Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Sentry Tournament of Champions Tips 2022

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Happy New Year to you all and welcome to 2022 on the PGA Tour.

The PGA Tour year 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. Only Rory McIlroy is a no-show from the qualifiers, leaving a high quality 39-player field to slug it out for this well-respected title. Any field featuring Rahm, Morikawa, Cantlay, DeChambeau, Schauffele, Thomas and Hovland has to get the betting juices flowing, with tournament debutants like Burns, Gooch and Higgo adding to the intrigue with players looking to make a fast start to 2022. In an interesting twist, Phil Mickelson also plays his first Tournament of Champions since 2001.

Before we go into the detail surrounding the Sentry Tournament of Champions, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as the season starts. Welcome and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular 6,000-strong private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

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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 inland faux 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 saw 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 was re-worked including tee boxes, bunkers, fairways, drainage and green complexes. 2020 saw it play significantly tougher, with unreceptive greens and very strong winds for the final 54 holes. Last year though saw Harris English shoot -25/267 to win here.

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, 2.5″; Greens: 8,722 sq.ft average featuring TifEagle Bermudagrass; Stimpmeter: 10-10.5ft. 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. 2020: 72.22 (-0.78), Difficulty Rank 20 of 41 courses. 2021: 69.32 (-3.68), Difficulty Rank 51 of 51 courses.

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

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.
  • CC of Jackson: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:29; 325:28; 350:25.
  • Silverado: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:24; 325:25; 350:24.
  • East Lake: 250 yards from the tee: 28 yards wide; 275:26; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.

Course Overview: Let’s start by headlining the Coore and Crenshaw renovation on the Plantation Course which we saw for the first time in competition in 2020. Firmer and flatter putting surfaces were undoubtedly the biggest carry away, with the winning score of -14/278 a significant shift from previous low-scoring renewals. But with light winds and more established green complexes last year, scoring was back to what we expect here at Kapalua. Harris English and Joaquin Niemann both scored -25/267 to make a play-off and the Plantation Course was the easiest on the PGA Tour schedule last season.

Other key parts of the 2019 work included 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 changed therefore, with total yardage up 78 yards to 7,596 yards. Bunkers were re-positioned and the whole course was re-grassed with Celebration Bermudagrass from tee to green and TifEagle Bermudagrass on the green surfaces. Many greens were re-contoured, as were green entrances. Quite significant changes all in all which saw experienced Kapalua hands having to revisit their detailed course notes.

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 8 sub-425 yard par-4s. This makes it possible to score heavily on the 4-shot holes, especially on the back-9. 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 2019-laid TifEagle Bermudagrass carpet, with less severe contours overall. They were far more receptive last year and scoring tumbled as a result.

The key to this test tends to be top-class wind play (not relevant in 2022 seemingly), allied to conquering the uniquely contoured and huge 8,700+ 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 traditionally ranks inside the top 10 most difficult courses in terms of Proximity to Hole every year. 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.

The scoring at Kapalua is always shaped by the strength of the local winds. For 2022 winds will be remarkably light so expect a complete resort scoring-level festival of a tournament.

sentry tournament of champions tips

Winners: 2021: Harris English (-25); 2020: Justin Thomas (-14); 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).

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2021: Round 1 -8; Round 2 -14; Round 3 -21; Round 4 -25.
  • 2020: Round 1 -5; Round 2 -9; Round 3 -11; Round 4 -14.

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 Justin Thomas, Sam Burns, Collin Morikawa, Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Xander Schauffele, Viktor Hovland, Harris English, Patrick Cantlay and Daniel Berger.

Tournament Winners & Prices: 2021: Harris English 33/1; 2020: Justin Thomas 11/2; 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 8 Renewals Average: 21/1; Overall Average: 18/1.

For a full summary of winners’ odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.

