Last Updated: 2018-01-02
While most of us are freezing and dread going outside, golf is back to remind us that warm weather does exist somewhere in North America. Granted, this week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions is out in Hawaii, where it is almost always beautiful. Don’t worry golf fans, the snow on your favorite course will melt at some point and you’ll be able to day drink with a 7-iron in your hand soon enough. Jordan Spieth is favored for this year’s Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Resort in Maui.
Last year’s event, sponsored by SBS, was the second straight that featured the traditional Thursday to Sunday format. From 2012 to 2015, the tournament was played Friday to Monday so that it didn’t butt heads with the NFL playoff games for the final round, but golf officials realized, smartly, that it doesn’t really matter much in the grand scheme of things. So, we’re back to the traditional format and haven’t had much drama on the final day in this event anyways. Justin Thomas won by three shots last year. Jordan Spieth won by eight shots at 30-under. We had a playoff finish in 2015 and a one-shot winner in 2014, but the previous two winners each won by three or more strokes.
This is definitely a “who’s who” field when it comes to golf. Only the winners of 2016-17 events plus the early-season winners from this past fall are eligible to play. That means that we have a field of just 34 players this weekend. With the beautiful backdrop of the Plantation Course at Kapalua, players are eager to dust off those golf bags and take the significant others on a vacation.
This is a long track just under 7,500 yards and is a rare par-73 for the players, hence the winning scores that we’ve seen over the last three years with 21-under or better. Wind can be a factor on the Hawaiian coastline, but precipitation is almost never a factor. Extreme winds pushed the 2013 finish back to Tuesday, but things are usually gentle this time of year in Hawaii and players will get to return to the rhythms of the season with a pretty calm course.
As mentioned, this week’s favorite per the odds at 5Dimes Sportsbook is Jordan Spieth at +530. Spieth won this event running away in 2015 with a 30-under showing that led to even more dominance during the season. Amazingly, that wasn’t even the course record, which belongs to Ernie Els with his 261 back in 2003. Spieth tied for third at 16-under last year, due in large part to a final-round 65 that pushed him up the board on a day when others struggled. Spieth finished third in the Hero World Challenge, but didn’t partake in the Asian swing during the wraparound portion of the season. When he won in 2016, he was seventh at the WGC-HSBC Champions event and fourth at the Hero World Challenge, so he had a couple of events under his belt. Last season, he also played the Sony Open in Hawaii the following week and finished third, so Spieth likes playing on the island.
The second favorite is Rickie Fowler and the hype train for him is off to a torrid pace. Fowler has played two events thus far. He shot 18-under and finished second at the OHL Classic, so he’s already played a coastal course this season. He won the Hero World Challenge. He’s still missing that elusive major win, but he finished 11th or better in three of the four last year and gave it a good run in the FedEx Cup playoffs with a second-place finish at the BMW Championship. A lot of people seem to think that this is the breakout year for Fowler. He’s priced at +670 this week and he could very well win, but you aren’t getting a lot of value here. Fowler actually missed this event last year, but finished fifth in 2016.
Reigning champion Justin Thomas, much like Spieth in 2016, used this event as a springboard for his season. Thomas is one of two players at +680 this week. Thomas, who won the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges in that inaugural event back in October, took down this title last year and the following week at Waialae in the Sony Open. He opened with a 59 and coasted to the win at 27-under. As the season went along, he won the PGA Championship, the Dell Technologies Championship, and the FedEx Cup by finishing second in the TOUR Championship. Geoff Oglivy is the last repeat winner at the Tournament of Champions way back in 2009-10. Thomas could very well repeat here and is probably the best bet of the short prices.
Dustin Johnson is the other player at +680. DJ won this event back in 2013. He did tee up at the WGC-HSBC and finished second at 12-under. His Hero World Challenge showing of even par was less exciting, but that is mostly a charity event for the players. Johnson shot a final-round 77 at Sheshan to cost himself the WGC-HSBC win, so he should certainly be motivated as the calendar flips to 2018. He did not finish out the 2016-17 season on a high note with three finishes outside the top 15 to end the FedEx Cup playoffs. He’s finished in the top 10 each of the last two years at Kapalua, including a tie for sixth last year.
There are a ton of good players in this event, so any of the longshots are worthy of investment. Xander Schauffele won the TOUR Championship to end last season and was third at the CIMB Classic to start this season. He’s +2500 this week. Russell Henley is a great value play at +4500 with his penchant for playing well on Bermuda grass greens. Jon Rahm at +1200 is tied for the sixth favorite on the board, which seems like good value given how he played last season.
Coverage of the Sentry Tournament of Champions will be on Golf Channel throughout the weekend.
