Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Sentry Tournament Of Champions Tips

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Happy New Year to you all and welcome to 2020 on the PGA Tour and my Sentry Tournament of Champions tips that kicks-off the new year.

The PGA Tour begins as ever on the island of Maui, Hawaii. The traditional Tournament of Champions winners-only event is always a tricky betting heat on a spectacular and unique coastal course.

Brooks Koepka, Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, Francesco Molinari, Phil Mickelson and C.T. Pan are amongst the no-shows, leaving a depleted field of 34 to slug it out for this well-respected title. Big names are missing but we still have Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, defending champion Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay heading the market. You can add Patrick Reed, Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey and Matt Kuchar at the top end. Tournament debutants like Champ, Morikawa, Niemann and Wolff add to the intrigue with players looking to make a fast start to 2020.

Before we go into the detail surrounding my Sentry Tournament of Champions tips for this year, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as the golfing year kicks off. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) our Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private Facebook Group on Facebook which now boasts over 5,000 members – you can Join Here.

2020 Majors Competition Sponsored By bet365: bet365

Following on from the success of the last 8 annual GBS Majors competitions, bet365 have kindly offered to sponsor the 2020 edition with a massive £250 CASH prize fund! Our 2020 winner will receive £150 (or currency equivalent) in cash with additional £75 and £25 prizes for 2nd and 3rd place finishers.

Basically we want you to pick a single player for each of the 4 Majors any time before the start of the 2020 Masters and get those 4 names entered into the competition by one of the methods detailed on our rules page here. Best of luck all!

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Course Guide: From a course design perspective, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw these days are most famously known for their renovation masterpiece at Pinehurst Number 2 and the new inland links-style course at Trinity Forest in Dallas, Texas. However their Plantation Course design at Kapalua, which was 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 with long drives, aggressive play and impressively low scoring. Scratch a little deeper though and it becomes apparent that the course can be mastered just as well by shorter, accurate types who can putt the lights out over 4 days of competition. 2020 will see Plantation open its doors to a fresh renovation, again managed by Coore and Crenshaw. A $12 million tee-to-green project, every part of the 28 year old course has been re-worked including tee boxes, bunkers, fairways, drainage and green complexes.

The Plantation Course at Kapalua, Lahaina, Hawaii: Designer: Coore & Crenshaw, 1991, with 2019 renovation; Course Type: Coastal, Resort; Par: 73; Length: 7,596 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 0; Fairways Celebration Bermudagrass; Rough: Celebration Bermudagrass, 2″; Greens: 7,120 sq.ft TifEagle Bermudagrass; Stimpmeter: 10ft. Course Scoring Average 2012: 70.44 (-2.66), Difficulty Rank 48 of 49 courses. 2013: 72.11 (-0.89), Difficulty Rank 32 of 43 courses. 2014: 70.58 (-2.42), Rank 47 of 48 courses. Course Scoring Average 2015: 69.93 (-3.07), Difficulty Rank 52 of 52 courses. 2016: 69.81 (-3.19), Difficulty Rank 50 of 50 courses. 2017: 70.38 (-2.64), Difficulty Rank 50 of 50 courses. 2018: 71.22 (-1.78), Difficulty Rank 47 of 51 courses. 2019: 70.92 (-2.08), Difficulty Rank 44 of 49 courses.

sentry tournament of champions tips

Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for The Plantation Course and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on Tour:

  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 59 yards wide; 275:61; 300:65; 325:60; 350:62.
  • Seaside Course: 250 yards from the tee: 42 yards wide; 275:40; 300:34; 325:31; 350:23.
  • TPC Summerlin: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:37; 300:33; 325:30; 350:31.
  • Silverado: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:24; 325:25; 350:24.
  • CC of Jackson: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:29; 325:28; 350:25.
  • Old White TPC: 250 yards from the tee: 36 yards wide; 275:34; 300:34; 325:35; 350:32.
  • East Lake: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:25; 325:24; 350:22.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Coore/Crenshaw designs include:

  • Pinehurst Number 2 – 2014 U.S. Open
  • Trinity Forest Golf Club – 2018/19 AT&T Byron Nelson

Course Overview: Let’s start by headlining the Coore and Crenshaw renovation on the Plantation Course which took place between February and October last year. How it will affect scoring and playability naturally remains to be seen, but Coore describes the goal of the project as “to restore the playability of the golf course that it used to have and has diminished through the years.” He goes on to say, “Anyone who played here in the early years knows that the course played much firmer and faster than it does and has been in the last decade. The fairways may be hugely wide, but if the ground is firm and fast even the best players in the world have to pick a proper line to play, otherwise their ball is carried by the wind and the slope into some area they might not prefer.

