Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Kapalua Resort & Spa
The Plantation Course
Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii
The Plantation Course
Par: 73 (36-37)
Rough: Bermudagrass at 2”
Water Hazards: 0
Course Architects: Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (1991)
Winner’s Share: $1,114,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Dates: January 9-12
Notes: The 34 players will play all four rounds (no cut)
Notes II: The tournament begins FRIDAY and ends MONDAY NIGHT.
Welcome back #FantasyGolfNerds!
I hope you all had a wonderful and relaxing holiday season and I also hope you’re ready for 40 consecutive weeks of fantasy action!
Charley Hoffman shut the door on the 2014 portion of the schedule, for those of you playing PGA TOUR games, with his victory at the OHL/Mayakoba.
For the crazy gamers, like me, we lined up and got after the events in Australia, Asia and wherever else they were teeing it up to conclude 2014. For those of you scoring at home, Arjun Atwal, who I selected in my weekly game with my degenerate friends, was the final major-tour champion of the year as he won in Dubai on December 21.
We get right back into the swing of things with our normal schedule this week even though the golf is nowhere near normal. Remember, the tournament begins FRIDAY and the coverage on Monday is PRIMETIME in the EST as a lead in to the College Football National Championship game.
As reported by #FantasyGolfNerds in our season-beginning chat, the GolfChannel.com has reset; the Yahoo! game has restarted and reshuffled after not running during the first seven events. PGATOUR.com is up and running as well along with all the DFS games.
Rob Bolton, Ned Brown, Ryan O’Sullivan and Josh Culp will cover ALL of these angles in our weekly columns. We’re also pleased as punch to add Dave Tindall to our rotation to keep an eye on the lads in his backyard on the European Tour.
We have you covered no matter which angles you’re playing in 2015.
With that, we welcome you aboard. Please unfasten your seatbelt and move around the cabin. It’s now safe for you to use your wireless devices to hit us up for anything. If you need anything, please press the SEND button from your email platform and we’ll get with you as soon as possible. We thank you for flying Rotoworld Golf Airlines. Sit back, relax and enjoy your flight to the top of your fantasy games!
And Now, the Particulars
The 2014-15 schedule moves into the 2015 part as the HTOC will be the eight of 47 tournaments this season. The first seven events took place in October and November and the winners of those events are eligible to tee it up this week.
There were 45 tournaments last season and the USA won 28 of them, down from 31 victories in only 40 events in 2013. The USA has won six of the first seven events after Sang-moon Bae won the opening event at Silverado. There are 40 events left in 2015.
Past Champions & Trends
After years of competition at La Costa in Carlsbad, Calif., the HTOC landed on Maui and The Plantation Course at Kapalua in 1999 and hasn’t looked back. If you are into “underdogs” or “longshots” this week will not be the week to unleash them. Take a look at the past winners on this track:
1999: David Duval -26
2000: Tiger Woods -16*
2001: Jim Furyk -18
2002: Sergio Garcia -18*
2003: Ernie Els -31
2004: Stuart Appleby -22
2005: Stuart Appleby -21
2006: Stuart Appleby -8*
2007: Vijay Singh -14
2008: Daniel Chopra -18*
2009: Geoff Ogilvy -24
2010: Geoff Ogilvy -22
2011: Jonathan Byrd -24*
2012: Steve Stricker -23
2013: Dustin Johnson -16*
2014: Zach Johnson -18**
*Won in a playoff
**First time in five 72-hole tournaments the winning score has been less than 22-under. #golowbro
Daniel Chopra and Jonathan Byrd are really the “no-names” that have won this event. Chopra won his only two TOUR events within a three month period concluding with this event; Byrd has won five times on TOUR, hardly shabby by any standards. I find it interesting that they both won in a playoff as well. Weird.
In 16 events, a playoff has been needed to determine the winner six times.
Dustin Johnson won a rain-shortened edition (54-holes) in 2013 but still posted 16-under.
Aussies Stuart Appleby (twice) and Geoff Ogilvy are the only two players to defend their titles at Kapalua. I’m not interested in who did what at La Costa; it’s not the course they’re playing anymore, sorry. Sometimes “event stats” can be misleading. I’m a big believer in course events, not events.
