SENTRY TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
After it’s brief sabbatical the PGA tour returns to our screens with it’s traditional year opening curtain raiser in Hawaii. A field of 34 will tee it up with Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson the notables who have decided not to make the trip.
The event has been played since 1999 on the Plantation Course at the Kapalua resort in Maui.
The Plantation Course was co designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore and features wide undulating fairways and larger than average undulating Bermuda Greens.
The course is unique on the PGA Tour in that it plays to a Par 73 with 5 Par 5s. Add to this the fact that it plays to just over 7400 yards and you would be forgiven for thinking it would favour bombers, however plenty of average to shorter length hitters have performed well here over the years such as Stricker, Spieth, Reed and Zach Johnson. Infact last years Top 5 was made up of players who finished the year 8th, 26th, 130th, 112th & 75th in driving distance respectively on the years PGA Tour stats
As an oceanside course wind is usually a factor at Kapalua and this year looks to be no different with winds in the region of 20mph forecast for every day.
It has been fairly dry over recent days and as I write there is no rain in the forecast leading up to the event or through the event so look for the course to play fairly firm and fast.
There is always a fair bit of speculation involved for this first event of the New Year as you can never be quite sure as to how prepared the ‘big guns’ will be or how first time winners from the previous ‘fall events’ will play. Will they ride the crest of a wave or will they have spent the festive period with their feet up reflecting on their achievements and come in under prepared?
Having weighed everything up I have decided to go with three players this week as follows;
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA – 12-1 - 3pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 5 FINISH T4th
In his two visits to Kapalua to date Hideki is yet to shoot worse than 70 and has finished 2nd & 3rd. He has shown with his wins at Phoenix and high finishes at Augusta and the CIMB Classic over recent years that once he has decided a course is to his liking he will continue to perform there and I can see another big week for him coming up.
PATRICK CANTLAY – 25-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/4 odds 1st 4 FINISH 15th
With no course form to go on this pick is purely about the fact that [as per my ‘Players to Follow in 2018’ blog] I think Cantlay is in for a big year and I am happy to take a chance that he is in the ‘ride a crest of a wave’ camp from the ‘Fall’ winners and comes out firing.
If he does turn up with his A Game then he is more than capable of mixing it in this field and going home with the trophy.
CAMERON SMITH – 50-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/4 odds 1st 4 FINISH 17th
Another player highlighted in my ‘Players to Follow for 2018’ blog is Cameron Smith and like Cantlay I think he could make a fast start to the new year on the back of his win in the Aussie PGA.
Cameron has shown he has a liking for links style courses and the anticipated firm and fast conditions should suit him.
It’s also worth noting that historically Aussie’s have a great record in this event with Appleby and Ogilvy both multiple winners and I can see Cameron taking to the Plantation Course.