Historical Weather:

  • 2021: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 82. Wind ENE 9-18 mph, with gusts to 25 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy to mostly sunny skies in the afternoon, with a high of 82. Wind N/NE 5-10 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy with mostly sunny skies, high of 80. Wind E/NE 8-15 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy. High of 81. Wind ENE 12-17 mph, gusting to 22 mph.
  • 2020: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 80. Wind N/NE 16-22 mph. Friday: Heavy morning showers turning to a mixture of clouds and sunshine in the afternoon. High of 79. Wind NE 20-30 mph, with gusts to 35 mph. Saturday: Scattered morning showers with rain decreasing in the afternoon. High of 79. Wind NE 15-25 mph, with gusts over 30 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy and windy. High of 80. Wind ENE 20-30 mph, with gusts to 40 mph.
  • 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.

292mm of rain in December may lead to a little lushness around the course this week, with the prodigious Plantation course fairway roll-outs potentially impacted. Clearly green speeds will also be slower than we saw in 2020 when the greens were new and potentially slower than last year. The only true defence of this course is plenty of wind, and that certainly won’t be the case this week. With sub-10mph Trade (north easterly) winds across the 4 tournament days, expect tranquil, scoreable conditions. Temperatures will be a pleasant 23 degrees Celsius throughout.

Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top-25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Sanderson Farms / Alfred Dunhill Links Championship which includes both PGA Tour and DP World Tour events. Player’s rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Jordan Spieth; 2) Viktor Hovland; 3) Sungjae Im; 4) Collin Morikawa; 5) Tony Finau; 6) Sam Burns; 7) Abraham Ancer 8) Billy Horschel; 9) K.H. Lee / Justin Thomas; 11) Lucas Herbert; 12) Lucas Glover; 13) Jon Rahm; 14) Joel Dahmen / Marc Leishman; 16) Xander Schauffele; 17) Si Woo Kim / Erik van Rooyen; 19) Max Homa; 20) Brooks Koepka; 21) Kevin Kisner; 22) Harris English; 23) Jason Kokrak; 24) Garrick Higgo; 25) Hideki Matsuyama.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Collin Morikawa; 2) Cameron Smith / Justin Thomas; 4) Sam Burns / Talor Gooch; 6) Xander Schauffele; 7) Viktor Hovland; 8) Tony Finau; 9) Billy Horschel; 10) Marc Leishman; 11) Jason Kokrak; 12) Lucas Glover; 13) Hideki Matsuyama; 14) Joel Dahmen / Sungjae Im / K.H. Lee; 17) Jon Rahm; 18) Si Woo Kim; 19) Garrick Higgo; 20) Cameron Davis / Harris English; 22) Abraham Ancer; 23) Seamus Power; 24) Jordan Spieth; 25) Erik van Rooyen.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Justin Thomas; 2) Matt Jones / Jordan Spieth; 4) Kevin Na; 5) Collin Morikawa; 6) Sungjae Im; 7) Tony Finau; 8) Lucas Herbert; 9) Talor Gooch; 10) Cameron Smith; 11) Xander Schauffele; 12) Sam Burns / Marc Leishman; 14) Garrick Higgo; 15) Harris English; 16) Billy Horschel; 17) Kevin Kisner; 18) K.H. Lee; 19) Hideki Matsuyama; 20) Max Homa / Seamus Power / Patrick Reed; 23) Branden Grace; 24) Abraham Ancer; 25) Cameron Davis.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Justin Thomas; 2) Collin Morikawa; 3) Sungjae Im; 4) Sam Burns; 5) Xander Schauffele; 6) Tony Finau / Jordan Spieth; 8) Talor Gooch / Cameron Smith; 10) Marc Leishman; 11) Billy Horschel; 12) K.H. Lee; 13) Lucas Glover / Jason Kokrak; 15) Viktor Hovland; 16) Jon Rahm; 17) Joel Dahmen / Hideki Matsuyama; 19) Harris English; 20) Matt Jones / Seamus Power; 22) Max Homa; 23) Garrick Higgo; 24) Cameron Davis; 25) Abraham Ancer.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Kevin Na; 2) Collin Morikawa / Cameron Smith; 4) Marc Leishman; 5) Garrick Higgo; 6) Jason Kokrak; 7) Joel Dahmen; 8) Jordan Spieth; 9) Viktor Hovland / Xander Schauffele; 11) Lucas Herbert; 12) Abraham Ancer; 13) Kevin Kisner; 14) Talor Gooch; 15) Patrick Reed; 16) Sam Burns / Branden Grace / Justin Thomas; 19) Sungjae Im / Brooks Koepka; 21) Si Woo Kim; 22) Billy Horschel / K.H. Lee; 24) Max Homa; 15) Seamus Power.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Collin Morikawa; 2) Sam Burns; 3) Cameron Smith; 4) Sungjae Im; 5) Xander Schauffele / Jordan Spieth / Justin Thomas; 8) Marc Leishman; 9) Talor Gooch; 10) Joel Dahmen; 11) Viktor Hovland; 12) Billy Horschel; 13) Jason Kokrak; 14) Garrick Higgo; 15) K.H. Lee; 16) Tony Finau; 17) Kevin Na; 18) Matt Jones; 19) Seamus Power; 20) Max Homa; 21) Abraham Ancer; 22) Lucas Herbert; 23) Jon Rahm; 24) Cameron Davis / Si Woo Kim.

