It’s certainly a happy new year for any of the 37 golfers that won a PGA Tour event in 2018, as they have the opportunity to kick-start 2019 by playing in Hawaii in the Sentry Tournament of Champions. However, not all of last year’s winners have taken up their invitation, with Tiger Woods, Justin Rose, and Phil Mickelson all deciding to give the tournament a miss, reducing the field to just 34 players.
There’s still plenty of class players on view though, with the market headed by the likes of Dustin Johnson, John Rahm, and Justin Thomas, whilst last year’s major winners Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, and Francesco Molinari are all playing. Meantime, exciting youngsters Cameron Champ and Aaron Wise are amongst those making their tournament debuts, as is Rory McIlroy who accepts his invitation for the first time despite being a multiple winner on the PGA Tour over the past few seasons.
Another positive for punters is they have 20-years of form to peruse before making their picks this week, as the Sentry Tournament of Champions has been a regular at the Plantation Course at Kapalua since it first hosted the tournament in 1999. The Plantation Course is very different from many of the courses used on the PGA Tour, as it features massive changes in elevation.
However, low-scoring is the norm, with the last five winners recording winning four-round totals of between –19 and –30. That’s because wide fast-running fairways don’t put much pressure on driving, whilst larger than normal Bermuda grass greens provide players with bigger margins for errors on their approach shots.
The greens are usually in excellent condition too, which means hot putters can expect to shoot the lights out. The course’s only real defence is the wind, so a razor-sharp short game is also a help in such conditions.
The last five winners have been Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, and Dustin Johnson. Four of those players where major winners when they won, whilst Reed was always considered to have the talent to win a major and has since picked up his first major by winning the 2018 US Masters.
If you like the major-winning angle this week, you have 10 players to choose from. These include past winners Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, and Patrick Reed, who all have the ability to go close having won here before. However, none of the trio finished 2018 in great form. Meantime, Jason Day, Bubba Watson, and Keegan Bradley have never really gone close to winning here before. Brooks Koepka played well here on debut but has the added pressure of being world number one this year, whilst Rory McIlroy’s lack of course knowledge may hinder his chances, whilst Molinari has only played here once before in 2011 when he finished fifteenth.
That leaves us with Webb Simpson, who hasn’t played here since 2014 but has finished third twice here in three previous visits. However, as Simpson’s well-documented struggles with the putter over the last few seasons were the main cause of his four-year winless streak, I expect him to be fully-motivated on his return to a course he obviously likes now that he has sorted out his putting problems. He was certainly about as hot as a player can get when a wide-margin winner of the 2018 Players Championship, and it’s easy to see him getting hot again this week.
John Rahm is the only other player I want on side this week, as he already looks better than previous winner Patrick Reed was at a similar stage of his career and he will surely add a major to his C.V. before too long. He also finished 2018 with a bang by wining in the Bahamas, another example of him being able to handy similar conditions to the ones he’ll have to deal with here. The title-hungry young Spaniard also played extremely well on debut here last year when finishing second, and it will be disappointing if he doesn’t at least hit the frame this week.
Sentry Tournament Of Champions 2018 Free Golf Tips
Webb Simpson 1 Point (Each-Way)
@ 23.00 Betfair SB, Bet365, 188Bet (4 places)
John Rahm 2 Points (Each-Way)
@ 8.50 Betfair SB, SkyBet, Unibet (4 places)