This week is not, of course, the first of the 2021/22 PGA Tour season, but it is the opening event of the calendar year and it does feel very much like a spiritual beginning. On the one hand, it’s because it used to be the first start of the season. On the other, it’s simply because it marks the return from the holiday break. It also helps that it is week one of a fortnight in Hawaii, that the course is a little out of the ordinary, and that the field is elite.
Last time out
It feels like a lot more than a few weeks since we were last considering salaries ahead of a golf tournament, but the good news was that we ended 2021 on a high at the Hero World Challenge. We highlighted tournament winner Viktor Hovland, 54-hole leader Collin Morikawa, Patrick Reed (T–3) and Tony Finau (T–7). We were also right to oppose Henrik Stenson, who finished the week last-but-one on the leaderboard.
Here’s are some entirely FREE suggestions for you this week with MORE for subscribers (DraftKings Prices)
|A list||C. Morikawa||$10,800|
Collin Morikawa ($10,800): A nice and simple argument: Morikawa is good. Very good. Undulating golf? First time he saw TPC Deere Run he finished T–4. Debut in Hawaii? Thrashed a 65 at Waialae. Tournament debut? T–7 (when top three after 36 and 54 holes). He’s won two majors, added the European Tour’s seasonal finale at the end of last year, and really should have won the Hero World Challenge last time out. Approach play is key here and Morikawa excels at it.
Joel Dahmen ($6,100) He looks unassuming in his floppy hat, but Dahman is very good in the conditions he’ll face this week. Admittedly he’ll be doing so for a first time, but the potential versus price equation is very good. His majority of best golf has come on Bermuda grass greens, he’s finished second among the hills of TPC Deere Run, he’s coped with the breezes at El Camaleon and Waialae, and he’s here courtesy of winning on another resort island course in the Dominican Republic.
Jason Kokrak ($7,700) First things first: we’re big fans of Kokrak and can foresee another year of progress, with potential for him contending in elite events. But this week doesn’t look a good fit despite all the confidence he must have from four wins in his last 30 starts. On his course debut last year he finished T–35, three times failing to break 70 in straightforward conditions. Alone that would be merely a worry, but alongside two missed cuts at Deere Run and two failures to breach the top 40 at Augusta National it’s a concern that he doesn’t seem to like hills.
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The Plantation Course at Kapalua
Never has term ‘slope rating’ been more appropriate in relation to a golf course than when associated with the Plantation Course at Kapalua. Perched on careering ground that sits above cliff tops overlooking the Pacific, the layout sweeps down steep hills and then climbs back up them. It’s a feature that is never to be overlooked because you need golfers on-side who can cope with the distinct test of seeing balls fly outrageous distances one minute and are rolling back towards them after pitching the next, not to mention being able to hit off erratic fairway lies.
Consider the words of Brooks Koepka who said: “You’re not going to find a slopier golf course than this. There’s so many awkward little lies, balls above your feet, below your feet and then downhill and then you’re hitting up the hill. Things like that you just don’t find anywhere besides maybe here and Augusta or at least that I’ve played.”
With the property right next to the ocean, the designers Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore needed to take the trade winds into consideration because, when they blow, playing golf becomes a difficult proposition. That means the fairways are wide and the putting surfaces vast. If that hints at easy golf then it is undeniably true that when the flags are limp the scores are low (10 of the last 13 winners were at least 20-under-par for the week). However, imagination is a key attribute. Using the breezes and the land allows players to get close to the pin.
Also note that two-time winner Geoff Ogilvy has said “Plantation is a wedge-based course” which might explain why Justin Thomas is also a two-time winner. The par is 73, made up of four par-5s, just three par-3s and a total yardage of 7,596. The par-4s are an equally unusual collection: long ones which often sweep downhill and play shorter, plus uphill ones with a short yardage but maybe not as vulnerable as the card suggests.
The weather forecast for Kapalua, Maui suggests that we can expect more low-scoring this week. The current indication is that Thursday’s wind will be just 11 mph, but will drop to around 8 mph for the rest of the week. Everything else is likely to be consistent: sunny skies, temperatures and humidity in the mid-70s, and a mere 20% chance of rain all week.
Past Winners of The Sentry Tournament of Champions
The event moved to Kapalua in the final year of the 20th century and has stayed there ever since. The first three winners were each American (David Duval, Tiger Woods and Jim Furyk) before an unlikely (and lengthy) period of international success. Sergio Garcia, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh and Daniel Chopra enjoyed a win apiece while the Australians went a little berserk: Stuart Appleby completed a hat trick from 2004 and Geoff Ogilvy won back-to-back in 2009-10.
Since then the winner’s roster has turned back in favor of the Stars and Stripes. Jonathan Byrd and Steve Stricker kicked off that run, before major championship winners joined in. Dustin Johnson has won twice (2013 and 2018), Zach Johnson succeeded him in 2014, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth enjoyed success in 2015 and 2016, then Justin Thomas became a double winner (2017 and 2020).
In 2019 Xander Schauffele thrashed a brilliant final round of 62 to claim the title and last year Harris English claimed the title after a play-off up against Joaquin Niemann.