Ernie Els set the tournament record, quite easily, with 31-under 261 in 2003.
As you can tell by the winning scores and names above, a premium player is going to have to go low to win. Please set your lineups accordingly!
Inside the Ropes
One of the most picturesque tracks gets the 2015 year started as the TOUR opens up shop at Kapalua Resort and Spa on the island of Maui. The Plantation Course has been the host of this event since 1999 and, as most weeks, experience on this track will be a factor.
This week, course knowledge, in my opinion, will have double the value because of the nuances of golf in Hawaii and especially at The Plantation Course. There are a myriad of factors that our winner will have to overcome this week to book their ticket to the 2016 event:
Trade Winds: It’s usually windy, to some degree, in the islands so players who are patient enough to trust and play the breeze will factor on Monday night.
Mountain Golf: Kapalua has plenty of ups and downs which will lead to properly judging club selection vis-a-vi elevation change. Guys who’ve teed it up here before know which clubs travel what distance and eliminate the guess-timates. Or their caddies do. Mountain golf also will test the pros with lies above and below their feet in the middle of the fairway, let alone in the rough or around the greens. Players who enjoy flat lies and light winds won’t be too thrilled this week.
Putting: The greens are massive so GIR shouldn’t be the issue; proximity to the hole will be. The last four winners have been in the top five in proximity. Mark Rolfing will tell us where the putts will break and we’ll see if the pros have been listening! The large greens will test lag putting but those who put their approaches in the proper positions on the green should make their share of putts because the Stimpmeter is only running 10’. Guys will give ‘em a rap as short ones NEVER go in! Remember, Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson co-led the field with 23 birdies last year.
Resort Course: At the end of the day, that’s what The Plantation Course is. Wide fairways, huge greens and a Stimpmeter rolling at just 10’ will equal, as usual, very low scores. Jordan Spieth, who had never played this course competitively, only made two bogeys finishing solo second here last year. The winning score has been higher than 18-under exactly twice since 1999. Even though the length is almost 7,500 yards, three of the last four winners, Byrd, Stricker and Johnson, are nowhere to be found in the driving distance category on TOUR. They extended hole No. 17 from 508 to 549 so 7,411 becomes 7,452 but it is accessible for all TOUR pros. With only one par three on the back, The Plantation Course checks in at par 73.
The winner this week will have teed it up here before and will post a score of 20-under or better. He will also be in control of his irons, will take advantage of makeable birdie putts and stay away from crooked numbers.
I’ll rate all 34 players this week into three categories shown below.
But first, let’s see who’s NOT here:
Adam Scott: He and his wife are expecting their first child and he’ll pick it back up on the Florida Swing. Stay tuned.
Martin Kaymer: The U.S. Open champ is getting some r and r in his native Germany.
Justin Rose: Of the five times he’s qualified, he’s played once. Ok, then!
Rory McIlroy: He’s the landlord. The rest of us are just paying rent.
Matt Kuchar: He would be the favorite he's playing left-handed at your muni let alone right-handed in paradise where he has finished T6, T9, T6 and third in his four trips over the last five years. Kuchar has broken par in 13 of his last 15 rounds (rain-shortened 54-holes in 2013) and it's not really a surprise with as well as he putts and chips it. His lack of length is hardly a factor and his experience, if the weather picks up, will increase his value, if that's possible. His silly season included T8 at the Hero World Challenge and T2 at the Franklin-Templeton. Wanna guess who led the field in birdies here last year? #Automatic. You'll be out of starts on Kuchar by the US Open in Yahoo! Or at least you SHOULD be.
Bubba Watson: His caddy, Ted Scott, piloted Webb Simpson to T3 last year as he was filling in for Paul Tesori. This will be Scott’s fifth-consecutive time around Kapalua. Before T3 last year, Watson had his best-ever performance, T4, in 2013. Watson and Scott had a massive 2014 that included wins at Riviera, Augusta and Sheshan International. Throw in a P2 at the Grand Slam of Golf on Bermuda and Watson performed just about everywhere! I’m having a hard time finding tracks where his game doesn’t translate.
