The 2018 PGA Tour Season may already be officially underway, but the Sentry Tournament Of Champions kicks-off 2018 in style with the a field that comprises just those players who won a PGA Tour event in 2017.
It’s a field that contains Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Hideki Matsuyama, John Rahm and Brooks Koepka, but is missing the likes of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickleson, Justin Rose, Henrik Stenson and Patrick Reed.
The tournament was first introduced in 1953, and is once again being hosted on the Plantation Course in Kapalua in Hawaii. It’s a par 73 course that measures in excess of 7,400 yards, however generous fairways and larger than average greens are easy to hit on a course that relies on the wind for protection. However, despite the wind, the last 4 winners have shot winning totals of between –19 and –30, with the tournament record standing at –31.
Finding greens tends to be easier here than at many courses used on the PGA Tour, meaning power and accuracy are not prerequisites to success. The most lethal weapon is a red-hot putter, with 83% of the last 12 winners posting a top-4 putting average for the tournament.
It’s therefore no surprise that Jordan Spieth has gone well here on all three previous starts and, with course form of 2/1/3 he looks sure to give each-way players a run for their money. His third last year was also notable as he started slowly.
Justin Thomas could also go well, as he improved from 21st on his first view of the course in 2016 to win as he likes in 2017. However, he has the added-pressure of being defending champion this year, and nobody has defended the title since Geoff Ogilvy in 2010.
I don’t overly fancy either Dustin Johnson or Rickie Fowler. Johnson has won here, but has also missed the frame on his six other appearances, whilst Fowler has yet to look like winning here despite finishing fifth and sixth.
Debutants also don’t have a great record here so, good as John Rahm already is, he may need his first look at the course.
However, Brooks Koepka took an instant liking to the place in 2016, and he looks to have the all-round game to better his debut third. It could be a big year for the US Open Champion.
My third and final pick this week is Russell Henley. Far from consistent, but good enough on his day to win a tournament to get here, he was third when last seen here in 2015. One of the hottest-putters on the planet at his best, he may see this a great opportunity to put in the sort of big performance that will boost his world-ranking from 46, which should make sure he’s in all the majors this season.
2018 Sentry Tournament Of Champions Golf Tips
Jordan Spieth 2 Points Each-Way @ 11/2 BetBright, Betway, Betfair
Brooks Koepka 2 Points Each-Way @ 12/1 Betway, Coral, Ladbrokes
Russell Henly 1 Point Each-Way @ 45/1 BWin