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A Happy New Year to you all and welcome to 2015 on the PGA Tour. Golf Betting System enters its sixth year in fine fettle after a winter full of tournament research which will power new content and features in the coming weeks. As ever our betting coverage across 2015's Major Championships plus all PGA and European Tour events will be comprehensive and free to all.
Before we talk Kapalua, it's time to highlight our GBS Punters League. Now into its 5th season, the Punters League starts in South Africa and Hawaii this week running through to the week of the DP World Tour Championship at the close of November. We're excited to confirm that Paddy Power are kindly sponsoring the competition once again with a Bet £10 Get £20 first prize for the League champion, plus £/€25 free bet prizes for the weekly winners. Entry is via our lively facebook Group. Good luck and you'll need to move quickly as the SA Open cut-off is early this Thursday.
2015's PGA Tour action kicks off as ever on the island of Maui, Hawaii. The traditional winners' only event Hyundai Tournament of Champions is always an interesting affair on a spectacular and unique coastal course. Now we could focus on the missing players that won't be competing in Hawaii this week, but a field of 34 of the 38 qualifiers looks strong enough and there's no doubt that a classy player is likely to prevail.
This week's Hyundai Tournament of Champions Preview walks you through some interesting angles that have shaped my final selections:
Course Guide: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw these days are most famously known for their renovation masterpiece at Pinehurst Number 2, which hosted last year's US Open. However their Plantation Course design at Kapalua, opened in 1991, is no ordinary golf course as it sits perched above the Pacific Ocean. A Par 73 format which is unique on the PGA Tour, the course is synonymous for long drives, aggressive play and impressively low scoring. Scratch a little deeper though and it becomes apparent that the course can be mastered by shorter, accurate players just as well.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua, Lahaina, Hawaii: Designer: Coore and Crenshaw 1991; Course Type: Coastal, Resort; Par: 73; Length: 7,452 yards; Fairways: Bermudagrass; Rough: Bermudagrass, 2"; Greens: 7,120 sq.ft average TifEagle Bermudagrass; Stimpmeter: 10ft. Course Scoring Average 2012: 70.44, Difficulty Rank 48 of 49 courses. 2013: 72.11, Difficulty Rank 32 of 43 courses. 2014: 70.58, Rank 47 of 48 courses.
Course Overview: The scoring at Kapalua is always shaped by the strength of the local Kona and Trade winds which, for 2015, look placid. The Plantation course seems long at circa 7,450 yards put the course plays as a Par 73 via a unique 36/37 par split and is famous for having 11 Par-4s and only 3 Par-3s. This makes it possible to score heavily upon especially on a front 9 containing 2 reachable Par 5s. In total the course features 6 sub-400 yard Par 4s. The course has the largest amount of elevation changes on the whole PGA Tour creating blind shots and plenty of uneven lies. Large greens feature extremely grainy TifEagle Bermudagrass, with plenty of contours. That combination of elevation changes and contoured greens lead to a Proximity to Hole average of 39 feet last year, which was the 3rd longest on Tour.
Tournament Stats: We have generated some key player statistics for this week's event that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader
Published Predictor Model: Our published Predictor Model is available here. You can build your own tailor-made model using the variables listed. Key players included in the upper reaches include Matt Kuchar (Rank 1), Bubba Watson, Jimmy Walker, Chris Kirk and defending champion Zach Johnson. Charley Hoffman at Number 7 is a strong each-way punt at 50/1 - whilst Hideki Matsuyama looks far too short at 12/1 with some firms.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: Here we list a view of players in the Hyundai field and respective recent skill stats. These rankings are based on an 11 tournament window that stretches back to the BMW Championship and includes PGA Tour, European Tour and the Hero World Challenge. Players must have played in a minimum of 3 main Tour tournaments to be included and rankings are based on average performance relative to the rest of the field:
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: The Hyundai Tournament of Champions has a number of key trends that repeat themselves pretty consistently. Price analysis is always a great place to start when looking for the tournament winner. It doesn't really come as a surprise that at this short field, winner-only tournament quality inevitably rises to the top with Jonathan Byrd being the biggest priced winner here back in 2011 at 50/1.
Winners: 2014: Zach Johnson 14/1; 2013: Dustin Johnson 14/1; 2012: Steve Stricker 17/2; 2011: Jonathan Byrd 50/1; 2010: Geoff Ogilvy 9/1.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for the Kapalua is here. With only 10 mph breezes forecast at their strongest, Kapalua's main defence won't be present. Expect low scoring on receptive greens.