Other key parts of the 2019 work includes re-positioned tee boxes which take into account the fact that Maui now receives less wind than it did when the original course was designed. Hole yardages have changed therefore. Bunkers have been re-positioned, and the whole course has been re-grassed with Celebration Bermudagrass from tee to green and TifEagle Bermudagrass on the green surfaces. Many greens have also been re-contoured, as have green entrances. Quite significant changes all in all, which may well see experienced Kapalua hands having to rip up their well-researched course and yardage notes.

The scoring at Kapalua is always shaped by the strength of the local winds. For 2020 expect strong Trade (easterly) winds, across Friday, Saturday and Sunday, which will make the course play shorter. We will genuinely see what the renovation has done to scoring, but in my view it’s likely to be a few shots trickier in this renewal.

Plantation seems long at circa 7,600 yards, but 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. In total the layout features 6 sub-400 yard par-4s. This makes it possible to score heavily with 10 of the 18 holes last term playing easier than their Par – that number was 12 of 18 in 2017 when lighter winds were in play.

The course has the largest amount of elevation changes on the whole PGA Tour, creating blind shots and plenty of uneven lies. Large greens will feature freshly laid TifEagle Bermudagrass carpet, with less severe contours. This combination puts a premium on accurate approach play from the fairway, alongside excellent lag putting to minimise the inevitable long distance 3-putts.

The key to this test tends to be top-class wind play allied to conquering the uniquely contoured and huge 7,000+ sq.ft average green complexes. Eagles and birdies are on offer to those who can putt well on greens where getting close to the hole is a particularly difficult task – indeed Kapalua has ranked inside the top 10 most difficult courses in terms of Proximity to Hole every year since 2011. Tie the difficulty in getting close to the pin in with the fact that putts are tremendously difficult to read, with grain a huge feature and that there are huge variances in putting speed dependant on whether a putt is uphill, flat or downhill. And for 2020 we have re-contoured greens to boot. Top quality putters who can compile low scores through astute birdie making in tandem with top-notch scrambling to minimise bogeys should undoubtedly be favoured.

Winners: 2019: Xander Schauffele (-23); 2018: Dustin Johnson (-24); 2017: Justin Thomas (-22); 2016: Jordan Spieth (-30); 2015: Patrick Reed (-21); 2014: Zach Johnson (-19); 2013: Dustin Johnson (-15, 54 holes); 2012: Steve Stricker (-23); 2011: Jonathan Byrd (-24); 2010: Geoff Ogilvy (-22).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published 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 | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Paul Casey, Matt Kuchar, Gary Woodland, Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Houston Open and Italian Open, which includes PGA Tour, European Tour and Dunlop Phoenix (Japan Golf Tour) events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Xander Schauffele / Brendon Todd; 4) Chez Reavie / Gary Woodland; 6) Tyler Duncan; 7) Matt Kuchar; 8) Adam Long; 9) Collin Morikawa; 10) Patrick Reed; 11) J.T. Poston; 12) Corey Conners.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Jon Rahm; 2) Corey Conners / Gary Woodland; 4) Xander Schauffele; 5) Justin Thomas; 6) Ryan Palmer; 7) Paul Casey; 8) Tyler Duncan; 9) Patrick Reed; 10) Collin Morikawa; 11) Cameron Champ / Sung Kang.
  • Top 20 Scrambling: 1) Patrick Reed; 2) Brendon Todd; 3) Dylan Frittelli / Kevin Na; 5) Gary Woodland; 6) Sung Kang; 7) Justin Thomas; 8) Ryan Palmer; 9) Chez Reavie; 10) Cameron Champ / Tyler Duncan / Sebastian Munoz.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Xander Schauffele; 2) Jon Rahm; 3) Brendon Todd; 4) J.T. Poston; 5) Justin Thomas; 6) Paul Casey; 7) Gary Woodland; 8) Lanto Griffin; 9) Patrick Reed; 10) Kevin Na; 11) Max Homa / Collin Morikawa.

