All right. Holiday break time is over. It's time to get back to work.
"Work." Ha. Yeah, right. The Sentry Tournament of Champions is the reward for scaling the mountain, not the arduous climb to its summit.
The ironically steep Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort on Maui is the site of the mass celebration for the most challenging tournament for which to qualify on the PGA TOUR. Only winners register upon arrival, 34 will compete and there is no cut.
Continue reading beneath the ranking for information on the tournament, the host course and more.
POWER RANKINGS: SENTRY TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
RANK PLAYER COMMENT 15 Bubba Watson 14 Brandt Snedeker 13 Rory McIlroy 12 Francesco Molinari 11 Matt Kuchar 10 Bryson DeChambeau 9 Gary Woodland 8 Xander Schauffele 7 Justin Thomas 6 Patrick Reed 5 Webb Simpson 4 Jason Day 3 Jon Rahm 2 Dustin Johnson 1 Marc Leishman
I will rank the other 19 golfers 16-34 in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider, so Sleepers will return for next week's Sony Open in Hawaii.
The Sentry Tournament of Champions is billed as a winners-only competition, but since the 2012 edition, a spot in the field has been reserved for the previous season's FedExCup champion if he went winless en route to that title. It's a provision that never needed to be triggered because all winners of the FedExCup had at least one win during the season in which he raised the trophy. It's also a provision that's no longer necessary with the new structure of the FedExCup. The winner of the 2019 TOUR Championship is the FedExCup champion, so he will qualify automatically for the 2020 Sentry TOC.
In 2018, Justin Rose became the first FedExCup champ without a victory in the same Playoffs, but he already had qualified for this week's Sentry TOC as the winner of the Fort Worth Invitational. Rose, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson are the only qualifiers this week who elected not to commit.
For all of the attention that the Plantation Course receives for its elevation and ridiculously long drives – 35 of the longest 50 drives of the 2017-18 season were recorded here – the focus worth the traction is on attacking pins and sinking putts. Sure, defending champion Dustin Johnson paced last year's field in distance of all drives with an average of 324.7 yards, but he also averaged 14 greens in regulation per round (ranking T8) and led the way with fewest putts per GIR. Furthermore, he finished second in conversation percentage inside 10 feet and sixth in strokes gained: putting en route to a field-high 26 par breakers (including three eagles).
The greens at Kapalua are massive for two reasons: It's a resort course and the wind. It was routed to cater to the trade winds from the northeast, but with nothing in the way to slow them down, it wouldn't be as much fun approaching average-sized targets. On cue, trade winds are forecast to gust 30-35 mph during each of the first three rounds this week. If that sounds nasty, they didn't relent throughout the 2018 edition. Although the field's scoring average of 71.221 marked a five-year high, DJ hung up 24-under 268 en route to an eight-stroke romp.
Maxing at just 10 feet on the Stimpmeter to defend against the wind, the Bermudagrass putting surface invite aggressive strikes, but it's still just as important as anywhere else to hit it in tight. Consider that Johnson connected just three times in 38 chances from 10 feet and outside that range last year. His longest conversion measured just 15 feet, five inches at the fifth hole in the opening round.
With the full allotment of four par 5s but just three par 3s, the Plantation Course plays to the only par of 73 on the PGA TOUR schedule. For the first time since 2013, the course has been lengthened, this time by 66 yards. A new tee at No. 4 has extended the hole by 42 yards; the par 4 now tips at 424 yards. The par-4 sixth is up 24 yards to 422 yards. Overall, Kapalua measures 7,518 yards.
Since DJ captured victory, other work was done throughout the property in response to some wear and tear on the greens and in the bunkers, but a considerable portion of that effort was in preparation merely for the Sentry TOC. Once it concludes, a thorough renovation that includes new grass will occur.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
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.