The PGA TOUR returns with its first tournament of the new year and the start of the Aloha Swing, the Sentry Tournament of Champions (TOC) on the Plantation Course at Kapalua. The course will play as a par 73, measuring 7,596 yards and play on Bermuda greens. The no-cut event will be on the island of Maui, Hawai’i.
The field is strong, with 39 out of 40 champions from last season teeing it up sans Rory McIlroy. The TOC debutants include Sam Burns (+1800, $9,100) and Garrick Higgo (+11000, $6,400), but golfers like Collin Morikawa (+1000, $10,800), Bryson DeChambeau (+1200, $10,200) and Brooks Koepka (+3000, $8,500) are looking to start the season off strong with a win in Hawai’i on a course you’ll most likely need experience playing to win.
The Plantation course is one of the easiest on TOUR in scoring relative to par, except when the wind picks up. The course went through renovations like flattening greens and adding fairway bunkers, but the course’s primary defense and what could’ve caused higher than usual scores in previous years was the aforementioned wind. The winds were gusting over 20 mph in 2020, resulting in lower scores across the board. Still, with wide fairways, accessible par 5s, an extra par 4 and massive greens, the tournament becomes a putting/birdie or better clinic.
With a no-cut event, choosing golfers who can deliver a deluge of birdies or better will take precedent over guys who have “steadier” games, with winning scores hitting 20-under par or better on average. Key statistics should focus on SG: Off-the-Tee and approach (ball-striking), specifically proximity between 100 to 125 yards (wedge shots), and putting. Lastly, look to roster golfers who’ve played in December with 12 of the last 13 winners competing in Australia (before COVID-19), the QBE Shootout or the Hero World Challenge.
Bryson DeChambeau (+1200 to Win, $10,200 on DraftKings)
Distance Off-the-Tee will never hurt, and it seems to help golfers here more so than any other course on TOUR. Distance isn’t a must to win the TOC, but the risk of being inaccurate doesn’t outweigh the reward of being long with the 1-metal. These fairways are massive, which is why we see a higher Fairways hit in regulation percentage at 14% higher than the TOUR average. Yes, Bryson’s a bomber, but few associate him with being a solid putter, ranking sixth in SG: P over the previous 50 rounds. He also ranks first in birdie or better percentage over the same timeframe and shot the low score in Friday’s round at the Hero World Challenge back in December, even though he finished near the bottom (T14). Bryson’s made the trip to Maui three times and has back-to-back seventh-place finishes in 2019 and 2021.
Xander Schauffele (+1200 to Win, $9,500 on DraftKings)
We’ve seen Schauffele start his season off strong before, with a win here in 2019, a runner-up the year after in 2020, and a fifth-place at Kapalua last season. He was coming into last year’s event just coming off COVID-19 and mentioned he didn’t practice as much as he wanted to and still finished inside the top five; he loves it here. He gained strokes with his irons in eight of his previous nine events and was able to get in a competitive tournament last month at the Hero World Challenge.
Sungjae Im (+2200 to Win, $8,200 on DraftKings)
Even though he didn’t play competitive golf in December, Sungjae should be considered in this range. A top-five finish here in 2021 and a late-season win last year, shooting 24-under at the Shriners Children’s Open, are a couple of signals that Sungjae could play well in these conditions. Im’s putting was wildly inconsistent at the end of 2021, but his Bermuda splits are massively better than bentgrass or poa annua. He’s gained five strokes or better in two of his previous three tournaments with his irons and is top eight in SG: Tee-to-Green over the past 50 rounds.
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