Confidence Factor: Sentry Tournament of Champions
January 02, 2018
By Mike Glasscott, PGATOUR.COM
Jordan Spieth on confidence before Sentry
Happy New Year!
The year is new but our fantast golf year is not.
After eight official events in 2017, the TOUR took its annual hiatus over the holidays as golfers and gamers alike both enjoyed their time off.
With 37 events running weekly until the end of September, it's time to get to get back to work. Thankfully the landing this week at the winners only Sentry Tournament of Champions is as soft as they come. We ended the year with a Plantation course in play on Sea Island at the RSM Classic and we'll begin the year with another, The Plantation Course at Kapalua on the island of Maui, Hawaii.
Of the 37 eligible TOUR winners from calendar 2017, 34 will tee it this week at Kapalua. Missing from action this year, to the surprise of absolutely zero gamers, are Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. Rose has only played this event once, in 2011, and finished T12. Garcia won on his first visit in 2002 and has three top 10's from four starts but hasn't been back since 2006. Stenson's only visit to paradise wasn't a very happy one as he picked up for a check for T28 in 2008.
TALES OF THE TAPE
WINNERS STAT Justin Thomas (2017) Jordan Spieth (2016) Patrick Reed (2015) Distance of All Drives 3rd 17 5th Driving Accuracy T17 T12 27 Greens in Regulation 2nd 11 15 Ball-Striking 1st T8 T13 Proximity to the Hole 3rd 3rd 26 Putting: Birdie-or-Better % 2nd 1st 7th SG: Off-the-Tee 3rd 6th 9th SG: Approach-the-Green 6th 6th 3rd SG: Around-the-Green T12 1st 6th SG: Putting 4th 1st 16th SG: Tee-to-Green 1st 1st 1st Scrambling 12th 3rd 2nd Bogey Avoidance 2nd 2nd T2 Par-3 Scoring 3rd 8th 15th Par-4 Scoring 1st 1st 5th Par-5 Scoring 23rd 1st 1st
2017 winner Justin Thomas extended the tradition of the champion leading the event in SG: Tee-to-Green. He also continued the tradition of going low (-22) as the last 11 winners have posted 14-under or lower. Of these champions, nine finished 18-under or lower and seven were 20-under or better. Thomas didn't sniff the course record of 62 (set last in 2015 by Chris Kirk and Jason Day) but he loaded up daily including three rounds of 67 (-6) and closing round 69 that included a double bogey. Although he didn't score well on the par fives, he avoided bogeys and dominated the par fours because he found GIR and his putter was cooperating.
Jordan Spieth has said he wants to play this event every year because it means he had a pretty good previous calendar year. After sorting through his numbers, it's not hard to see why. In three trips he's bossed Kapalua to the tune of 64-under-par with 74 birdies circled, good enough to lead the field in that category the last two years. He's never posted a round at par or worse and has never finished outside of the podium. He missed tying Ernie Els' tournament record by a shot in 2016 as he posted 30-under for his first victory here. I'd say he's comfortable!
The last of seven playoffs was in 2015 as Patrick Reed stormed from behind on Monday to catch and defeat Jimmy Walker. None of the last three champs have finished inside of the top 10 in fairways hit so don't worry about accuracy off the tee this week. Reed climbed up and cashed in by avoiding bogeys and making putts once he found the greens. Similarly to Spieth, Reed's ability to get up-and-down from anywhere didn't hurt and kept bogeys off his card.
For those of you who love trends, these three young guns won on their second visit to Kapalua and were all younger than 25. If this "trend" continues, congratulations to Daniel Berger on his impending victory! The young-up-and-comers used to be the exception, not the rule. World No. 4 Jon Rahm will lead a group of 14 players teeing it for the first time at Kapalua and those players will look to join Sergio Garcia (2002) and Daniel Chopra (2008) as winners on their first visit to Maui.
NOTE: Golfers inside the top 25 in each statistic on the 2016-17 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
* - Finished inside the top 10 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions since 2013.