Jason Day: He hit the top 10 in three of the four Playoff events and withdrew from the other. That sums up Day in one sentence: when he's healthy, he's a force but he has been the victim of multiple nagging injuries. To try and remedy this, he skipped most fall events in the US and his native Australia to rest and prepare for 2015. He knocked the rust off by winning the Franklin-Templeton Shootout with Cameron Tringale. Ok, then! He opened with even par in his only attempt here in 2011 and finished the final three rounds at 14-under. The mantra in fantasy land should be: Anytime, anywhere and any Day if he's healthy. His length and short game should shine this week as he looks to build on T9 (2011) in his only other visit.
Ryan Moore: Another early season win has Moore off to another flying start here in 2014-15. He replicated his 2013 start as he defended his title at the CIMB Classic in November. Last year, it sprung him to a career-best finish on the money list with just over $3 million. Moore is ranked this highly because his only two rounds here over par were during the wind and rain of 2013; all other eight rounds are under par. He was T6 in 2010, his maiden voyage, T28 (2013) and 10th last year. He showed gamers that course familiarity helps when he defended in Malaysia.
Chris Kirk: An absolutely fabulous close to the 2013-14 year saw him out-duel Rory McIlroy for two days heads-up in Boston to win the DBC. He followed that by nearly winning the FedExCup Playoffs but finished T4 at The TOUR Championship. His only two starts of 2014-15 saw him rack up another T4 (McGladrey) and T14 (HSBC Champions) so he's clearly in fine form. His first time to Maui he opened with 75 but played the final three rounds 16-under to finish T7; last year his 66-68 couldn't offset his 75-73 and he finished T16. The way he smashes it off the tee and rolls the rock suggests he should be in the conversation Monday evening on the East Coast.
Patrick Reed: His early season saw him pocket T26 at CIMB and T22 at WGC-HSBC Champions before racking up T3 at the Hero World Challenge. He showed some spirit by continuing to play in the Franklin-Templeton Shootout after saving his wife’s life earlier in the week. That was some story! He finished T16 in his first visit last year on 10-under but played the front side BOGEY-FREE to the tune of 12-under for the week. He’s fearless and he’s seen the course. I’m on board.
Billy Horschel: He was remonstrating via Twitter over the weekend that his clubs and luggage might not have made it to Maui on time. I’m not sure if that’s the fire that needs to get him lit up for a tournament but I’m guessing it’s not going to hurt! Monday, he was shown cliff diving. After opening 72-72 last year in his first visit, he, ahem, figured it out in the final two rounds by firing 68-66 with just one bogey to finish T6. His ball-striking will be his strength but he’ll win or lose because he is or isn’t making putts. He closed the Hero with 67-67 to finish T8 and the next week was T3 at the Franklin-Templeton so rust shouldn’t be a factor. Getting his clubs from the airlines will!
Zach Johnson: The defending champ enhanced the argument that experience pays in paradise as his win was only his second top 10 in seven starts. Heck, five of his previous six starts here were T18 or WORSE before his win. Johnson was so good last year that he posted 19-under that included a third-round 74. He made 22 birdies and only five bogeys for the week plus an eagle so don't let the "length" deter you from the shorter hitters this week. With so many first-timers in the field, Johnson, who I usually don’t rate here, moves up the ladder.
Jimmy Walker: He racked up 19 birdies and two eagles in his inaugural event last year. He also found eight bogeys and three doubles to finish T21. If he cleans up column B, I don’t see a reason why he can’t win this week, or any week for that matter. He makes tons of birdies because he’s long and can really putt. Add that to the experienced he gained last year and he’s an easy fit in the Chalk. Walker hits me as a guy who’s never satisfied and the amount of events he plays backs this up. He played six events in the last three months of the year and via Twitter, he’s already crammed in a practice round in Maui.