Winners & Prices: 2019: Xander Schauffele 22/1; 2018: Dustin Johnson 15/2; 2017: Justin Thomas 22/1; 2016: Spieth 5/1; 2015: Reed 22/1; 2014: Zach Johnson 14/1; 2013: Dustin Johnson 14/1; 2012: Stricker 17/2; 2011: Byrd 50/1; 2010: Ogilvy 9/1. Past 6 Renewals Average: 15/1. Average: 17/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2019: Thursday: Partly cloudy and windy. High of 79. Wind ENE 14-22 mph, with gusts to 31 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy and windy. High of 79. Wind ENE 15-25 mph, with gusts to 35 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy and windy. High of 79. Wind ENE 10-16 mph, with gusts to 25 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 80. Wind NNW 5-10 mph.
  • 2018: Thursday: Partly cloudy and breezy. High of 77. Wind ENE 15-25 mph, with gusts to 30 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy and breezy. High of 78. Wind ENE 15-25 mph, with gusts to 30 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy and breezy. High of 77. Wind ENE 15-25 mph, with gusts to 30 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy and windy. High of 77. Wind ENE 18-28 mph, with gusts to 35 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Mostly clear skies with an isolated shower in the afternoon. High of 73. Wind NNE 5-10 mph. Friday: Sunny. High of 75. Wind NNE 10-15 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny. High of 75. Wind NNE 10-15 mph. Sunday: Sunny. High of 76. Wind ENE 10-15 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Sunny and warm. High of 81. Wind N at 6-12 mph. Friday: Sunny and warm. High of 81. Wind WSW at 6-12 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy. High of 80. Wind SW at 10-20 mph. Sunday: Sunny. High of 81. Wind at W 6-12 mph.
  • 2015: Friday: Partly cloudy and warm, with temperatures in the high-70s. ESE wind shifting W at 10-12 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 80. ENE wind at 10 mph. Sunday: Sunny. High of 80. Wind WSW at 10 mph. Monday: Mostly sunny. High of 80. Wind WSW at 10 mph.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Maui is here. I’m expecting a course with plenty of roll-out this week at Kapalua. Less rain in the build-up, allied to a renovation project that has built in better drainage with the aim of firmer conditions, should bear fruit. The Plantation course is one of the most wind-affected on the PGA Tour and for 2020 expect strong trade (north easterly) winds across Friday, Saturday and Sunday

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of winners since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2019, Xander Schauffele (-23). 280 yards (14th), 78.3% fairways (15th), 81.9% greens in regulation (5th), 40’0″ proximity to hole (20th), 69.2 % scrambling (8th), 1.66 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2018, Dustin Johnson (-24). 296 yards (2nd), 65.0% fairways (18th), 77.8% greens in regulation (8th), 45’8″ proximity to hole (23rd), 68.8 % scrambling (6th), 1.63 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2017, Justin Thomas (-22). 302 yards (3rd), 73.3% fairways (17th), 87.5% greens in regulation (2nd), 32’8″ proximity to hole (3rd), 66.7 % scrambling (12th), 1.68 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2016, Jordan Spieth (-30). 284 yards (17th), 73.3% fairways (12th), 83.3% greens in regulation (11th), 34’11” proximity to hole (3rd), 83.3 % scrambling (3rd), 1.62 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2015, Patrick Reed (-21). 282 yards (4th), 66.7% fairways (27th), 80.6% greens in regulation (15th), 44’8″ proximity to hole (25th), 85.7 % scrambling (2nd), 1.69 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2014, Zach Johnson (-19). 267 yards (23rd), 83.3% fairways (8th), 77.8% greens in regulation (17th), 35’5″ proximity to hole (3rd), 81.3 % scrambling (2nd), 1.73 putts per GIR (9th).
  • 2013, Dustin Johnson (-15). 280 yards (2nd), 51.1% fairways (30th), 88.9% greens in regulation (2nd), 36’6″ proximity to hole (2nd), 50.0% scrambling (18th), 1.75 putts per GIR (3rd).
  • 2012, Steve Stricker (-23). 268 yards (15th), 66.7% fairways (11th), 81.9% greens in regulation (13th), 35’8″ proximity to hole (4th), 69.2% scrambling (1st), 1.68 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2011, Jonathan Byrd (-24). 273 yards (21st), 80.0% fairways (11th), 86.1% greens in regulation (10th), 34”11″ proximity to hole (10th), 70.0% scrambling (1st), 1.69 putts per GIR (8th).
  • 2010, Geoff Ogilvy (-22). 274 yards (19th), 71.7% fairways (16th), 84.7% greens in regulation (12th), 37’10” proximity to hole (10th), 63.6% scrambling (2nd), 1.64 putts per GIR (1st).

