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Power Rankings: The Sentry

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Power Rankings

Power Rankings: The Sentry

    Written by Rob Bolton @RobBoltonGolf

    Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou! It’s a happy New Year from Hawaii, indeed.

    While the timing of the annual stop at the Plantation Course Kapalua on Maui always lays the foundation for the greeting, for the first time in 11 years, the course on the island’s western shore serves as the first building block of a new season.

    Now known as The Sentry, the first of eight Signature Events in the 2024 calendar year hosts a record-high 59 golfers and there is no cut for the standard, 72-hole stroke-play competition. Analysis of the course, more on the tournament and other information is below.

    15Eric ColeThis will be a treat. The contender for the Arnold Palmer Award for 2022-23 hung up four top-four finishes in the FedExCup Fall. His lethal putting defines his scorer’s profile, but he also placed inside the top 30 in par-3, -4 and -5 scoring.
    14Jordan SpiethThere have been enough flashes of terrific form amid the inconsistencies to elevate expectations for the 2016 champion in his seventh appearance. Five trips have resulted in a top 15. He also can lean on power over precision off the tee.
    13Tommy FleetwoodAs he begins his seventh consecutive season on TOUR, it’s odd to accept that he’s a debutant at Kapalua. And yet, he’s already a threat. Wrapped last year with a T2 at the DP World Tour Championship, one of six top fives in 2023.
    12Ludvig ÅbergIf there’s anything he can’t do, we haven’t witnessed it. Every time he pegs it, he’s rewriting some version of history, including his own, and now he’s recharged to pile on. Already a winner on both the PGA TOUR and the DP World Tour.
    11Cam DavisSomething big is brewing for the 28-year-old Aussie. While already an emerging performer, he floored it to the finish line in 2023 with seven top 15s in his last nine starts worldwide. Authored a steady T10 in his only prior try here in 2022.
    10Tony FinauHis Polynesian spirit runs deep, so this always has to feel like a home-away-from-home game. Two of his first four visits yielded a top 10, including a T7 last year. His par-5 prowess precedes him but his ball-striking remains underrated.
    9Viktor HovlandThis is his fourth appearance but his next top-15 finish will be his first. So, although he’s the 2023 FedExCup champion with three victories and another pair of top fives in the last seven months worldwide, he still presents as a spoiler.
    8Sungjae ImWith a T5, a T8, a T13 and a scoring average of 67.67 at Kapalua, he’s clearly comfortable, but it didn’t hurt that he extinguished an extended dry spell last summer with five top 15s in last six starts worldwide. Ranked fifth in par-5 scoring.
    7Matt FitzpatrickShowcased last year in his tournament debut that the learning curve for putting on unfamiliar greens can be flat. The Brit ranked fifth in Strokes Gained: Putting en route to a T7. Two wins among eight official top 15s worldwide since.
    6Patrick CantlayFirst live action anywhere since the Ryder Cup. Arguably the best among the elite at thriving on the toughest tracks all the while smoothly shifting into high gear in shootouts like this one where he has two solo fourths in five starts.
    5Tom KimIn his Kapalua debut last year, led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green and par-5 scoring en route to a T5. He’s already documented as a quick study but now he has intel of the greens. Defended his victory at TPC Summerlin in October.
    4Xander SchauffeleOpportunity to avenge frustration. A sore back here last year led to the only mid-tournament withdrawal of his career. He took it out on the rest of the season in style, but it comes full circle now. The 2019 title is one of three top fives.
    3Max HomaIn case you missed it, he claimed victory at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in November. It punctuated a string of six straight top 10s worldwide. Progressively improving results at Kapalua where he finished T3 in his third appearance last year.
    2Scottie SchefflerOpened his holidays with a three-stroke victory at the Hero World Challenge where he was the runner-up in both prior tries. Now rested, the world’s top-ranked talent seeks to improve on a T13-T7 teaser in his first two at Kapalua.
    1Collin MorikawaVexed by mixed emotions after forfeiting a six-stroke lead entering last year’s finale, but that’s a long time ago. Slate at Kapalua also includes a T5 and a pair of T7s. Personally satisfying win at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP in October.

    With so many modifications to so many components of the PGA TOUR in 2024, it’s only right and fair that it launches with a soft open even though everything about it is official.

    First and foremost, a record 700 FedExCup points is reserved for the champion. This will be the reward for winners of all eight Signature Events. The prize fund also has increased to $20 million – a bump of 25 percent from 2023 – with $3.6 million going to the winner.

    The field is comprised of all PGA TOUR winners in the 2023 calendar year and the 50 golfers who qualified for the BMW Championship aka the top 50 in the FedExCup. The only eligible qualifier who did not commit is Rory McIlroy. Although he’s now qualified 13 times, he’s appeared only once (T4, 2019). (The mandatory obligation to compete in Signature Events, formerly known as Designated Events in 2023, no longer applies.)

    The soft open extends metaphorically to the ease of the Plantation Course.

    In part, because it’s a par 73 (with three par 3s and four par 5s) with giant targets, it always rolls over for one of the lowest scoring averages in relation to par, at least when the wind isn’t howling, which it could later during each of the first three rounds this week. As a result, last year’s clip of 68.922 probably won’t be threatened, but par will be broken as frequently as the waves within sight. Otherwise predictable weather is expected. Rain could be intermittent and daytime highs will touch 80 degrees.

    Since debuting as a renovation prior to the 2020 edition, the Plantation Course has tipped at 7,596 yards. Bermudagrass greens remained governed to just 11 feet on the Stimpmeter to accommodate for brutish breezes. The only notable change this year is that the primary rough is up one-quarter of an inch to 2½ inches.

    In addition to the usual spoils, the winner will earn exemptions into all remaining Signature Events if not already eligible. He’ll also be the first to qualify for the 2025 edition of The Sentry.

    ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.

    MONDAY: Power Rankings
    TUESDAY*: Sleepers
    WEDNESDAY: Golfbet Insider
    FRIDAY: Medical Extensions, Reshuffle
    SUNDAY: Payouts and Points, Qualifiers

    * - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.

    Rob Bolton is a Golfbet columnist for the PGA TOUR. The Chicagoland native has been playing fantasy golf since 1994, so he was just waiting for the Internet to catch up with him. Follow Rob Bolton on Twitter.

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