Hideki Matsuyama: I whiffed on Jordan Spieth last year because I put too much stock in The Plantation Course’s nuances for typical TOUR players. I forgot he’s nowhere near a typical TOUR player. I’m not making a similar mistake again this year! Matsuyama, as he has proven over the last two years, is anything but typical or standard. If gamers need more proof, remember he won at Muirfield Village, hardly an “easy” track for players of his experience. He also hit the top 20 in all three majors his rookie year on courses he’s never played against fields a bit stronger than this. Form is temporary, class is permanent. Oh, and he won the Dunlop Phoenix in a playoff in late November for his second win of the year.
Sang-moon Bae: He won The 30th Shinhan Donghae Open for the second year in a row in early November after cashing in the first tournament of the new season, the Frys.com in early October. That defines “form”. If he wasn’t currently dealing with lawyers, the military and visas, I would rank him higher since he finished T21 here last season. To get updated on this story, head to Rotoworld.com!
Geoff Ogilvy: Since I’m factoring in course history, Ogilvy moves immediately to the top of the list with his back-to-back victories. Here’s why experience matters: in Ogilvy’s first two trips, his best score in eight rounds was 72, twice. His next two trips his WORST round was 69 and he won both of them. His recent form in Australia (MC, T25 and T71) hardly inspires but in a field like this, I’m more interested in his Kapalua history.
Russell Henley: Like the trade winds, he can blow both fair and foul but he closed calendar 2014 with a T2, 12th and T4 in three of his last five starts. His first start ever, the 2013 Sony Open, saw him rack up a TON of birdies so he likes golf in the islands. In his first trip last year he finished 27th in a 29-man field and failed to break 70. In his second trip to Kapalua, I'm expecting much bigger things this time around.
Charley Hoffman: He won the final event of the 2014 at the OHL Mayakoba. He has more rounds of 75 (three) on Maui than he does in the 60s (two) so I don't suggest him to be your anchor this week based on his last time out. This will be his third trip and first since 2011 but at least he’s familiar with the surroundings.
John Senden: There’s no point in comparing present-day Senden with anything in the past because of his new found love for putting. He racked up T23 and T9 in two Australian events on top of T18, seventh and T35 on TOUR to wrap up the year so it doesn’t appear that he’s slowing down or regressing. This is his second appearance (2007).
Robert Streb: His final four starts of 2013-14 were T14, T18, MC and T9. His first five starts of 2014-15 were T31, T10, P1, eighth and T37. That’s some run of form in nine starts from a second-year player. I’ll take recent results from the newbies over anything else THIS WEEK.
Ben Martin: He gained gamers attention as he led the Web.com Tour in the all-around category (and cash) in 2013. As with most young players, the learning curve is quite steep but Martin got a taste in 2011. He MC 13 times in 25 starts in 2011 and had one top 10; last year he MC 13 times in 26 events but had three thirds and four more top 25s to keep his card. Oh, and he won in the second event of this season so he's playing with house money already! Again, the rookies just don't fare well here as this Coore-Crenshaw behemoth has more quirks than the 2014 tax code but he does have three top 30s last fall sandwiched between two MCs.
Steven Bowditch: He’s made 10 of his last 12 including a solo second at Frys.com. Add in T17 Aussie Masters and T15 Aussie Open plus a penchant for a putter to spontaneously combust and a longshot we’ve found.
Tim Clark: Lost a tough playoff to Bubba Watson at the WGC-HSBC Champions his last time out so his form isn’t the issue. He posted a pair of 68s in his only visit here but paired those two rounds with 72-73 to finish T17. I prefer him on tight courses where his accuracy off the tee is a benefit. This is not the place!
Ben Crane: All-or-nothing at Kapalua with a pair of T9s cohabitating with T21 and 25th. His last two appearances were 2011 & 2012 and he's broke par in seven of those eight rounds. WD in his only 2014 fall event after only 1 top 25 after his win in Memphis. Thankfully Rickie Fowler isn’t here this week or there would probably be some world premiere of another “Golf Boyz” video. We should make a #FantasyGolfNerdVideo…
Angel Cabrera: The good news: He’s 25 under in eight rounds and none have been over 71. The bad news: His quiet fall ended with MC at Mayakoba and MC at Argentine Open, his home tournament. His wildness off the tee won’t be penalized as much this week and his victory this year was at another resort course, The Old White TPC where he had to go low to win.
