Fantasy Insider: Sentry Tournament of Champions
January 05, 2021
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
Flyover: Plantation Course at Kapalua
Greetings, gang! As it has been since I assumed this chair in 2010, it remains my privilege and pleasure to keep it warm for another year.
To those of you familiar with my contributions, a continued thanks for your loyalty. I mean that with complete sincerity. Without our connection, none of this is possible. Keep sounding off and dropping notes. I’m always listening and forwarding when applicable.
If you’re new to these pages, please accept my physically distanced welcome. I think that you’ll find that things are in order and there’s probably more presented than you need, but that’s always the preferred alternative. Make yourself at home and ring the bell whenever you want to communicate. Hit me in the discussion threads or via Twitter, publicly or privately.
The Sentry Tournament of Champions leads off Segment 2 of PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf. Because Segment 1 consisted of 12 tournaments, including two majors, it was more challenging than the soft open with which veteran gamers were accustomed.
Segment 2 features only nine events through the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard. It’s easily the simplest to navigate, which means that it’s probably going to be the most competitive in your little league.
In addition to the 42-man Sentry TOC in Segment 2, the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship omits the 36-hole cut. So, while you could be forfeiting bonus points, any overall hit you incur will be mitigated by the promise of averting zeroes in the third and fourth rounds.
Even if you’re targeting Segment prizes, PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf is all about the long game, but saving headliners for tournaments with a cut can be foolish at a track like Kapalua for two reasons. First, it’s the second-smallest field of the year (after the 30-man TOUR Championship). Second, chalk almost always hogs space at the top of the leaderboard. If you’re still leaning at holstering the haymakers, at least consider utilizing your bench through three rounds for the option to slingshot a victory.
Many moons ago, I shared the math with you that PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf scores 8-15 percent lower when ShotLink isn’t measuring every stroke. This will be our reality for The American Express, the Farmers Insurance Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, all events within Segment 2. While ShotLink is used on the host courses of each of those tournaments, it isn’t on the other courses that share duties, so the fantasy game omits shot-level measurements for all rounds.
Even though the Farmers won’t have ShotLink for our purposes, its field will demand a strong fantasy lineup, so it’s an exception as it concerns the consideration of eliminating it as a smart spot to burn a start.
That there are only nine events in Segment 2 supports the strategy to plan on starting the usual suspects at Torrey Pines. Also pencil them in for The Genesis Invitational and the API to remain competitive. We can adapt to all of the rest in real time and without worry of exhausting starts prematurely.
For this week, the 27 golfers who didn’t appear in Monday’s Power Rankings are ranked below. Sleepers, Power Rankings Wild Card, Draws and Fades will return for next week’s Sony Open in Hawaii.
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
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: Daniel Berger; Bryson DeChambeau; Harris English; Mackenzie Hughes; Joaquin Niemann; Ryan Palmer; Cameron Smith
Driving: Cameron Champ; Bryson DeChambeau; Sungjae Im; Jason Kokrak; Joaquin Niemann; Scottie Scheffler; Webb Simpson
16. Cameron Smith … In what was one of the most difficult decisions in recent memory, he was the last to be cut from the Power Rankings. He finished T17 in his only prior trip in 2018, but that alone isn’t enough for an indictment. Quite simply, there just wasn’t enough room to squeeze him in. The argument would be the same for anyone for whom I’d have replaced in his favor. The Aussie concluded the fall with a solo 11th at Shadow Creek, a T4 at Sherwood and a T2 at the Masters.
17. Joaquin Niemann … If I had a Wild Card for the Sentry Tournament of Champions, he’d have been a logical choice, but an actual ranking of the remainder of the field goes further to legitimize confidence in him. After struggling to find his footing when play resumed, he’s gone 8-for-8 with a pair of top 10s among six top 25s. Also rose to the challenge in his first look at Kapalua last year for a T5. I still find it amusing that his primary doubt before competing at this level was if he’d have enough length off the tee. Suffice it to say that it’s no longer a thought as he ranked inside the top 35 in distance of all drives in each of his first two full seasons as a member.
18. Kevin Kisner … Five top-five finishes among nine top 20s in the last 12 months, including a solo second to finish his fall portion at Sea Island. Three starts at Kapalua, including a T14 last year when he started the final round at T4 and four strokes off the lead. DFSers will get paid with him rostered this week.
19. Sungjae Im … No matter his lowered expectation to make the cut in his Masters debut, the energy generated by the thrill of a share of second place likely needed more time to disperse immediately thereafter, so ignore the missed cut at Sea Island. He went on to finish T14 at the DP World Tour Championship ahead of his first experience at Kapalua. Should it evolve into a shootout as it often does, he’ll contend with a scorer’s mentality and the promise of four rounds.
20. Jason Kokrak … He oughta flourish in his first go at Kapalua. He’ll grip it and rip it because that’s his calling card, but the badge as a long-baller masks his top trait as a sharpshooter with his irons.