Tournament Skill Averages:

Driving Distance: 12th, Driving Accuracy: 17th, Greens in Regulation: 9th, Proximity to Hole: 10th, Scrambling: 6th, Putting Average 3rd.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2019, Xander Schauffele (-23). SG Off the Tee: 5th, SG Approach: 4th, SG Around the Green: 4th, SG Tee to Green: 3rd, SG Putting: 3rd.
  • 2018, Dustin Johnson (-24). SG Off the Tee: 1st, SG Approach: 7th, SG Around the Green: 4th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 6th.
  • 2017, Justin Thomas (-22). SG Off the Tee: 3rd, SG Approach: 7th, SG Around the Green: 13th, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 4th.
  • 2016, Jordan Spieth (-30). SG Off the Tee: 6th, SG Approach: 6th, SG Around the Green: 1st, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 1st.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 4th, SG Approach: 6th, SG Around the Green: 6th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 4th.

So let’s take a view from players as to how the Plantation course sets up and what skills the course favours:

Xander Schauffele: “Yesterday I made a lot of mistakes on the back nine and being in San Diego, it’s hard to practice in a whole lot of wind. So we got a little more comfy today versus yesterday. Wind wise, it was pretty much east to, northeast, so it was the same direction. So the lines and everything else was the same for the most part. As a comfort aspect that definitely helped. Yeah, it’s an uncomfortable walk, but it will never get old and the views also won’t get old. So the more times you can play on a piece of property like this the more it will help.”

Dustin Johnson: “The first time you play it, maybe it’s a big golf course, the greens are really slopey and you kind of – and, too, when you’re playing practice rounds, the pins are always in some funny spots. But the more you play this golf course, the more you get used to it, the more you kind of know how to get yourself around it. Because sometimes it’s one of those courses where you really got to be on right side of the pin, whether you’re on the green or off the green, if you’re on the right side you know you can still make pars. But there’s a lot of opportunities for birdie. You got two holes that are somewhat drivable, four par-5s that you can reach. So it just all depends really. The greens are rolling pretty good, they’re a little slow, you can be a lot more aggressive. But I’m kind of with them though, I didn’t see that many under the first time I came here either. A big key with these greens with them being grainy and that is putting a good roll on it. I feel like I’m doing that. Just trusting the lines you got to hit them on. The greens are tricky to read. I had a few putts today that really – good birdie putts where I thought I had a good read on it and just the ball went opposite of what I thought, it’s just going to happen out here. So for me I just got to stay patient and try not to get too frustrated.

Justin Thomas: “Today was the hardest for sure. It was a little windier. The greens are getting a little faster. They are still not, I’m sure, up to the pace that they would like with all the rain, but they are starting to get a little firmer, a little faster. The wind just makes it a lot harder to putt. And yesterday was pretty calm. It was about as easy as you could get this golf course. Then Thursday, it was, you know, a normal Kapalua wind, ten to 15. They have been similar but a little different, if that makes sense. Just kind of different versions of a little windy. It’s a course where you can just get so hot. You can realistically, 11 can be a tough hole, and 17 is a tough hole. But other than that, you’ve got a wedge in your hand or you’re looking at a lot of birdie holes and potentially eagle holes. I was just trying to tell myself that even though I made a bad bogey on 7, I hit a good putt on 8, just missed, and then just missed a wood over a 3-footer on 9 to birdie. Could have been 5-under on the front, but still being 2-under, I could still shoot 6-, 7-under on the back and post a low one. That was kind of my mind frame just going through the back nine.