The list of winners does include a lot of past champions at Augusta National (Woods, Garcia, Singh, D. Johnson, Z. Johnson, Reed and Spieth). There are also lots of past champions at TPC Deere Run (Singh, Byrd, Stricker, Z. Johnson and Spieth). Is this pure coincidence? Perhaps not. Remember those words of Koepka: this is an undulating golf course and so, too, are Augusta National and Deere Run.
There’s no doubt that the venue is a little distinct so course form needs considering, as so simple factors like the ability to putt on Bermuda grass greens and the capacity to control the ball in blustery conditions. In addition to course form, also bear in mind results on other undulating tracks, for reasons noted above. There’s a final clue worth keeping in the notebook. Last year English won the QBE Shootout alongside Matt Kuchar in the December and he said that it gave him momentum ahead of winning in Hawaii. He’s not the only winner here who maintained form he found late in the previous year. In fact, the last seven winners of the Tournament of Champions had finished first or second at least once in the three months ahead of their triumph.
Here’s Another Alternate of Core Picks For The Sentry Tournament of Champions
|A list||J. Thomas||$10,600|
|B list||X. Schauffele||$9,500|
|B list||H. Matsuyama||$8,700|
Justin Thomas ($10,600) Pretty much any way you look at it, Thomas is a neat fit for this week’s test. Let’s do the obvious and start with results: six starts, twice a winner, another two times he finished third. Consistency? He’s ended 16 of his last 20 laps in the top half dozen on the leaderboard. Good starts? Four times out of six he was T–2 or better after 18 holes. Solid conclusions? He’s 6-for-6 at going sub-70 in round four. He only won once in 2021, but he ended the year with four top six finishes in his last six starts.
Xander Schauffele ($9,500) The bookmakers and the salary cappers are being a little generous with the Olympic gold medal winner. Because he arguably has the second best couse record and yet he can be grabbed at less than $10k. He smoothed a final lap 62 on his way to victory in 2019, on defense he led after rounds two and three before losing a play-off, and he was T–5 last year. Time and again he tells us that he likes elite field events with a guaranteed four laps of the course – and he backs it up.
Hideki Matsuyama ($8,700) Another who, like Schauffele, is a tempting price and an even more tempting proposition. Winners here tend to have proved themselves on undulating tracks elsewhere. Like winning at Augusta National, for example. Tick. They also tend to have finished top two in the last three months of the previous year. Tick (he won the Zozo Championship). Then they often have excellent course form. Another tick. Matsuyama finished third in 2015, second in 2017 (very nearly pinching the title off Justin Thomas), and fourth in 2018.
Patrick Reed ($7,900) Reed made a mess of the middle of 2021, losing form, getting ill, being weirdly vague about it, missing out on a Ryder Cup spot, and bitching about that. But toward the end of the campaign he landed second in Bermuda and T–3 in the Bahamas. Good tropical golf, in other words, and take the hint. He’s made seven starts in the event, he won it in 2015, has twice been second (once after a play-off), and also boasts a T–7. In five of his last six starts he was top three at some stage of the week.
Marc Leishman ($7,500) Aussies once dominated this event and Leishman, although yet to win, certainly likes it. He led through 36 holes when T–7 in 2018 and then added T–4 in 2019. He’s also always made the cut in 12 Sony Open appearances and has a total of nine top 20s in 16 Hawaiian starts. He’s also started the 2021/22 season very neatly, with two top fives followed by a strong Houston Open showing (T–19 having led after 18 holes).
Brooks Koepka ($8,500) He made a point of saying at the Hero World Challenge that he was furious with his performances in 2021 (outside of the majors). He also added that he had worked hard ahead of that week so we can assume that didn’t relent afterward. Long term he needs keeping a positive eye on; he could be hungry. But this week has a few alarm bells ringing. True, he was third on debut in 2016, but he closed that week with a 71 after three sub-70s and he’s maintained the backward trend in two subsequent appearances. He didn’t break 74 in 2018 and only twice defeated par in 2019.
Other Player Options For The Sentry Tournament of Champions
• Kevin Na is a tricky propsotion, a little like his winning QBE Shootout partner Jason Kokrak. Na thrashed a second round 64 on debut to hit T–3 at halfway. But it was a brief high. He slipped back to T–12 over the weekend and has added T–32 and T–38 since. Beware.
• Who won at TPC Deere Run this year? It was Lucas Glover and the superb ball-striker/bad putter has a sneaky nice course record for a man plum last in the salary roster. He landed T–6 on debut in 2006 and it promised to be better four years later: he was the 18, 36 and 54-hole leader ahead of tripping up and finishing T–14.
• Playing golf by the sea is something the Aussie Lucas Herbert enjoys doing. His first efforts of note on the European Tour came on the Italian island of Sicily, at St Andrews and on the Portuguese coast. He’s played brilliantly in the Scottish Open and won a first PGA Tour title in Bermuda. If the wind blows his victory at the Dubai Desert Classic might be instructive too: it was blowing a hoolie.
COVID-19 and Injury Warning:
Pro DFS players know it makes sense to stay up-to-date on Twitter, DraftKings, FanDuel and-or subscribe to any number of email feeds and whatever to remain up to speed with injuries or COVID-19 withdraws. Players that don’t make the cut are tough enough. Players that don’t play all four rounds (even when pulling out at the last minute) make for a pretty weak lineup.
Go win your lineups and then tell us how you did. Twitter (@FantasyDFSX) is a good place for that.
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