Welcome back, fellow gamers. It's my pleasure to return as well. This begins my ninth year in this seat and I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. So, as always, thank you for your time and loyalty.
Even though the PGA TOUR has been off since The RSM Classic in mid-November, there's been no such halt to action around the world. In the field for the Sentry Tournament of Champions alone, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Cameron Smith hoisted hardware somewhere where they also collected Official World Golf Ranking points. Those and other performances are included in player capsules in the Power Rankings and below. No player is ignored in the 34-man field.
Also resuming this week is PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO. The Sentry TOC is the first of 13 tournaments in Segment 2, but it's one of only nine for which ShotLink will measure performance. All three events on the West Coast Swing contested over multiple courses and the inaugural stop in the Dominican Republic in March will reward only actual scoring before bonus points are calculated.
While it wasn't included in the Roster game, the Puerto Rico Open will be an unofficial charity event this year to benefit the island in the wake of Hurricane Maria, so it won't contribute to the season-long One & Done game. This means that the 2017-18 season will feature 48 events. The PRO will return as an official tournament in 2019.
If you sat out fantasy coverage in the fall, you missed a couple of notable introductions:
• First, Mike Glasscott is now on board as a contributor for our fantasy content. He assumed the reins of The Confidence Factor in November and launched a new series entitled "Emergency 9," which feature takeaways after every day's action during tournaments, including ownership percentages for the fantasy games. It's our foray into in-tournament coverage, so be sure to check it out. Glass and I worked together at Rotoworld for several years, so it's a treat to reunite here. Look for him on Twitter as @MikeGlasscott.
• A new item can be found on the Fantasy page. My Twitter feed is now visible after a brief scroll. If you're not familiar with how I use Twitter, I always tweet published fields, field changes and links to just about everything that publishes that I've either written or in which I'm included. Having my feed on the Fantasy page is just one more way of narrowing the focus for you to find what you want and need.
Now that we're up to date, let's get back after it!
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO
My roster for the Sentry Tournament of Champions (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Patrick Cantlay; Brooks Koepka; Jon Rahm; Cameron Smith
Driving: Patrick Cantlay; Russell Henley; Kevin Kisner; Jon Rahm; Kyle Stanley; Brendan Steele
Approach: Kevin Kisner; Jon Rahm; Kyle Stanley
Short: Brian Harman; Russell Henley; Kevin Kisner; Brooks Koepka; Pat Perez
Power Rankings Wild Card
16. Cameron Smith … First-timer comin' in hot. If you weren't already convinced that the 24-year-old Aussie is the real deal, take notice of his latest burst of form. Since wrapping the 2016-17 season with a T12 at the BMW Championship, he's finished a respective T5, third, fourth and first. The victory occurred at the Australian PGA Championship, so it carried additional significance. My only advice as it concerns him is not to load up on debutants at Kapalua.
Rest of the Field
17. Kyle Stanley … Reached the TOUR Championship after ranking second in greens in regulation and T4 in proximity to the hole last season. With all of that to remain hopeful, he opened 2017-18 with a T21-T19-T5 spurt abroad and sits just inside the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking. A 30th-place showing in his only prior appearance at Kapalua in 2013 fulfills the requirement of experience, so he's a worthy complement in any format.
18. Russell Henley … T3 in his last appearance three years ago and sports a strong skill set putting on Bermuda. In short, serves as a nifty fit to complement the chalk in every format.
19. Austin Cook … First-timer and only 2017-18 rookie in the field. The last man to qualify has been on a tear for months. Fellow first-timers Jon Rahm (No. 10), Xander Schauffele (No. 13) and Patrick Cantlay (No. 14) appeared in the Power Rankings, but Cook also hurls a wrench into neatly laid plans to swerve around these guys because of form. So, approach each as a contrarian, if that's even possible in a field of only 34.
20. Jason Dufner … With just one top-15 finish (fifth, 2014) in three tries and a relatively quiet second half of calendar-year 2017 (no top 10s), he's an easy fade in this field despite his tee-to-green strength. Just bank on something in the middle and move on.
21. Bryson DeChambeau … First-timer. In a special edition of "Talk of the TOUR" in mid-December, I circled him as one of my most compelling values for 2018. And while nothing he achieves is surprising, investing in the absence of experience at Kapalua is a recipe for regret.
22. Patton Kizzire … First-timer. He loves himself the fall events, so it's really not too surprising that he's atop the FedExCup standings as the season resumes. One of the more favorable among the fresh flock of talent at Kapalua, but respect the learning curve if you're torn between him and an experienced competitor.
23. Kevin Chappell … First-timer. The frequent foil is barely average in proximity to the hole, so you'd be pressing right out of the gate as he builds his résumé at Kapalua. He's also not a short-lister in shootouts, but his ball control will be an asset in the wind. Bottom line, you're unlikely to need to dig this deep.
24. Hudson Swafford … First-timer. Since breaking through at the CareerBuilder Challenge just two weeks after last year's Sentry TOC, he managed three more top 10s and turned 30 in September. As he continues to creep up in value in long-term formats, his proficiency on approach projects to give him a chance at Kapalua, but he'll need a magical week with the wand to end the 10-year drought for a debutant champion.
25. Grayson Murray … First-timer. Earned his exemption with a victory at the Barbasol Championship. Inconsistency marked most of a rough-and-tumble rookie season, but that's to be expected. The long hitter should have some fun off the tee on Maui. He's also a sneaky scorer, a characteristic that's benefited by large greens.