Odds as of January 2, 10 a.m. ET
Jordan Spieth +530
Rickie Fowler +670
Justin Thomas +680
Dustin Johnson +680
Hideki Matsuyama +1000
Brooks Koepka +1200
Jon Rahm +1200
Marc Leishman +2000
Patrick Cantlay +2200
Xander Schauffele +2500
Kevin Kisner +2500
Brian Harman +2800
Pat Perez +3000
Cameron Smith +3300
Daniel Berger +3300
Kevin Chappell +4000
Russell Henley +4500
Brendan Steele +5000
Kyle Stanley +5500
Patton Kizzire +6600
Austin Cook +6600
Bryson DeChambeau +6600
Jason Dufner +7500
Si Woo Kim +8500
Hudson Swafford +10000
Adam Hadwin +10000
Billy Horschel +10000
Grayson Murray +12500
Jhonattan Vegas +12500
Jonas Blixt +12500
Ryan Armour +15000
Wesley Bryan +16000
Chris Stroud +25000
D.A. Points +30000
-END OF 2018 PREVIEW-
It feels like it has been a long holiday break for the PGA Tour, but things get back underway in Kapalua, Hawaii on the island of Maui with the SBS Tournament of Champions. Hyundai has been the title sponsor of this event for a while, but SBS is back on the banner for the first time since 2010. This tournament used to be the start of the golf season before the wraparound format was adopted a few years ago. For some, this is really the start of the 2016-17 season.
This year, the tournament has gone back to the traditional Thursday-Sunday format. It had been played Friday-Monday to avoid going up against the NFL Wild Card playoffs in the quest for ratings, but it’s back to the regular schedule this season. This is a unique event for a few reasons. For one thing, it can be a very tough handicap because the players have mostly been out of action since before Thanksgiving, unless they’ve been playing on the European Tour or one of the smaller circuits. It is played on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort, which is a par 73. Finally, the field is restricted to winners during the previous PGA Tour season and the wraparound portion of the current season. That means that there are only 32 players in the field. That also means no cut.
I’m sure this comes as a major shock, but Kapalua Resort is beautiful and the Plantation Course has some spectacular views. Weather conditions are almost always perfect for players with nice temperatures and sunshine. As you would expect with coastal courses, wind can sometimes play a factor, but the stunning backdrop of the Pacific Ocean and Pu’u Kukui, which is the highest peak in the West Maui Mountains at 5,787 feet. As a par 73, this is a long course measuring about 7,450 yards. The first hole is a par 4 measuring 520 yards, so that’ll give players a good idea what to expect right away.
In a general sense, a winning score of around -20 is usually how things play out over the four-day event. Players are still working back into form and this is a long course with some greenside bunkers. The nice thing is that the fairways are pretty wide open for the most part, so errant tee shots could lead to second shots in the thick stuff, but they won’t lead to many lost balls. The 18th is a 663-yard monster, so we could see some excitement during Sunday’s final round.
Tournaments like this are always intriguing because good players can be had at good values. This event features 32 tournament winners, but 11 of them are in this event for the first time. The favorite according to 5Dimes Sportsbook is Jordan Spieth at +505. Spieth obliterated the field last season at Kapalua. He finished 30-under with no rounds over 67 and an eight-shot margin of victory. It was supposed to be the kickoff to Spieth’s big year, but he struggled quite a bit for a player of his caliber. Regardless, Spieth went 66-64-65-67 to almost set the course record. That belongs to Ernie Els at 31-under in 2003. Spieth’s eight-stroke margin of victory tied the record Els set that yet. Spieth started his season off with the Hero World Challenge, where he finished sixth at 11-under during the first week of December.
Hideki Matsuyama could be this season’s big star if the odds are any indication of the year he’s about to have. Matsuyama is the second favorite at +510. He did not play this event last season, but he finished tied for third at 20-under when Patrick Reed won in a playoff over Jimmy Walker two years ago. Matsuyama has gone second, first, and first in the three wraparound events that he has played, with wins in the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Hero World Challenge. He was second in the CIMB Classic. The 24-year-old turns 25 in February and could be on the verge of grabbing his first major victory and a whole lot more along the way.
Dustin Johnson had a pretty incredible year last season and he’s the third favorite here at +530. Johnson won this event back in 2013. He grabbed wins at the US Open, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, and the BMW Championship last season. The US Open triumph ended a long major drought for the Coastal Carolina product that turned pro back in 2007. DJ was also fourth at the Masters and ninth at The Open Championship. He’ll be lined like this throughout the season, so bettors will need to be prepared to take a short price with him.
The shine seems to have come off of Jason Day a little bit. At +860, he seems to have some value in terms of the “Big Four” for this event. Rory McIlroy is not participating. Day has back-to-back top-10 finishes here, including a third-place grab in 2015. He withdrew from two events late last season and battled some back problems throughout the season. He hasn’t played since late September in an event, so maybe the concern is rust, but Day is a world-class player and a threat to win every event he’s in.
We start to get some line value at +1200 with Patrick Reed. The hero of the Ryder Cup, Reed may be able to truly push himself up into the upper echelon of the PGA Tour this season to be talked about in the same breath as Spieth, McIlroy, Day, and Johnson. If Matsuyama has that breakout season, there could be six must-watch players on a semi-regular basis. Reed has struggled a bit since that emotional Ryder Cup weekend. He was 10th at the Hero World Challenge last week, but was 60th in the WGC-HSBC at Sheshan and 51st in Kuala Lumpur at the CIMB. He was also 43rd in the Hong Kong Open on the European Tour side. But, Reed is a past winner here back in 2015 and finished a distant second to Spieth last year.
Those looking for a good line value grab may want to check out Ryan Moore at +3000. Moore is a very big hitter that had a big season last year with a spot on the Ryder Cup team, a win in the John Deere Classic, and a runner-up finish in the Tour Championship. That performance got him on to the Ryder Cup team and he played well.
Coverage of this year’s SBS Tournament of Champions will be on Golf Channel throughout the weekend.
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