It's easy to be blinded at Kapalua when it comes to key player attributes required. I always had this setup down as a power track and, yes, Dustin Johnson won here in the windiest of conditions which saw the tournament shortened to 54 holes in 2013. However Ogilvy (09/10), Byrd (11) and Stricker (12) are standard 290 yard average drivers alongside defending champion Zach Johnson, more than highlighting that it's actually consistent long approaches allied to excellent wedge play that is critical here rather than brute power.
Kapalua is a course where Driving Accuracy takes a back seat. Instead the key to success here is accurate approach play and conversion of scoring chances with the putter. Course conditions for 2015 look virtually perfect for low scoring with receptive greens and low winds forecast for all bar Monday's play. I'm expecting a target score of -20/272 to be in contention.
All winners here since 2009 have played the tournament at least twice before securing victory and that highlights the quirky nature of the course and especially the vast, undulating, grainy TifEagle Bermudagrass greens. They are extremely difficult to read, so look for excellent putters who are comfortable on Bermuda. It's also apparent that 5 of the last 6 winners here all played competitive golf in the previous December, be that in Australia, or at Tiger's Challenge and/or the Shark Shoot-Out.
Two more trends worth mentioning: 1) Only 2 reigning Major Champions since 2000 have won this tournament. Tiger Woods in 2000 who interestingly only triumphed once here in 5 attempts and Ernie Els in 2003. Worth thinking about if you fancy Bubba Watson who has always struggled with Strokes Gained Putting on these tricky greens. 2) Working forward from Vijay Singh in 2007, all winners here at Kapalua had shot 19-under or lower to win a PGA Tour tournament previously.
Key Bookmaker Offer: Boylesports are continuing their Cashback if your player finishes Second or Third promotion that has been running consistently a few months now . It's perfect this week for the short field Tournament of Champions. Full details here: Boylesports Golf Cashback.
My selections are as follows:
I don't like win-only bets generally, but at a tournament where short-priced winners prevail Matt Kuchar makes perfect sense this week on a course that he thrives upon. 4 Top-10 finishes here in 5 appearances makes Kapalua Kuchar's second most prolific course behind Muirfield Village (Top 10 finishes at The Memorial directly translate to previous ToC champions). When it comes to low scoring, Matt has had great success on resort courses such as PGA West, (2nd 2010), Dove Mountain (1st 2013), TPC Boston (4th 2013), TPC Summerlin (2nd 2008) and Atunyote (1st 2009). He also has very linkable form across Waialae, Doral (TifEagle Bermuda), GC of Houston, Colonial and Cog Hill. Results at the latter end of 2014 weren't great, but his ball-striking and approach play have been excellent of late and he's shown a real uptrend in December at the Hero World Challenge (8th) and Franklin Templeton Shootout (2nd with Harris English). Kuchar loves to win off the back of immediate form. RESULT: T17
Having backed Chris Kirk here in 2014 I have far more resolve 12 months on that Kapalua is a course where the Georgian can add to his growing collection of titles. Kirk came of age in a 2013/14 season which contained 2 Major Top-20 finishes, Top-5 finishes at Waialae and Muirfield Village, an early season win at Sea Island and a FedEx Cup campaign that included a first 'top grade' victory at TPC Boston and a gutsy debut performance at East Lake (4th) under the most intense pressure that almost yielded the overall season crown. The 29 year-old has always been at home on resort golf courses and his initial PGA Tour victory on the Par 72 of Annandale came with a winning -22/266 total. 2 of Kirk's 3 Tour titles have been on Bermudagrass greens and the University of Georgia graduate led here after 18 holes 12 months ago, plus shot -16 here on course debut across the closing 54 holes in 2012 (winner Steve Stricker shot -18). Kirk loves coastal golf, is dialled in well with his approach irons and played deep into December. I'm expecting no ill effects from a wrist strain that forced him to pull out of the Templeton Shootout which Kirk summarised by saying "A few weeks of rest and I should be fine." RESULT: T14
I will close with Patrick Reed, a Bermuda 'monster' who is due another win very soon. Form of 10(Templeton S)-3(Hero)-22(HSBC) across his last 3 winter outings is decent enough and it's clear that Reed is putting well as he finished with a 1.585 Putting Average at Isleworth where he shot -15/273 when finishing 3rd to Jordan Spieth. It's interesting to note that all 3 of the Texan's Tour wins since August 2013 have been on Bermudagrass greens at Sedgefield (Champion Bermuda), PGA West (TifDwarf Bermuda Poa Trivialis) and Doral (TifEagle Bermuda) and Isleworth also featured the TifEagle variety. A streaky putter and scorer (his win at PGA West featured a -28/260 total), Reed debuted well here 12 months ago on a course where his inaccuracy off the tee isn't punished; he was 13th in GIR and 5th in Putting Average which saw the Texan in the Top 10 after 54 holes. 12 months and 2 wins further down the development curve, I can see Reed seriously contending this week. RESULT: Winner
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