Jordan Spieth: “Whether it’s a short putt, or long, you just really got to hit it. I played a couple putts today – trickiest reads for me were ones where the entire mountain and grain is going one way, but you’re on the back side – like putts like I had on 17. I had one where that back side of that green’s pitched back the other way. You want to play gravity, but you know there’s an effect from the hill, from the slope and you know there’s an effect from the gradual slope down the mountain and the grain. And each time I try to almost out smart it and play it towards the water and it actually turned back into the hill. So I’ll keep a note of that. But for the most part, if you’re hitting anything from really five feet out into the grain uphill, it is just tough to hit hard enough. Especially in the last group because they get a little spiked up and they’re even slower.

Patrick Reed: “The golf course fits my eye really well. A lot of the holes, seems like I can work it right-to-left and I’ve worked really hard this off-season on not only working the ball right-to-left but also working it left-to-right, so I can have both shots.

Zach Johnson: “Well, I guess there was an intimidation factor there just because of the length of it. You know, score card length, and you get a few winds out here where the course does play long. You know, you get the trades, it doesn’t feel like it plays that long. But I was intimidated, not necessarily just because of the yardage, though. Because of the greens. They’re just so hard to putt. I mean they’re big; they’re undulating. A flat putt is pretty slow. The ones down grain are super fast. The ones in the grain are obviously super slow. So the greens are still intimidating. What I’ve grown to know is you’re going to hit good putts and they’re just not going to go in, because there’s so much break. So once I embraced that fact, I think things have kind of settled down a little bit mentally. It’s just hard. Everybody is going to hit it you’re going to hit a lot of fairways, you’re going to hit a lot of greens and you’re going to miss a lot of putts.

Geoff Ogilvy: “Does it help to hit it long around here? It helps, I think. I don’t think I’m long anymore. I’m long enough. It gives longer hitters room to have a go at it, you know. There’s a lot of holes here where you just hit it as hard as you can and have a little bit of concern for where it goes but a lot less than normal. So I guess it’s an advantage to hit it long because you can, it’s always an advantage to hit it long. There’s a lot of holes here where it’s probably a super advantage. Like 18 is unreachable for the non-long guys but the long guys, it’s exponential. Every ten yards you hit it, you get an extra 20 yards. But a good wind player and a good putter is going to do the best out here I think.

Steve Stricker: “Yeah, you have to learn here. It takes a while to learn here. It’s a little bit different than what we are typically used to. There’s big undulating greens, a lot of slope in the fairways. But I think the biggest challenge is the greens and the wind once you get on the greens. The wind can blow and make putting very difficult, and even the roll out in the greens that we typically have, which we are not seeing as much here. So it’s a challenge to hit some of these shots, and you expect that ball to roll out or release a lot, and it’s not now. So that’s a little different, too, and something to get used to. But it’s a course where a lot of local knowledge helps you out a lot and the more times you play here, the better off you are.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 10 Tournament of Champions winners:

  • 2019 – Xander Schauffele: Round 1: 19th, Round 2: 6th, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2018 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Justin Thomas: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2016 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2015 – Patrick Reed: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2014 – Zach Johnson: Round 1: 5th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 4th.
  • 2013 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st.
  • 2012 – Steve Stricker: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2011 – Jonathan Byrd: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2010 – Geoff Ogilvy: Round 1: 11th, Round 2 3rd, Round 3: 2nd.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 10 winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2019 – Xander Schauffele: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 5 back.
  • 2018 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2017 – Justin Thomas: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 2 ahead.
  • 2016 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 4 ahead, Round 3: 5 ahead.
  • 2015 – Patrick Reed: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2014 – Zach Johnson: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 3 ahead, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2013 – Dustin Johnson: Round 1: level, Round 2: 3 ahead.
  • 2012 – Steve Stricker: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 5 ahead, Round 3: 5 ahead.
  • 2011 – Jonathan Byrd: Round 1: level, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: level.
  • 2010 – Geoff Ogilvy: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 1 back.

