Happy New Year and welcome back to our regularly-scheduled TOUR programming!
I hope you enjoyed your holiday break because it's back to non-stop golf action for the next 11 months.
Let's dive right into this week's Sentry Tournament of Champions which takes place on the beautiful island of Maui.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua has hosted this event since 1999 (19 times). It stretches out to 7,450 yards and features bermudagrass on the putting surfaces. The layout is unique in the sense that it's the only par 73 on TOUR. Being a resort course, it is easy to begin with. Then, add in the par of 73, and it's no wonder that these pros tear it apart on an annual basis.
Over the last seven editions, the field average score (relative-to-par) is -2.52 (70.48 scoring average). Perhaps, that is part of the appeal for winners to make the trip to Maui. It's a nice (guaranteed) paycheck and also a nice way to start your year with some juicy, padded stats. The TOUR could easily convert this to a par 71 if they wanted normal scoring but they want to make these tournament winners look even better and let them relax to open the new year.
With lots of elevation changes and extremely wide landing zones, the course plays much shorter than a typical 7,452-yard layout. Hole No. 15, in particular, plays more than 150 feet downhill and will play the host of many long drives this week. Anything less than 350 yards off the tee here at No. 15 is actually on the shorter side most days.
Situated right on the coast, the wind is the courses only defense, but even that is a weak defense, given the width of the fairways.
Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play...
Rickie Fowler: "Outside of Augusta, I mean it’s probably the only place where you get lies like that. And TV doesn’t do it justice. I was on 17 kind of above the hole after I tried to cover the ball, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t even really that bad of a swing. It was just that much slope. I stepped through like Gary Player used to. But you never get those lies really anywhere else."
Brooks Koepka: "But it’s all about putting here. The best putters are going to win. They’re so grainy and it kind of like, it reminds me a little bit of Augusta on the greens. You can have six feet and it might break a foot, foot and a half."
Hideki Matsuyama: "Obviously I haven’t played a golf course that has so much undulation, up-and-downs and where the views are so beautiful. So yeah, this is the first time playing something like this."
Geoff Ogilvy: "It’s a perfect first week of the year for us, too. It has plenty of space off the tee, you can make plenty of birdies if you play well and you’re watching whales breach off the coast. It’s an incredible place. I don’t know why I’ve done well there but it suits what I do well. I do well with a wedge and it’s a real wedge-based course. The greens putt like Melbourne greens with big sweeping putts, 30-foot putts that break 12 feet."
Carl Pettersson: I think the Australians do well here because they have their season in their off-season. They go back to Australia and play a few events, so they’re sort of — they’re not quite as tournament rusty as the rest of us are."
Overview: We see Augusta National thrown out quite a few times, due to the extreme slopes from tee-to-green but also the sweeping nature of the greens. Carl Pettersson brought up a good point, as well; Keep an eye out for golfers that have remained active well into December. It's much easier to return from a 4-to-6 week break than returning from a 2-month layoff. There is plenty of space off the tee, which turns it into a second-shot course or a "wedge-based course" as Ogilvy suggested.
Check out the Fantasy Golfanac on Future of Fantasy for more quotes.
Looking at past performance, golfer quotes, and course setup, the following events show up as potential pointers: The Masters, Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Valspar Championship, DEAN & DELUCA, and The Memorial Tournament.
The current forecast calls for temperatures in the mid 70s.
Situated right on the coast, the wind is always a big factor here. As of now, wind forecasts sit in the 12-to-18 MPH range throughout the week with gusts potential sneaking up to the 20 MPH mark. That should lead to some second-guessing on approach shots, but the lack of big gusts should keep the scoring low.
Players to Watch
Has played 12 competitive rounds at Kapalua. He's been inside the top 3 after nine of those rounds (75%). Add in the comparisons to Augusta National (where Spieth has feasted) and this course appears tailor-made for the newly-engaged Texan.
The Aussie should be beaming with confidence as he makes his first start since winning the Australian PGA Championship back home at the beginning of December. Australians won this event five times between 2014 and 2010 (Ogilvy x2, Appleby x3). They've been in a drought since, but Smith could change that. His short game can catch fire quickly. For a few examples, we can look at the 2017 Valero and the 2015 Heritage. He gained 10.6 strokes around-the-green during the 2017 Valero and also gained 10.6 strokes putting in a single week, way back at the 2015 Heritage.
Another Aussie who should be ready to rock, given he was playing in the Australian PGA Championship just five weeks ago (T4 finish). Leishman's last appearance at this event came way back in 2013, where he'd go on to finish T23. He's a much-improved golfer this time around, so gamers should look for Leish to make some waves on the leaderboard. Jonas Blixt was also in that Australian PGA field (MC).
Geoff Ogilvy called this a wedge-based course. There are eight par 4s at 420 yards or shorter here at Kapalua. Given the wide landing zones and big elevation changes, most golfers will be approaching these greens from the fairway with a wedge or low iron in hand. That is the perfect type of course for Bryan who generally struggles to keep up off the tee, but is electric with his irons and wedges. Could be a great value play for DFS rosters this week.
The Hero World Challenge is another leaderboard to look at for recent form. Who did we find at the top of that board? None other than Rickie Fowler. Last year's Hero winner (Hideki Matsuyama) parlayed his Hero win into a runner-up finish here in Hawaii.
Has played here three times, walking away with finishes of 21st, 5th, and T18th. That doesn't leap off the page, considering the limited field. However, he's positioned himself T9 or better after 7-of-12 rounds, so his results are actually better than the final positions would lead you to believe. His win last year to qualify came at Muirfield Village, another course with very generous landing areas.
Ranking the Field
|1. Jordan Spieth|
|2. Dustin Johnson|
|3. Rickie Fowler|
|4. Jon Rahm|
|5. Justin Thomas|
|6. Hideki Matsuyama|
|7. Marc Leishman|
|8. Patrick Cantlay|
|9. Brooks Koepka|
|10. Cameron Smith|
|11. Austin Cook|
|12. Kevin Kisner|
|13. Wesley Bryan|
|14. Pat Perez|
|15. Jason Dufner|
|16. Brendan Steele|
|17. Brian Harman|
|18. Daniel Berger|
|19. Russell Henley|
|20. Xander Schauffele|
|21. Kevin Chappell|
|22. Adam Hadwin|
|23. Bryson DeChambeau|
|24. Hudson Swafford|
|25. Kyle Stanley|
|26. Si Woo Kim|
|27. Billy Horschel|
|28. Patton Kizzire|
|29. Jhonattan Vegas|
|30. Ryan Armour|
|31. Grayson Murray|
|32. Chris Stroud|
|33. D.A. Points|
|34. Jonas Blixt|
Be on the lookout for our Expert Picks column which gets posted every Tuesday. Also, look for a new DFS feature which will publish on Wednesdays and help you make final preparations for your DFS rosters.