January 06, 2021 4 min read

Sentry Tournament of Champions

Kapalua Plantation Course Maui Par 73 - 7,515 Yds

The official 2021 PGA tour opens with The Tournament of Champions which is a no-cut event with 45 players that qualified. This is usually the most exclusive tournament on the tour because only winners of the previous year have been eligible. This year, 17 qualified via the Tour Championship. This includes Abraham Ancer and Scottie Scheffler, neither have won a PGA Tour event. Rory McIlroy also gained entry via the new Tour Championship exemption but has decided not to play. Tyrrell Hatton and Jim Herman qualified the traditional way as tournament winners last year, but both have opted not to play, Herman actually can’t play due to COVID-19.

This tournament is typically very low-scoring but because of its location on the coast there have been years where the winds have made this course difficult. Let’s look at the past winners, as you can see below last year had extreme winds and that’s the reason for the scoring drop off.

Past Winners at Tournament of Champions

  • 2020: Justin Thomas (-14)
  • 2019: Xander Schauffele (-23)
  • 2018: Dustin Johnson (-24)
  • 2017: Justin Thomas (-22)
  • 2016: Jordan Spieth (-30)
  • 2015: Patrick Reed (-21)

As of now it doesn’t look like any extreme weather on the forecast but definitely something to monitor. The Kapalua Course has crazy wide fairways with little to no penalty for bad tee shots. The putting surfaces have Bermuda grass and are historically soft and slow (Keyword Historically). I wouldn’t consider them easy because they’re on the larger side and players can have some long lag putts if their approach is off. Also if you’ve never played on an island style course the greens are always real grainy which can make it difficult to judge speed putting into the grain (slow) or with the grain (fast) but then again these guys are the best in the world so I’m sure they won’t have any issues but the greens are much different than the ones on the mainland. More on putting below.

The storylines this week will be centered around the extreme elevation changes and long bombs off the tee. I’m sure some of you have seen Dustin Johnson nearly hole out a drive on a 430 yard par 4. Well that was on the 6th hole at Kapalua, if you haven’t seen it just type in Dustin Drives green on YouTube. The bombers off the tee definitely will have an edge this week because of the elevation changes and wide fairways. Last year’s field average of 80.93 percent (or 12.14) fairways hit per round was easily the most of any of the 41 courses played all season. But as always, it’s drive for show, putt for dough.

The new Tif-Eagle bermuda grass greens are still maturing on the Kapalua course as they were installed prior to last year's event. One-putt percentages will always be low here and three-putt avoidances always will be high because of how big the putting surfaces are, but nothing measured leaps off the page as an outlier. If anything, they were easier because guys could be aggressive within striking distance but I think that’s going to change this year. Greens were flattened as part of the upgrade. This resulted in an increase of hole locations that the players haven't seen much of and the opportunity to increase speed which is the big difference from previous years. Weather-pending, the greens could run upwards of 11 feet on the Stimpmeter, which is a foot longer than before they were modified. My plan is to weigh putting more than previous years and definitely more than all these so-called “experts” will. I haven’t seen or heard one analyst or talking head mention this angle. So with that said, let’s take a look at my first keys to success metric for this tournament.

Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda grass Surfaces

Total strokes gained past 24 rounds:

  • Patrick Reed (+13.6)
  • Kevin Kisner (+9.2)
  • Patrick Cantlay (+6.5)
  • Adam Scott (+4.7)
  • Sebastian Munoz (+4.4)

Because the avg winning scoring of this event is well above -20 under I want golfers that take advantage of Par 5’s and have a strong birdie or better percentage.

Birdie or Better Percentage

Minimum of 12 rounds recorded:

  • Patrick Reed (30.56%)
  • Ryan Palmer (29.76%)
  • Justin Thomas (28.89%)
  • Xander Schauffle (28.47%)
  • Bryson Dechambeau (27.31%)
  • Cam Champ (27.08%)
  • Cam Davis (26.54%)
  • Jason Kokrak (26.23%)
  • Cam Smith (26.11%)
  • Scottie Scheffler (25.25%)
  • Sebastian Munoz (25.00%)

Par 5 Scoring Average

Minimum of 12 Rounds Recorded:

  • Cam Smith (4.33 avg)
  • Patrick Reed (4.34 avg)
  • Cam Champ (4.40 avg)
  • Tony Finau (4.41 avg)
  • Bryson Dechambeau (4.44 avg)
  • Xander Schauffle (4.47 avg)
  • Sergio Garcia (4.5 avg)
  • Ryan Palmer (4.5 avg)

A new metric I’m going to start using for every tournament is DraftKings Points Gained. It’s almost like another version of Strokes Gained. The formula for how Draftkings calculates golfers scoring/points is really thorough and using this metric has shown players that win a tournament are in the top 15 of the DraftKings points gained category at the time of their win 80% of the time the past 2 years. So yeah I’ll be adding this metric every tournament. Although I won’t weigh it as heavily for this tournament only because it’s the first event.

DraftKings Points Gained

  • Justin Thomas (30.7pts)
  • John Rahm (29.6pts)
  • Bryson Dechambeau (28.8pts)
  • Xander Schauffle (28.2pts)
  • Patrick Reed (25.2pts)
  • Dustin Johnson (23.2pts)
  • Hedeki Matsuyama (22.9pts)
  • Colin Morikawa (20.7pts)
  • Abraham Ancer (18.7pts)
  • Sungjae Im (18.1pts)

As always, the Individual Player Breakdowns + My Official Betting Card will be posted Wednesday afternoon in the Betting Network discord community Golf Channel.