Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: Sentry Tournament of Champions
After just a short layoff, the PGA Tour returns to action with the Sentry Tournament of Champions. The annual invitation-only New Year kickoff event gets an expansion this year with a tightened 2020 schedule resulting in fewer winners than a normal season. The field is expanded to include anyone who made the TOUR Championship last year, a total of 45 golfers. Three of those invitees will not tee it up — Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton, and Jim Herman.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua is an oddity on the PGA Tour as a par 73, with just three par 3s to go along with four par 5s. The wide-open fairways lead to a fun display off the tee for just about the entire field. Big hitters gain an advantage just about everywhere, but ironically, that’s muted at a course like Kapalua where everyone is gripping and ripping without a care.
Maui, Hawaii is a fine place to start the season, and given the standards for invitation, much of the field has limited or no course form to speak of. Newcomers have fared well in recent years though, with Jon Rahm finishing runner-up in his first try in 2018 and Joaquin Niemann and Collin Morikawa bagged top-10s last year. The wind can get kicking and massive undulating fairways with huge elevation changes can lead to some awkward angles on approach, but the field freely fires fairway woods from those lies every year anyway. There’s no big secret to success at Kapalua — bomb it out, go for the green, and score.
As you’d expect from paradise, the weather will be beautiful this week with the stray cloud only serving to improve the quality of the sunsets in the evening.
Let’s dig into the course and see what stats we can use to build our daily fantasy lineups this week.
Course and Tournament Info
Course: Plantation Course at Kapalua
Distance: 7,596 yards
Last year, 14-under par was the barrier to entry in the three-man playoff, the first time since 2014 that no man reached 20-under. Justin Thomas shot 73 on Friday and was the only man in the field to record three sub-70 rounds. The lead-in form for much of the field will be quite different this year, with the top-end players usually skipping the fall swing events having instead played two majors since the TOUR Championship.
Kapalua is pretty unique as a course and only East Lake has a similar field, so finding comparable venues is a lesson in small samples. Looking to the most recent winners, we find golfers who excel in strong fields and can hang with the best competition in the world. The quality of champion, bombing off the tee with little in the way of rough, and undulating surfaces all call to mind Augusta National. The Masters is a different animal, but the most recent owner of a green jacket has had his way with Kapalua in the past. Former Masters Champions have a good record here as well, with Jordan Spieth (2016), Patrick Reed (2015), and Zach Johnson (2014) all having won at Kapalua.
These stats will be key to success in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
|Key Stats for the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua|
|Strokes Gained: Off The Tee|
|Strokes Gained: Approach|
|Birdies or Better Gained|
|Strokes Gained: Par 5s|
Only winners make it to Kapalua (usually), and in order to win a golf tournament on the PGA Tour, you have to be one of the best drivers or approach players or go bananas chipping in or draining long birdie putts for a week. If you combine the off the tee and approach strokes gained stats with birdie or better percentage over any meaningful sample and ask a model to rank the players on Tour, your rankings are going to look very similar to the Official World Golf Rankings.
So we’ll do just that this week and throw in the par 5 scoring for good measure. Two of the par 5s are just over 500 yards and must-have birdies, and even the mammoth 675-yard 18th is scoreable despite a massive risk in play if going for the green in two. Last year, Thomas went for it and hit his second shot into the brush in front of the green, making bogey to fall back into a tie before eventually triumphing.
Course History Studs
Dustin Johnson has plenty of experience at Kapalua thanks to the fact that he wins every year. Over the past decade, Johnson has failed to earn a spot at the Tournament of Champions just once, but in his nine appearances over the last decade, he has finished inside the top 10 every single time, with wins in 2013 and 2018.
Thomas’ victory last year was his second at Kapalua (2017), to go along with a third-place finish in 2019.
The two men he defeated in the playoff, Xander Schauffele and Reed, have also exhibited elite course form. Schauffele won in 2019 and Reed had another runner-up back in 2016 to go with his victory in 2015.
Mike Rodden is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Mike Rodden also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mike_rodden. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.