For a summary of the Strokes Gained Performances from this week’s field here at the host Kapalua Plantation Course since 2016 click here.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends: Analysing the Strokes Gained final stats of Sentry winner since 2016 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2021, Harris English (-25). SG Off the Tee: 8th, SG Approach: 12th, SG Around the Green: 25th, SG Tee to Green: 13th, SG Putting: 1st.
  • 2020, Justin Thomas (-14). SG Off the Tee: 6th, SG Approach: 2nd, SG Around the Green: 8th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 13th.
  • 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: 5th, SG Approach: 6th, SG Around the Green: 9th, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 5th.

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

  • 2021, Harris English (-25). 277 yards (25th), 83.3% fairways (14th), 86.1% greens in regulation (3rd), 38’2″ proximity to hole (20th), 70.0 % scrambling (17th), 1.61 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2020, Justin Thomas (-14). 272 yards (11th), 78.3% fairways (19th), 77.8% greens in regulation (3rd), 37’4″ proximity to hole (2nd), 43.8 % scrambling (32nd), 1.66 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 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).

Traditional Skill Set Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 13th, Driving Accuracy: 17th, Greens in Regulation: 8th, Proximity to Hole: 10th, Scrambling: 9th, Putting Average 3rd.

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

Harris English (2021): “I saw Xander finish with a 62 last year and I know it’s out there. I mean, you drive the ball well out here, you’re going to have a lot of short irons, a lot of wedges, and you just got to get your putting dialled in. I feel like did I that today, gave myself a lot of chances, and rolled in a couple longer putts. Yeah, it was awesome. I got off to a really good start, making probably a 20-footer on No. 2, and that’s what you got to do out here. I love these Bermuda greens. I grew up on greens very similar to this. And just got hot with the putter. I felt like I was hitting the ball really welcoming into it, and I feel like my iron game is probably one of my strengths. And I think I only missed two or three greens out there today. I think I chipped one time, so a couple greens I did miss, I was still putting from the fringe. So just overall a really good ball-striking round and good putting round.”

“I know guys have different strategies, but I’m hitting driver a lot this week. I would say more so than a normal golf course. I mean, these fairways are wide, you can be as aggressive as you want to, but it’s still about putting the ball in the fairway. You start putting the ball in the rough, start missing greens, it’s tough to get up-and-down because these greens are pretty gnarly Bermuda grass around the greens and they’re pretty tough to lag putt out here.”