21. Mackenzie Hughes … Recall when he eked into the TOUR Championship with a five-foot conversion for par on the 72nd hole of the BMW Championship. While every stroke counts the same, that one was of the most value with what was at stake. Among the spoils was a return trip to Kapalua where he placed T25 in his debut in 2017 and when he was a PGA TOUR rookie. His body of work over the last 10 months prove that his learning curve has flattened and he’s entirely comfortable in his own skin. Superb option in every format.
22. Scottie Scheffler … Recovered from COVID-19 to end the fall with a pair of top 20s, the latter of which in his Masters debut. As a non-winner on the PGA TOUR, he’s a timely beneficiary of the provision to allow all the qualifiers of the 2020 TOUR Championship to tee it up at Kapalua, and he’s a great fit for the test. Both balanced and aggressive throughout his bag.
23. Stewart Cink … The 47-year-old isn’t the oldest in the field – Brian Gay is 49 – but he’s the only qualifier in the tournament before it moved to Kapalua in 1999 (T6 at La Costa, 1998). Cink has given it a go at Kapalua four times but not since 2010 when he finished ninth. Those are the facts and they are outdated. The friction is associated with a resurgence of confidence that has him fourth in the FedExCup with more distance off the tee.
24. Abraham Ancer … Among the best of the active without a PGA TOUR victory, so it was only a matter of time before he’d be making travel arrangements to Maui. Look for him to treat Kapalua like target practice as he learns the greens in his debut. With so much love among DFSers, he won’t be under-owned, but he presents as a more valuable in PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf where chalk reigns supreme on this course.
25. Lanto Griffin … In his debut here last year, he finished 13th with predictable challenges on the greens. That experience now is an asset. He also ranked sixth in both proximity to the hole and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, as well as T4 in par-5 scoring, so he returns with confidence from tee to green. But bottom line, he’s remained so impressive since regaining his card and already has a pair of top 15s on the board this season, both in no-cut affairs like the Sentry TOC.
26. Ryan Palmer … Consistently strong throughout the period following the shutdown and built to dissect Kapalua. As always, it’ll boil down to his streaky putter, but don’t let that dissuade you in a tiebreaker situation in DFS.
27. Adam Scott … It’s been seven years since he launched into a calendar year on Maui. A strong track record aside through 2014, he failed to lock in after taking his time to return to competition following the shutdown in 2020, although he still went 6-for-6 with a pair of (barely) top 25s. Can’t dismiss the impact of turning 40 during his five-month break. Tiptoe until he turns it around.
28. Sebastián Muñoz … Limped into the holiday break with a pair of missed cuts, but dismiss the possibility for a trend in the wrong direction. He enjoyed an extended stretch of success that propelled him to his first TOUR Championship and to a T19 in his Masters debut. Placed T17 in his first look at Kapalua last year.
29. Michael Thompson … Can’t cite actual sleepers in this field but in the context of expectations, he comes strong in that lane. Profiles as a reliable putter on shorter tracks but there are exceptions over time. One of them was at Kapalua in his only prior appearance in 2014. He led the field in fairways hit and ranked T2 in greens in regulation en route to a T16. He also co-led in par-5 scoring, which separate his skill set from Kevin Na’s.
30. Billy Horschel … The streaky 34-year-old galloped through the tape of official competition in 2020 with a T5 at Mayakoba. He’s made four trips to Kapalua but he’s gone 12 consecutive rounds without a sub-70. That dates back to 2015. Complementary piece.
31. Marc Leishman … The pandemic served as a bucket of ice water poured over his form. However, he rallied for a T13 at the Masters to silence the doubters and, more importantly, finicky fantasy folks. With top 10s in his last two trips to Kapalua and always a threat when the wind freshens, he’s poised to open 2021 with a compelling hook for a new chapter.
32. Sergio Garcia … This marks his fifth appearance but first of the FedExCup era. He’s one of three to prevail in his debut at Kapalua (2002), but the value of course history and success has a shelf life. He’s also been off for two months since COVID-19 prevented him from competing in the Masters.
33. Brendon Todd … It’s still hard to believe that just 19 months ago, he didn’t have an Official World Golf Ranking. It’s one thing for a young amateur to claim a similar rise, but Todd broke onto the PGA TOUR in 2009. Now 35 years of age and slotted 47th in the OWGR, his challenge will be competing for scoring opportunities despite the sizable greens. En route to a 29th-place finish (of 34) last year, he was second-to-last in the field in converting his GIR (T26) into par breakers.
34. Martin Laird … Worked all the way back from surgery on his left knee in June to his fourth career PGA TOUR title at the Shriners in October, but went 0-for-2 thereafter. The Scot always has presented as a horse for courses who also rewards patient full-season investors with a comparatively light schedule. He’s fared well at Kapalua with a T4 in 2010 and a runner-up finish in 2012, so it wouldn’t be entirely coincidental if he crashes the leaderboard beside the waves again this week.
35. Kevin Na … After having to withdraw prior to the 2019 edition with a fractured pinky finger and finishing T32 last year, he’s still seeking redemption from the untimely malady. Unfortunately, he’s not a good fit for the track no matter his form upon arrival, which isn’t a concern. His strengths are hitting fairways, rolling in putts and scoring on the par 3s, but Kapalua strips him of the value of his straight ball and it has only three true one-shotters. That said, he brings firepower when we least expect it, so he sets up as a potential fun investment for aggressive DFSers.
