The Sentry Tournament of Champions (formerly known as the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and SBS Tournament of Champions) is the most difficult event on the PGA Tour for which to qualify. The field is restricted to golfers who won a tournament on Tour during the previous season.
This is the 22nd staging of what is traditionally a winners-only tournament. However, the calendar-year opening event has tweaked the qualifying criteria as a direct result of the schedule disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. All players who qualified for last year’s Tour Championship are (for one year only) eligible to play in this year’s tournament in Kapalua.
Of the 45 players who are eligible to play this year’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, only three are not attending, Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton and Jim Herman.
The Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed Plantation Course at Kapalua serves as the tournament host. The layout opened for play in 1991 and is located on the Hawaiian island of Maui. The only Par 73 on the PGA Tour rota it has a Par 36-37 split. It can stretch to 7,596 yards from the back sticks. It is a relatively easy, wind exposed course with big elevation changes, wide fairways and large Bermuda greens. The layout usually yields very low scoring (weather permitting).
Following the 2018 tournament, a nine month comprehensive tee-to-green renovation was undertaken at a cost in excess of $10 million to enhance and improve the ‘play-ability‘ of the course. All fairways, tees and rough were grassed with Celebration Bermuda, while all greens now feature TifEagle Bermuda.
With dramatic elevation changes, the course has plenty of downhill tee shots and with many reachable Par 4s and Par 5s the big-hitters have an advantage. This undulating and often breezy track can take some getting to know and history would suggest that experience matters.
What happens green-side is what really counts this week. It is all about getting the ball close to target and converting. At a resort level scoring event, excellent scrambling to keep bogeys off the card can’t be overlooked.
Last year saw Justin Thomas win the Sentry Tournament of Champions for the second time having previously captured the title in 2017. JT, who looked to be coasting to victory on the back-9 Sunday, lost a two-stroke lead with only three holes to play. He finished with a -4 (69) for a total -14 (278) which was enough to secure a place in a three way playoff with Patrick Reed and the defending champion Xander Schauffele. Thomas clinched victory with a three-foot birdie on the third extra hole.
“For some reason I was supposed to win this week. Through 15 holes it was one of the best rounds I’ve ever played. I was in such control, tee to green, putting beautiful, my irons were awesome and then 18 was a disaster. It worked out so I can’t complain”
JT’s victory was all about his game tee to green. He finished second in both the SG:Approach-The-Green and SG:Tee-To-Green categories. Over 90% of his strokes gained came tee to green. Other stats for the tournament include T19 for Driving Accuracy, 11th for GIR and 13th in Strokes Gained Putting.
In 2019, Xander Schauffele shot a course-record equalling -11 (62) in the final round to beat Gary Woodland by one stroke. Schauffele finished birdie-birdie to match the course record. It was his fourth PGA Tour victory and second that season having captured the WGC HSBC Champions on his previous outing.
All aspects of Schauffele’s game was on point for the tournament, finishing in the Top 5 in each of the Strokes Gained Categories. In particular, his approach play and putting were superb, finishing the week 4th and 3rd for SG:Approach-The-Green and SG:Putting respectively. Other stats for the week include T15 for Driving Accuracy, 14th for Driving Distance, T5 for GIR and 2nd in Putts per GIR.
The 2018 champion, Dustin Johnson, closed with a final round -8 (65) to win by an emphatic 8 strokes from his nearest rival, Jon Rahm. One of the highlights of his final round was his drive on the 433 yard Par 4 12th which finished 6 inches from the hole for a ‘gimme‘ eagle.
“If I can play like that every week, I’m going to win a lot of times”Dustin Johnson
Dustin finished the week first in Strokes Gained Off-The-Tee, gaining a mouth watering 8.902 strokes on the field average for the week. He also finished T18 for Driving Accuracy, 2nd for Driving Distance, T8 for GIR and 1st in Putts per GIR.
In 2017, Justin Thomas, emerged victorious shooting -22 (270) for the week, three strokes clear of his nearest rival Hideki Matsuyama. It was one of five victories that season for the Kentuckian. Thomas finished the week first in Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green gaining 8.265 strokes on the field average. His strong play from the tee and on approach was duly complimented by his putting, finishing the week 4th in Strokes Gained Putting. Thomas ranked 3rd for Driving Distance, T17 for Driving Accuracy and 2nd in GIR.
In 2016 Jordan Spieth, captured his seventh PGA Tour title at the Tournament of Champions with a golfing master class. He won by an impressive eight strokes finishing on a score of -30(262). His excellent approach play and short game laid the foundation for his victory. He gained an impressive 1.9 strokes per round from putting which accounted for 45 percent of his total gain. The Texan ranked T17 for Driving Distance, T12 for Driving Accuracy, T11 in GIR and 1st for Strokes Gained Putting. He also finished the week 3rd for both Proximity to the Hole and Scrambling.
Sentry Tournament of Champions Betting Tips
Xander Schauffele 10/1 (E/W) – a past champion at the Tournament of Champions winning at Kapalua in 2019. Followed up his victory with a T2 last year, narrowly losing out in a playoff. So far this season he has finished no worse than T17 in four outings, which includes a solo 2nd in the CJ Cup @ Shadow Creek. No surprise to see the consummate-pro feature in the Top 5 in this week’s Stats Analysis. He is also 13th on Tour for Strokes Gained Putting and 4th for Scoring Average. Arriving in confident form to a course where he has past success augers well. Ticks a lot of boxes to become a multiple winner at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Hideki Matsuyama 18/1 (E/W) – hasn’t qualified for the Sentry Tournament of Champions since finishing T4 in the 2018 edition of the tournament. In his previous two visits to Kapalua he had a solo 2nd (2017) and a T3 (2015). His last outing on Tour yielded a T13 in the Masters. This was preceded with a T2 in the Houston Open. The Japanese golfing-supremo features inside the Top 10 in this week’s Stats Analysis table. Teeing it up this week off the back of the qualifying criteria via the Tour Championship route. Features in the Top 10 for each of the key areas of Event Form, Current Form and Stats Analysis. Best value pick.
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