Justin Thomas (2020): “The thing is the pins were front on 1, 2 and 4, and if they’re downwind, you can’t get close to the hole unless you get lucky and land it short or make a long putt. I mean, I landed it literally two inches on the green on 2 and I had about a 45-footer from past the hole. That’s just how it is. Everyone has to play in those conditions, not just me. I understood that those were not really holes I was going to attack and make birdie unless I made a long putt, and I know the back nine you can make a lot of birdies, and I could have birdied nine of the last ten holes today really. I played really, really solidly the last half of the round.”

“Yeah, it was tough all day (Friday). It  was windy all day. That rain was annoying a little bit in the start and not even remotely close to yesterday, but it was still enough in the beginning off and on to make it tough. I mean, it’s just tough out there. It’s tougher. I mean, it makes an easy golf course play harder. It’s the protection of the course. It’s meant to play that way, and with the newer, firmer greens, the scores are obviously a lot higher, and I think the wind and the weather is the cause of that.”

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 12 Sentry winners:

  • 2021 – Harris English: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2020 – Justin Thomas: Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 5th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 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 12 Sentry winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2021 – Harris English: Round 1: level, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: level.
  • 2020 – Justin Thomas: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 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:

  • Harris English: 1st Shark Shoot/5th Mayakoba/6th RSM/28th ZOZO.
  • Justin Thomas: 5th WC/17th ZOZO/1st CJ Cup/4th Safeway.
  • 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 Shark Shoot/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.

  • 2021 – English (16/21), Thomas (21/21) -8/65 – 28/1 & 12/1.
  • 2020 – Niemann – Group 5/17 -7/66 – 30/1
  • 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 – Justin Thomas.
  • 4 – Billy Horschel, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth.
  • 3 – Si Woo Kim, Kevin Kisner.
  • 2 – Sam Burns, Daniel Berger, Harris English, Brooks Koepka, Marc Leishman, Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm, Cameron Smith.
  • 1 – Abraham Ancer, Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Champ, Stewart Cink, Bryson DeChambeau, Talor Gooch, Branden Grace, Lucas Herbert, Garrick Higgo, Max Homa, Sungjae Im, Matt Jones, Jason Kokrak, Collin Morikawa, Kevin Na.

Kapalua is a course where Driving Accuracy and pure 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.

Of the last 6 winners here on the Plantation Course in terms of Strokes Gained, Off the Tee slightly outweighs Approach in terms of importance, but that is by a slight margin. Ultimately though Tee to Green ranks of 13th (English), 2nd (Thomas), 3rd (Schauffele), 1st (Johnson), 1st (Thomas) and 1st (Spieth), highlight that control of the golf ball from Tee to Green will be the essential this week. But be aware that the last 12 winners of the Tournament of Champions have averaged 3rd spot across the Putting Average (Putts per GIR) category. You simply have to take your chances here to win.

12 of the last 13 winners here all played competitive golf in the previous December, be that in Australia (pre-Covid times) or at Tiger’s Hero World Challenge and/or the QBE Shootout. Working forward from Vijay Singh in 2007, all winners bar 2019 champion Xander Schauffele had shot -19 or lower to win a PGA Tour tournament previously in their career.

My selections are as follows:

Collin Morikawa 4pts EW 11/1 (5Ew, 1/5) with Spreadex

I will lead off 2022 with a bet on Collin Morikawa.

I can understand why both Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas are shorter in the market, but both have flaws as bets this week in my view. Naturally the red-hot Viktor Hovland who is going for his 3rd consecutive win also has to be massively respected, but it’s worth noting that Viktor would be the first player since Dustin Johnson in 2017 to rack-up 3 straight wins across high-profile OWGR events. Prior to that it was of course Rory McIlroy who went 3 straight in 2014. In DJ and Rory those names highlight the herculean task Viktor faces this week, so I’m going to swerve.

