Power Rankings: Sentry Tournament of Champions
Jordan Spieth leads the way
January 01, 2018
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
Jordan Spieth's walk-off bunker shot at Travelers is the No. 1 shot of 2017
Happy New Year!
As the date above shows, it's literally the first day of the year, so you know that the greeting is genuine. Beginning at some time later this week, we can debate (and disagree) when the message jumps the shark, but if the PGA TOUR in 2018 provides even a fraction of what we witnessed last year, we'll be happy all year.
The season resumes with the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua Resort's Plantation Course on Maui.
POWER RANKINGS: SENTRY TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
1 Jordan Spieth 2 Justin Thomas 3 Rickie Fowler 4 Dustin Johnson 5 Hideki Matsuyama 6 Marc Leishman 7 Pat Perez 8 Brendan Steele 9 Brian Harman 10 Jon Rahm 11 Kevin Kisner 12 Daniel Berger 13 Xander Schauffele 14 Patrick Cantlay 15 Brooks Koepka
With only 34 golfers in the field, there is no Sleepers this week. Instead, all remaining golfers will appear in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
It was announced in August that Sentry Insurance assumed title sponsorship of the winners-only Tournament of Champions through 2022. Of this year's 37 qualifiers, only Sergio Garcia, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson have chosen not to compete.
Fourteen of the 34 in the field are making their tournament debut, including Adam Hadwin of Canada, Jon Rahm of Spain and Cameron Smith of Australia. Not only is each attempting to become the first first-timer to prevail in 10 years (Daniel Chopra), but each would be ending the Americans' streak of seven consecutive victories. If it doesn't seem like that should matter in the context of an individual sport – you're right, it really doesn't outside of fact – consider that the previous nine editions were won by internationals.
Sticking to another trend, with his three-stroke victory last year, Justin Thomas became the third straight winner in his second appearance, following Patrick Reed (2015) and Jordan Spieth (2016).
There is a learning curve at Kapalua, but the youth of today are ruining it for the rest of the class, not that the formula for success is a mystery this week. With generous fairways, one of the largest and most receptive sets of greens on the schedule and an exclusive field comprised only of winners, the extremes baked into the challenge amplify the necessity to hit the ground sprinting.
As you'd expect on a par 73 (with four par 5s but only three par 3s on a 7,452-yard layout) and with a field of this quality, Kapalua is three years running as the easiest course in relation to par. Last year's average landed at 70.375.
Connecting on approach or with the putter are prerequisites to contend, but the overlying objective is to knock it in tight what with the top of the leaderboard often eclipsing the field average of greens in regulation with easy targets. Bermudagrass surfaces are prepped to run at just 10 feet on the Stimpmeter, while the introduction of a fringe cut extending nearly two feet around the perimeter of every green figures to grab a handful of aggressive approaches.
Textbook weather conditions are expected throughout the tournament. Moderate-to-gusty trade winds present the greatest test for the 14 newcomers, while sun-splashed vistas accompanying daytime highs in the upper 70s will remind most of us on the mainland why Hawaii is an even more popular destination at this time of year.
ROB BOLTON’S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week’s event. Look for the following columns this week.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, which also publishes on Tuesdays.