Morikawa has an opportunity to claim the No. 1 spot in the world rankings with a top performance and some Jon Rahm struggles, but that’s not reason enough. While Rahm is the most well-rounded player on the planet, Morikawa is the best at the one skill that matters most: Irons. Essentially, even with its five par 5s, Kapalua is a birdie fest, and the player who generates the most makable birdie tries is going to find themselves at the top of the leaderboard. Seems simple enough. Looking back at the past 50 rounds using the Fantasy National metric “Opportunities Gained,” which measures the amount of GIR and GUR within 15 feet of the cup, Morikawa and Justin Thomas stand out above the rest.
Stats from FantasyNational.com
I’ll wager on the one I’d expect to make the most putts. With these two, it could be no one, knowing their struggles with the flat stick. However, Morikawa has enough spike weeks on the green to give him the edge.
Daniel Berger ($8,400)
Much like how Morikawa and Thomas mirror each other, a similar case can be made for Sungjae Im ($8,200) and Berger. Sungjae led all players T2G a year ago at this event and still managed at T5 in his debut despite losing -3.2 putting. And that’s been a trend for him recently. The irons have been firing, but he keeps putting himself out of tournaments ... until he doesn’t. Im lost strokes on the green in seven of his final nine starts of 2021, but in the two in which he gained strokes, he gained a ton (+6.2, +5.5). That resulted in a win and T3.
Berger, meanwhile, is averaging +4.6 SG: Approach over his past 10 events but may have been better using a wedge on the greens after his putting issues in his final three. Berger lost an average, AVERAGE, of 3.67 strokes putting in those tournaments. Which is strange, as for most of his career, and hell, most of last year, he was a consistently above-average putter. If he can flip that this week, he can build off his T10 performance from a year ago when he was very much in the mix entering play Sunday before a final round 72 took him out of contention. Plus, I’d anticipate Berger generating far less buzz than Im this week.
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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
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