Instead I’ll take Morikawa. Form since the Tour Championship last autumn/winter reads 2nd at the CJ Cup (we were on-board at 16/1), 1st at the DP World Tour Championship and 5th last time out at the 20-man Hero World Challenge. Of course, Morikawa led by 5 shots after 54 holes, but uncharacteristically shot +4/76 on Sunday – a level par 72 would have seen him in a play off with Viktor Hovland. Whether it was the pressure of becoming World Number 1 with the win, or the fact that he had never had a significant 54-hole lead in his short, but prolific career, it’s pretty irrelevant. One thing I will say is that Morikawa is a 2-time Major winner, 5-time PGA Tour winner, and a DP World Tour Race to Dubai winner at the tender age of just 24. Summary is that he learns quickly on the job!

So with the OWGR Number 1 spot very much up for grabs this week and some Sunday demons from Albany to put right, I expect Collin to fly on his third visit to the Plantation Course. 7th (2020) and 7th (2021) on his 2 visits to Maui, from a Strokes Gained perspective in this field he ranks 5th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green, 3rd for Strokes Gained Ball Striking and 7th for Strokes Gained Total at Kapalua since 2016. Friday and Saturday -8/65s were impressive here 12 months ago and it’s worth noting that since the 2017 season, his Total Strokes Gained on courses featuring Bermudagrass green complexes ranks behind only Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau in this Sentry field. RESULT: T5

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Patrick Reed 1.5pts EW 28/1 (6EW, 1/5) with Ladbrokes

The ultimate horse for the course at a very backable each-way price has to be Patrick Reed.

1st (2015), 2nd (2016), 6th (2017) and 2nd (2020) from 7 appearances here highlights just how much Reed loves this Plantation Course, and you have to say that momentum is starting to build for the Texan.  No missed cuts in his last 5 appearances, he finished 2nd at the Bermuda Championship and 3rd last time out at the Hero World Challenge. Both are coastal courses and both feature TifEagle Bermudagrass greens. Reed also ranked T4 and T5 for last 54-hole and last 36-hole scoring respectively at Albany on his last competitive outing.

Now I’m a believer that 2022 will be a much better year for “Captain America”, who painfully (for him) missed out at the Ryder Cup last year. Within the top 12 for Team USA qualification points, Patrick never received the welcome to the team call from Steve Stricker. So I would be amazed if earning a place within the automatic spots for the Presidents Cup is not a 2022 goal for Reed.

Career-wise, 4 of Patrick’s 9 PGA Tour victories have been on Bermudagrass, with 3 wins – here at Kapalua (2015), Liberty National (2019) and Torrey Pines (2021) – on courses by the coast. And from a Strokes Gained at Kapalua since 2016 perspective, he ranks 11th for Off the Tee, 13th for Tee to Green, 5th for Putting and 10th for Total. RESULT: T15

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Jason Kokrak 1pt EW 40/1 (6Ew, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Harris English won this at 33/1 last year with incoming form of 6th at the RSM Classic, 5th at the Mayakoba Classic and 1st at the QBE Shootout where he partnered Matt Kuchar. So Jason Kokrak at 40/1 looks a decent enough bet to me this week. 1st at the Houston Open and 1st at the QBE Shoot Out when partnering Kevin Na in December, the 36 year-old from Ohio is up to 20th in the OWGR. He’s undoubtedly in hot form and 2 wins on the spin must mean that Jason arrives on Maui, full of confidence.

Now let’s not forget he won his first ever PGA Tour title at the elite no-cut 2020 CJ Cup at Shadow Creek. That field featured the likes of Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Patrick Cantlay, Viktor Hovland, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele. So it’s not as if Jason does not have previous when it comes to winning stacked PGA Tour events.

35th here on course debut 12 months ago, Jason has the course experience that every winner here since 2008 has had. Plus I like his Strokes Gained numbers across my 8-week tracker where in this field he ranks 23rd for Off the Tee, 11th for Approach, 13th for Tee to Green, 6th for Putting and 13th for Current Form. Both his Houston win and his QBE Shoot Out win also came on Bermudagrass green complexes. RESULT: 38th

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 13:20GMT 3.1.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.