Putting: Birdie-or-Better Percentage
1 *Justin Thomas
2 *Brooks Koepka
4 *Jordan Spieth
5 *Rickie Fowler
7 *Hideki Matsuyama
9 Cameron Smith
12 Grayson Murray
15 Jon Rahm
17 *Dustin Johnson
Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
1 *Dustin Johnson
2 *Jordan Spieth
3 Jon Rahm
5 *Hideki Matsuyama
6 *Justin Thomas
11 Kyle Stanley
14 Patrick Cantlay
15 Marc Leishman
16 *Rickie Fowler
23 *Brendan Steele
Par 5 Scoring
1 *Hideki Matsuyama
3 *Dustin Johnson
3 *Brooks Koepka
7 Patrick Cantlay
7 Jon Rahm
11 *Rickie Fowler
18 Marc Leishman
18 *Pat Perez
18 *Jordan Spieth
18 Kyle Stanley
24 *Justin Thomas
1 *Jordan Spieth
4 *Dustin Johnson
6 Patrick Cantlay
11 *Rickie Fowler
14 Jon Rahm
15 *Hideki Matsuyama
18 Marc Leishman
19 *Pat Perez
21 *Justin Thomas
25 Ryan Armour
The Plantation Course at Kapalua has hosted this event since 1999. Over the last almost 20 years, golf's biggest names have picked up the first-place check and that trend hasn't slowed down recently. With seven of the top 10 in the OWGR playing this week, there should be plenty of entertainment and challenges for gamers again this year. Of the last five winners, four were in their 20's. Of those four, only Patrick Reed does not have a major championship to his name. Justin Thomas is looking to join Geoff Ogilvy (2009, 2010) and Stuart Appleby (2004-2006) as the only players to defend on this Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw layout. With only 34 players in the field this week (no cut, 72 holes) and 14 of them being brand new to the event, the premium players are licking their chops!
The Plantation Course is the perfect landing spot to start the new calendar year as it has ranked the easiest on TOUR the last three seasons. The challenge this week isn't hitting fairways or greens but taking advantage when doing so. The fairways are some of the widest on TOUR and the two inches of bermudagrass rough guarding either side is hardly penal. The greens are also above the TOUR average in size and only run around 10
feet on the Stimpmeter. Slow, receptive greens will mean plenty of aggression with irons and with the putter and that should equal plenty of birdies. Everyone enjoys gripping it and ripping it plus going low so fantasy rosters better have guys who fit that description.
The trend I pointed out above suggests that the best players, regardless of age or experience, are doing the business recently on Maui. This wasn't always the case as it usually took a few tournaments to unlock the mystery of elevation, uneven lies, wind, greens and time management in paradise. Like everything else, time marches on and change follows. This new generation of players hasn't waited for much of anything on or off the golf course and that includes the learning curve on this hilly, windy track. The last three winners have only needed one prior event here to figure it all out. Big elevation changes? No problem. Trade winds or Kona winds? Sure, whatever, where's the first tee and what's the course record! These guys all hit it a mile and make a ton of birdies and that's part of the formula this week. This generation has no problem jet setting and playing all over the world so the experience, views and paradise of Hawaii is just another chapter in their book. They know how jet lag works and know how to get through it. They know how to have fun and work at the same time. The only thing that bothers them is NOT winning. It's quite impressive.
Speaking of trade winds, that's what's on the menu this week. The breezes that will blow 20-25 mph each day will present a challenge but the course was designed with these winds in mind. If these were Kona winds instead, we would be having an entirely different discussion. The 14 newbies will see why the fairways are the largest and the greens the slowest this week! Windy doesn't mean chilly as the temperature will hang out in the upper 70's for the entire four days, just as expected this time of year.
NOTE: The groups below are comprehensive to assist in data mining. Inclusion doesn't imply automatic endorsement in every fantasy game as all decisions are specific to your situation.
Selected golfers with multiple cuts made sorted by rank on the tournament's money list.
Rank Player Starts Top 10s Best Finish 7 Jordan Spieth 3 3 Win (2016) 9 Dustin Johnson 7 5 Win (2013) 16 Justin Thomas 2 1 Win (2017)
Sorted by best finish, selected golfers who are either finally finding form on the course or are still relatively new to the tournament but have enjoyed some success.
Player Starts Top 10s Best Finish Hideki Matsuyama 2 2 2nd (2017) Pat Perez 2 2 T3 (2017) Rickie Fowler 2 2 5th (2017) Brooks Koepka 1 1 T3 (2016) Kevin Kisner 1 1 9th (2016)
OTHER SIGNS OF COMFORT
Sorted by most recent top 10s, selected golfers for whom it's been a few years since their last.
Player Starts Top 10s Last Best Finish Brendan Steele 2 1 T6 (2017) T6 Russell Henley 2 1 T3 (2015) T3 Billy Horschel 2 1 T6 (2014) T6 Jason Dufner 3 1 5th (2014) 5th