36. Carlos Ortiz … The newest first-time winner on the PGA TOUR followed his breakthrough in Houston with three weeks off to celebrate and reset. He then capped the fall with a T8 in his native Mexico at Mayakoba. As a newcomer to Kapalua, the learning curve will be steepest on the greens, so allow him to take on that challenge alone.
37. Andrew Landry … Gamers probably need to settle with the fact that he’s comfortable with who he is; that is, a guy whose confidence grows the nearer he gets to the prize. The problem is that it happens infrequently. This positions him as a fair and economical option for fractional usage in DFS, but the waters will be choppy. Capped 2020 with a T4 at Sea Island for his only top 25 since winning The American Express in mid-January. T22 in his only trip to Kapalua in 2019.
38. Robert Streb … Because Mayakoba champ Viktor Hovland already was eligible for the Sentry Tournament of Champions when he won the Puerto Rico Open earlier in 2020, Streb was the last to officially qualify with his out-of-nowhere triumph at Sea Island. The last time he earned an invitational also was a result of a playoff victory at Sea Island, and he finished T8 at Kapalua following that holiday break, but he was performing at a lights-out level during what was his career season.
39. Richy Werenski … After trending toward something special that was the reality of his breakthrough title at the Barracuda Championship, it’s been tough sledding for the Kapalua debutant. He’s 3-for-6 with only one top-55 finish this season.
40. Brian Gay … He’s the clubhouse leader among those who are experiencing strange seasons. Since winning the Bermuda Championship for his first victory since 2013 and first top 25 in nearly 12 months, he’s withdrawn from all three commitments. He also pulled out early from the Sanderson Farms Championship a month prior to Bermuda. As of now, he remains committed to the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but gamers are advised to abstain until we understand more of why he’s modified his schedule as much as he has.
41. Nick Taylor … His only top 25 in the last 14 months was his victory at Pebble Beach in February. In his only prior spin around Kapalua, he finished T29 in 2015.
42. Hudson Swafford … He knew he had a phenomenal week with the putter at Corales en route to victory and said so. Alas, the club hasn’t been kind since and a 1-for-5 record with a T63 (Bermuda) proves it.
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Erik van Rooyen … Last laced up the spikes in PGA TOUR-sanctioned competition at the Masters where he was forced to retire after one round due to an injured back. A month later, he polished off his year with a T14 at the DP World Tour Championship to place 13th in the Race to Dubai. The 30-year-old from South Africa is a TOUR member for the first time this season.
Seung-Yul Noh … Shame on me. This is the second straight year that I’ve overlooked his return at home in South Korea. Since withdrawing from the 3M Open with a sore shoulder in the second round in late July of 2020, he’s competed twice on the KPGA and recorded a top 25 in each start, the latter of which in September. Still has 22 starts on his Major Medical Extension on the PGA TOUR to collect 297.425 FedExCup points and retain status, so the 29-year-old presents a modicum of long-term value in deeper formats.
Vince Covello … The 2019-20 PGA TOUR rookie hasn’t appeared in sanctioned competition since calling it quits after one round of the Wyndham Championship in August due to a sore back. However, he did participate as one of the notables at the Henry Tuten Gator Bowl Pro-Am two weeks ago, so perhaps his formal return is imminent. That said, he has virtually no fantasy value currently slotted 45th of 47 in the reshuffle category.
Rory McIlroy … Continues to rest since a T5 at the Masters, but it’s not surprising. He’s qualified nine times of the Sentry and has made just one appearance (T4, 2019).
Tyrrell Hatton … He’s the only of the eight first-time qualifiers who opted not to make the trip. Sits 30th in the FedExCup on the strength of a pair of top 10s in the fall. Finished ninth in the Race to Dubai after a T8 at the DP World Tour Championship.
Jim Herman … Sidelined indefinitely with COVID-19.
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – Mayakoba Golf Classic presented by UNIFIN
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Justin Thomas T12
2 Harris English T5
3 Abraham Ancer T12
4 Carlos Ortiz T8
5 Daniel Berger T23
6 Brooks Koepka MC
7 Tony Finau T8
8 Patton Kizzire T32
9 Corey Conners T17
10 Viktor Hovland Win
11 Emiliano Grillo T8
12 Sebastián Muñoz MC
13 Brian Gay DNP
14 Will Zalatoris T52
15 Brice Garnet T32
Wild Card Pat Perez T52
SLEEPERS RECAP – Mayakoba Golf Classic presented by UNIFIN
Joel Dahmen T20
Doug Ghim T46
Chesson Hadley MC
Scott Piercy T40
Rory Sabbatini T40
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE GOLFERS ON THE PGA TOUR
January 5 … Tom Lewis (30)
January 6 … Corey Conners (29)
January 7 … Camilo Villegas (39); Keith Mitchell (29)
January 8 … none
January 9 … Sergio Garcia (41)
January 10 … Ian Poulter (45)
January 11 … none