Incoming form of winners since 2010:

  • Xander Schauffele: 8th WC/16th DPWTC/1st HSBC/48th CJ Cup.
  • Dustin Johnson: 14th WC/2nd HSBC/17th Tour Championship/33rd BMW.
  • Justin Thomas: 5th Templeton S/4th Dunlop Phoenix/23rd HSBC/1st CIMB.
  • Jordan Spieth: 4th WC/2nd Aus Open/7th HSBC/1st Tour Championship.
  • Patrick Reed: 10th Shark Shoot/3rd WC/22nd HSBC/26th CIMB.
  • Zach Johnson: 1st WC/16th McGladrey/ 40th Shriners/7th Tour Championship.
  • Dustin Johnson: 7th Shark Shoot/13th WC/39th HSBC/47th Dunhill Links.
  • Steve Stricker: 4th Shark Shoot/16th WC/15th Tour Championship/WD BMW.
  • Jonathan Byrd: 1st Shriners/30th Fry’ McGladrey/5th Viking.
  • Geoff Ogilvy: 7th Aus PGA/31st Aus Open/4th Dubai/32nd Australian Masters.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their group and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2019 – Tway – Group 2/17 -7/66 – 50/1
  • 2018 – Leishman – Group 15/17 -6/67 – 20/1
  • 2017 – Walker – Group 12/16 -8/65 – 25/1
  • 2016 – Reed – Group 16/16 -8/65.
  • 2015 – Henley – Group 13/17 -8/65.
  • 2014 – Kirk (8/15), Simpson, Spieth (both 13/15), Thompson (4/15) -7/66.
  • 2013 – D Johnson (7/7), Wilson (4/7), Watney (6/7) -4/69.
  • 2012 – Jonathan Byrd – Group 14/14 -6/67.
  • 2011 – Byrd (4/17), Pettersson (7/17) -7/66.
  • 2010 – Glover – Group 10/14 -7/66.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 6 – Dustin Johnson.
  • 4 – Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas.
  • 3 – Matt Kuchar, Ryan Palmer.
  • 2 – Paul Casey, Rickie Fowler, Kevin Kisner, Jon Rahm, Xander Schauffele.
  • 1 – Cameron Champ, Tyler Duncan, Lanto Griffin, J.B. Holmes, Max Homa, Adam Long, Graeme McDowell, Keith Mitchell, Sebastian Munoz, J.T. Poston, Brendon Todd, Gary Woodland.

Kapalua is a course where Driving Accuracy and Greens in Regulation take something of a back seat. Instead the key to success here is accurate approach play and conversion of scoring chances with the putter. Course conditions for 2020 sees strong Trade winds (north-easterly) which sees the course play shorter and still scoreable for the closing 54 holes, after a calm Thursday. But a freshly renovated course, in tandem with winds gusting up to 40 mph, is likely to negatively impact on scoring to a certain degree.

10 of the last 11 winners here all played competitive golf in the previous December, be that in Australia or at Tiger’s Hero World Challenge and/or the QBE Shoot Out. Working forward from Vijay Singh in 2007, all winners, bar last year’s champion Xander Schauffele, had shot -19 or lower to win a PGA Tour tournament previously in their career.

My Sentry Tournament Of Champions Tips Are As Follows:

Justin Thomas 4pts Win 11/2 Enhanced Win Only With Boylesports

The 3 single-digit prices at the top of the market all have their merits as you would expect, and in reality it’s like splitting hairs in terms of decision making if you’re that way inclined. Statistically 4 of the past 10 Tournament of Champions winners have been at single-digits and that becomes 2 of the past 4 winners in Spieth (2016) and Dustin Johnson (2018). With 2 victories and a runner-up finish in his last 3 outings, World Number 3 Jon Rahm is the rightful favourite. Defending champion Xander Schauffele is a 7/1 shot and that price is about right based upon 3 straight stroke play top 10s including runner-up at the WGC HSBC Champions. He also earned 3 points at the Presidents Cup in his last outing.