Not This Week
Kevin Stadler: He rattled off nine consecutive weekends between WDs to wrap up calendar 2014. His final WD was at Mayakoba where he has been a check-cashing machine so that registers as strange. I never like jumping on a guy after a WD unless he has a superior course record, which Stadler does not. Omit.
Hunter Mahan: After closing with 64 to finish T5 in his maiden trip, Mahan has finished T25 and T26 in his last two trips to Kapalua. Only one of those seven rounds scored in the 60s. After T3 at Frys.com Mahan returned in November to barely finish in the top half at the WGC-HSBC and was T17 of 18 in the Hero Challenge. Gamers, if you can get him late, take a shot but I’m not stretching.
Kevin Streelman: Last year, Streelman shows up days after his wife gave birth to their first child to a course he had never played. He plays nine holes in practice, wins the Pro-Am and finishes T3. That sounds like Streelman, whole bunch of nothing and then BANG, a win or podium finish. He has three top 10s in his last 27.
Matt Every: Virgin; Started 2014 strong with six top 10s, plus his win, before the US Open. His T3 at FESJC was the last top 35 he had in the final 10 events of last year and 2014-15. He opened 2014-15 MC-MC and has never teed it up here so I’m out.
Chesson Hadley: He MC in 10 of his final 11 regular season events before scoring T9 at DBC and T12 at BMW to just miss out on The TOUR Championship. His fall schedule, which included many hours without sleep with a teething baby, saw him make three of four weekends but nothing better than T32. Rookies usually don't fare well here, especially if they're not in form or a supreme putter. He doesn’t check those boxes.
Brian Harman: His best finish after his maiden-breaker at the JDC was T26 the following week at The Open. Nice exacta but nothing better than T40 in his next eight events including T41 on his home track at The McGladrey. He went low at the JDC but that’s a different box of onions. Of all the first-timers, I like him the best because he seems to have that moxie where nothing bothers him and he’s just going to make birdies.
Brendon Todd: Struggling against better fields on unfamiliar courses, Todd limped home after a BLAZING BALLS HOT early 2014. His last top 25 in a full-field event was T4 at Greenbrier in early July.
J.B. Holmes: Nothing has jumped off the page since his victory at Quail Hollow last May as he’s only racked up three top 25s. I don’t like that he is ranked in the 160s in BOTH fairways and greens in 2014. His recent form doesn’t cry out either. He’s finished in the top five (T4 in 2007) and the bottom five (T29 in 2009) so I’m confused. When I’m confused, I run away. Far away.
Scott Stallings: With a T22 and T13 in two of the last three years, Stallings gets a last look. He’s three-for-three in 2014-15 with a pair of top 25s and for him, that’s ON FIYAH. He was ranked No. 140 or worse in strokes gained-putting, stroke gained tee-to-green, fairways, greens and scoring in 2014. Be warned.
Matt Jones: In the 17 events worldwide since his win he's finished in the top 25 exactly once. His last time out was MC at the Emirates Australian Open. In addition to that he's a first-timer here. Unless he’s playing a scramble with Stuart Appleby I’ll pass.
Camilo Villegas: He’s racked up four top 25s in his last 32 starts including his win at Wyndham. It’s similar to his record here where he fired 74-66-67-73. Hell, he just got married so I bet he’s using this as his honeymoon. I would…
Seung-yul Noh: His last two events saw him finish T39 and T36 so I’m cool on the youth here in his first appearance.
Nick Taylor: This will be his SIXTH event as a PGA TOUR member. He has won 20% of the time. He’s leading the Rookie of the Year race as we enter 2015.
Rookie/Up-and-Comer of the Week Last Week
Once called the “Jordan Spieth” of the week, I had to retire that name after his last two seasons on TOUR. Now, we’ll keep a broad view of newer names/faces that gamers should pay attention to as the season moves on. Some former examples in this column include Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Chesson Hadley.
Shriners: Tony Finau, T7
McGladrey: Robert Streb, WIN
CIMB: Cameron Smith, T5
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 4ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat WEDNESDAY at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the HTOC and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/GlassWGCL) on Twitter.