2018 Sentry Tournament of Champions DFS Picks & Preview
Course: Kapalua Resort- The Plantation Course
Yardage: 7,379 – Par 72
Purse: $6.3 M
Field: 34 players
Recent Sentry Tournament of Champions Winners
Welcome back DFS golf junkies, fans, and newbies alike! I hope all of you had a happy, fun, and safe holiday season. New Years was on a Monday this year, so you all have enough time to shake off the hangover and start gearing up for the start of the 2018 PGA Tour season.
Officially, the season began in October with the Safeway Championship. However, it’s been a month since anyone has played a competitive round, and that was a field of 18 players at Tiger Woods’ Hero World Challenge. If you were asleep for the final weeks of the 2017 golf season, here’s what you missed:
Pat Perez padded what was already his best year to date with a victory (CIMB Classic)….Justin Thomas won his sixth event in a 12-month span (CJ Cup)…Justin Rose won the HSBC Champions trying to prove that his down year in 2016-17 was simply just that….Patrick Cantlay recorded his first ever victory (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open), the golf world predicts many more…Tour rookie Austin Cook won the RSM Classic, look out for him going forward…Patton Kizzire, Brendan Steele, and Ryan Armour all gathered wins, will any of them make the leap from Tour regular to Tour Championship bid?…and finally, Rickie Fowler wrapped up the year by firing a 61 and beating some of the best in the world at the Hero World Challenge. However, that was completely overshadowed that week by the triumphant return of Tiger Woods…Tiger made his return to the sport playing in the Hero World Challenge. Tiger had his fans giddy with excitement. He briefly led during Round 2 and proved he still has some golf left in the tank. He finished T-9 in an 18-man field made entirely of Top 50 golfers aside from himself.
Preview: The 2018 PGA and DFS golf season kicks off in Hawaii with the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Held at Kapalua Resort’s Plantation Course, the Tournament of Champions has been a PGA event since 1953 and has been played at Kapalua since 1999. The Tournament of Champions is a small-field event consisting of all the winners since last year’s event. The only three winners from last season that will not attend are Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose, and Henrik Stenson. Leading the class will be Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama, Jon Rahm, and Brooks Koepka. With only 34 players in the field, this is a very strong, talented group, and all of them have experienced what it’s like to battle it out on Sunday.
Birdie or better %
Strokes gained: approach
Strokes gained: tee-to-green
Strokes gained: in the wind
The Plantation Course at Kapalua is a beautiful and unique golf course set in Maui, Hawaii. With 5 Par 5s, it is the Tour’s only Par 73 course. Scores are incredibly low year-in and year-out. Winning scores are almost always in the 20s-under par and Jordan Spieth even shot 30-under in 2016. The course is candy to a big hitter’s eye as it has big wide-open fairways and a whole lot of elevation change. Measuring out to 7,452 yards, it isn’t a long course for Tour players. When you consider some of the other courses the Tour has stopped at recently (ex: Firestone 7,400- Par 70, Erin Hills 7,800 – Par 72) Kapalua is giving an extra shot, without any extra yardage. For players, this means that birdie or better % is a must this week for contention. Driving Distance is a big advantage here with all the Par 5s; the big kids can hit almost every par 5 in two and card some 3s. While being long is an advantage, Jordan Spieth, and Patrick Reed have proven that the more average length players can fare just as well here with solid iron games. Strokes gained: approach and strokes gained: tee-to-green, can make up for the lack of a 330-yard average drive for the week. Spieth and Reed have accounted for two victories and two runners-up since 2014 (Reed is not in the field this year). The biggest challenge for Tour Players at Kapalua is the wind factor. Set right on the Pacific Ocean, the course is susceptible to wind and will almost certainly have some breezy moments (or entire days) over the course of the four days. Players who gain in strokes gained: in wind will be able to hang in there if the weather takes a turn. Lastly, I mentioned earlier that this event has been here since 1999, so that means there is plenty of course history to draw from to sort out who thrives here and who doesn’t.
Jordan Spieth ($10,900) – Although Kapalua is classified as a course for bombers, Spieth has been the exception. He finished as the runner-up in 2014 here, won it in 2016 with the lowest score ever in this event (-30), and he came in third place in 2017. Spieth was Top 10 in virtually every major statistic last season including strokes gained: tee-to-green, strokes gained: approach, and birdie or better %. Overall, Spieth has been as dominant at this course as any other in his career.
Dustin Johnson ($10,300) – It was a very hard to choose between the long hitter in Dustin Johnson who can just overpower this course, or Jordan Spieth who always plays well here. So, I found a way to go with both! Johnson will make mince-meat of the par 5s, and should easily turn in four rounds in the 60s. Spieth has the best record here, but Johnson has the most experience here. DJ has the longest winning streak on Tour (years with a win), and has not finished outside the Top 10 in this event since 2010 (T-16th). He also won the event in 2013. He’s a good value at the top of the board this week.
Pat Perez ($8,000) – Ever since Pat Perez returned from his shoulder surgery when he “stayed sane by drinking a lot of booze and eating a lot of food,” he’s been a completely different player. Since his return, he has won two PGA events and jumped his way up to 19th in the world (he was ranked 118th at the end of 2016). Perez hasn’t slowed down through the fall swing season winning the CIMB Classic and currently ranking 13th this season in birdie or better %. Over 26 percent of his holes this season have ended in a circled number on the card. He may not have the bomber trait, but birdies are king in this game and Perez has been dropping them at a blistering rate for the last 14 months. When the wind picks up, Perez’s game usually picks up, relative to the competition, making up for what he loses in distance.
Brendan Steele ($7,400) – Brendan Steele is off to a very hot start for the 2017-18 season. He won the Safeway Open in October and finished 13th in the CIMB. Steele leads the tour so far through this short season in strokes gained: tee-to-green, he’s fourth in strokes gained: approach, fourth in driving distance – bombing it at an average of 328, and ninth in birdie or better %. The two tournaments he last played were in October, so it’s just a matter of Steele finding what he had during that stretch.
Bryson DeChambeau ($7,000) –The man with the same-length irons, Bryson DeChambeau has been starting to meet his expectations after a rough first half of his rookie season last year. DeChambeau is seventh this year in strokes gained: tee-to- green, 10th in strokes gained: approach, and is above average in driving distance and birdie or better %. This is DeChambeau’s first time playing here, but that hasn’t stopped many golfers from having success here in the past.
Grayson Murray ($6,400) – My dark horse this week is Grayson Murray. Grayson was playing some very good golf towards the back-end of the season last year. With his long driving ability (320.9 average, ninth-best), and solid iron-game (13th in SG: Approach, 15th in SG: tee-to-green) Murray is my sleeper pick this week in the 6K range.