26. Billy Horschel … A month after withdrawing during the Shriners with a sore left shoulder, he honored his commitment to the QBE Shootout in his native Florida. That's good news in advance of his third trip to Kapalua where he's finished T6 (2014) and T22 (2015). However, he struggled something fierce for three months-plus until succumbing to the injury. Use this week as a barometer.
27. Adam Hadwin … First-timer. Scuffled often after securing his maiden title at Copperhead. His not-so-secret weapon is his putter and the sizeable greens give him an edge if a putting contest breaks out, but it'll take him a round or two to get the feel for and learn the undulations in tournament conditions. Yet, he'd be a Sleeper if I didn't cover the remainder of the field on this page. He's long enough off the tee and the trade winds shouldn't get under the Canadian's skin or in between his ears.
28. Wesley Bryan … First-timer. As reliant as he is on his putter to make noise, he's cast off into the monitor-only bucket in his debut. That decision is aided by the fact that he went nine straight starts worldwide without a top 30 until a T9 at the Dunlop Phoenix in his last. Indeed, the 2016-17 rookie is enduring the learning curve, but I still love its trajectory.
29. Ryan Armour … First-timer. Here he is, having the time of his life. As he should be. The veteran will turn 42 next month. He's compiled an impressive record since rising to a T4 at the Wyndham Championship in August. Even better, he has no qualms with going low, so that aligns with the opportunity at Kapalua. Dive in if you simply can't help taking a dip, but understand that flames with his series of factors that sparked it don't flicker long.
30. Jhonattan Vegas … Maybe his third appearance is the charm. He finished last (of 27) in his debut in 2012 and tied for second-to-last in his return trip last year. Stick with full-season formats.
31. Jonas Blixt … His team title with Cameron Smith at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans didn't yield Official World Golf Ranking points, so Blixt slots just 281st. That's second-worst in this field (to D.A. Points at 292nd), but the Swede was outside the top 425 until a co-runner-up finish at the Australian Open in late November. This is to say that his game hasn't been up to the standards necessary to resonate in individual competition for some time. Case in point, he's gone nearly 23 months without a top 15 in the format on the PGA TOUR. He also failed to cross that threshold in both of his previous appearances at Kapalua.
32. Chris Stroud … First-timer. Gone quiet since his out-of-nowhere win in Reno and a T9 at the PGA Championship the following week, but it stands to reason that the impact of Hurricane Harvey in his community of Houston took a toll on the comparatively unimportant task of hitting a golf ball with two years of guaranteed employment secure. At the same time, gamers require results to invest, so let him come to you now that we're back in business in 2018.
33. Si Woo Kim … So extreme in a land of extremes on a course of extremes that anything is possible and nothing is surprising. The fact is, even full-season gamers sign on with lowered expectations to survive the roller coaster. Shared second-to-last place as a first-timer last year.
34. D.A. Points … The 41-year-old is back at Kapalua for his third appearance. Since capturing the title at the Puerto Rico Open, he's manufactured only two top 50s, but has gone 16 straight starts without one.
Justin Rose … Arguably the planet's hottest talent at the moment. His title at the WGC-HSBC Champions was the first of three victories in his last six starts worldwide and he didn't finish outside the top 10 in any of his last 10. This is the sixth consecutive time he's declined to compete at Kapalua. Will be back inside the ropes no later than the Farmers Insurance Open on Jan. 25-28.
Sergio Garcia ... The 2017 Masters champ won at Kapalua as a first-timer in 2002. Since his last appearance in 2006, he's passed on all four opportunities to return. Scheduled to make his 2018 debut at the SMBC Singapore Open on Jan. 18-21.
Henrik Stenson … Despite qualifying five times, he hasn't pegged it at Kapalua since he first earned the exemption for the 2008 edition. Only one start in the last two months (17th, Hero) while nursing a sore rib. Expected to take part in the Eurasia Cup in Malaysia on Jan. 12-14.
Power Rankings Recap – The RSM Classic
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Webb Simpson WD
2 Kevin Kisner T4
3 Charles Howell III MC
4 Chesson Hadley T37
5 Brian Harman T4
6 Bill Haas MC
7 Ollie Schniederjans MC
8 Scott Brown MC
9 Jamie Lovemark MC
10 Patton Kizzire T45
11 Patrick Rodgers MC
12 Kevin Streelman T17
13 Matt Kuchar T29
14 William McGirt T8
15 J.J. Spaun 2nd
Wild Card Zach Johnson T8
Sleepers Recap – The RSM Classic
Jonathan Byrd MC
Chad Campbell MC
Tom Hoge T25
Sean O'Hair MC
Michael Thompson T17
Power Rankings Recap – Hero World Challenge
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Justin Rose T5
2 Brooks Koepka 18th
3 Dustin Johnson T14
4 Rickie Fowler Win
5 Jordan Spieth T3
6 Matt Kuchar T9
7 Justin Thomas 11th
8 Hideki Matsuyama T5
9 Henrik Stenson 17th
10 Patrick Reed T5
11 Kevin Kisner T12
12 Francesco Molinari 8th
13 Charley Hoffman 2nd
14 Daniel Berger T14
15 Tommy Fleetwood T3
16 Tiger Woods T9
17 Kevin Chappell T14
18 Alex Noren T12
Birthdays among active golfers on the PGA TOUR
January 2 … none
January 3 … Charlie Wi (46)
January 4 … none
January 5 … Shaun Micheel (49)
January 6 … Tyrone Van Aswegen (36); Corey Conners (26)
January 7 … Camilo Villegas (36); Keith Mitchell (26)
January 8 … none