However I’m of the opinion that Justin Thomas is ripe to collect his 12th PGA Tour victory this week. The 2017 Tournament of Champions victor here on the Plantation Course, Thomas since mid-August has won at Medinah, finished 9th at East Lake, 4th at Silverado, won at Jeju Island, finished 19th at Narashino Country Club and 5th at Albany on his last strokeplay tournament at the start of December. That outing showed a level of self-confidence and maturity for me, as he played all 4 rounds under the glare of being paired with Tiger Woods throughout. Many have wilted under that kind of pressure, but Thomas matched Woods pretty much blow for blow on a course which has never delivered for JT previously.

Onto the Presidents Cup and Thomas’s reputation only improved as he won both matches when paired with Tiger and was unbeaten in 2 matches with Rickie Fowler. Yes he lost a tight singles 2&1 to Cameron Smith, but 3.5 points from 5 matches saw Justin close as top USA points scorer, level with Abraham Ancer and Sungjae Im as combined top scorers. Match play is match play, but World Number 4 Thomas must be flying to Maui with big ambitions. 1st here in 2017 and 3rd here 12 months ago in a period when he was struggling with the putter, Justin putted beautifully across Jeju Island, Albany and Royal Melbourne at the close of 2019. It’s not a big price, but I’m struggling to see any with better chances this week. Result: Winner

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Gary Woodland 3pts EW 16/1 (5EW, 1/5) with William Hill

The average winning price of the winner here since 2016 is 17/1, so I’m happy to take on last year’s runner-up here Gary Woodland at 16/1. At this price I prefer him over shorter-priced Patrick Cantlay and Rickie Fowler, although the bigger decision for me was whether to go with Woodland or Patrick Reed at this price range.

In the end I have gone with the reigning U.S. Open champion, who of course captured his first Major Championship on the Pacific coast at Pebble Beach. In fact Woodland has always been at his most comfortable on the West Coast of the United States and his form at season openers in Hawaii are well worthy of note. 12th in 2014 (Plantation), 3rd in 2015 (Sony Open at Waialae), 13th in 2016 (Waialae), 6th in 2017 (Waialae), 7th in 2018 (Waialae) and 2nd in 2019 (Plantation) clearly highlight a player who’s comfortable on the ‘Aloha Swing’ and who keeps his game ticking over in the off-season.

Ultimately though, Woodland’s downtime has been short after gaining 1.5 points at the President’s Cup in Australia in December. Strokeplay-wise, he was 54 hole leader at Tiger’s World Challenge at the start of December before finishing 7th. Prior to that 20th and 5th in Japan and 3rd on Jeju Island in South Korea highlight that the World Number 17 is in strong form.

I genuinely believe that a trip to Plantation this week is the perfect timing for a player who ranked 2nd for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and 7th for Strokes Gained Putting here 12 months ago, when beaten only by the astonishing closing round -11/62 of Xander Schauffele. Result: T7

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Brendon Todd 1pt EW 45/1 (5EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Backing a hot hand is no bad play in the season opener at Kapalua and Brendon Todd is certainly that.

Up the mere matter of 459 places in the Official World Golf Rankings since the start of November, the University of Georgia product won on the coast in Bermuda, then won the week after on the Gulf of Mexico coast at the Mayakoba Golf Classic. Entering the RSM Classic on Sea Island the week after, he had the chance of becoming the first player since Tiger Woods in 2006 to win 3 straight tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule.  And Brendon gave it a fantastic go leading by 2 shots after 54 holes, before the magnitude of the situation saw him shoot a +2/72 on Sunday, eventually finishing 4th.  Todd then went on to finish 3rd at the QBE Shootout with Billy Horschel in mid-December, finishing 3 back of victors Sabbatini and Tway. Safe to say the Atlanta, Georgia resident is in good nick.

A superb short game exponent, Todd is also an excellent wind player who has a single previous outing on the Plantation Course back in 2015. Opening rounds of 69-67 put him a shot off the lead after 36 holes, with Brendon eventually finishing 8th on course debut. Take this statistic with a pinch of salt, but you will find our selection at the top of the Tournament of Champions Average Score chart. Undoubtedly this is a jump in class, but the likes of Harman (33/1), Perez (33/1 & 80/1) and Snedeker (66/1) have all placed here in recent renewals amidst bigger names. Result: 29th

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 13:35GMT 30.12.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.