Power Rankings: Sentry Tournament of Champions
January 03, 2022
By Rob Bolton , PGATOUR.COM
PGA TOUR – The CUT
2022 Sentry Tournament of Champions preview
No matter the media you consume, at the conclusion of 2021, you couldn’t escape space dedicated to the year in review. The tidy, one-stop shop to remind you of what happened and what you may have missed is ideal as an icebreaker at a holiday party, too. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
Some years in review are chronological, others are presented in the context of impact, and still others use reactions to rank the favorites or the most memorable. The Sentry Tournament of Champions takes it a step further.
Only winners in 2021 qualified for the most exclusive field on the PGA TOUR, so there is nothing arbitrary about this gathering. What’s more, the best of the best of their respective weeks will settle who’s deserving of the top spot inside the ropes.
More on the construct of the field of 39 on Maui, how Kapalua Resort’s Plantation Course tests and other nuggets can be found beneath the projected contenders.
The other 24 in the field will be ranked 16-39 in Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider. (There are no Sleepers for the tournament.)
Of the 39 winners in 2021, only Rory McIlroy (Wells Fargo Championship and THE CJ CUP @ SUMMIT) didn’t commit this week. However, the field still is 39 deep because Xander Schauffele received an invitation as the gold medalist at the Olympics in Tokyo.
This is the third edition of the tournament since the Plantation Course was renovated by its designers, Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. After a daunting debut in 2019 during which the field’s average of 72.228 set a 12-year high, breezes were tolerable en route to a scoring average of 69.315 last year. It was the second-lowest average (2003) in its first 23 years as host.
As these things are concerned, earnest critiques and comparable reviews of a renovation should wait until three spins are in the books, but because of the relatively consistent climate at sea level in Hawaii, it’s probably already fair to assess that the TifEagle bermuda greens have matured quicker than, say, the expectation in a four-season climate. This is to say that every target is a green light in the context of distance control. The spring has sprung.
Flatter greens intended in the renovation not only generated the potential for new hole locations, but the grass could be trimmed low enough to yield a Stimpmeter reading of 11 feet, weather pending. (Prior to the work, the max speed was 10 feet due to undulations and the threat of wind on a resort course.) With virtually no sustainable wind forecast all week – although this can change faster than you just read this warning – a fully formed Plantation Course can be presented.
With just three par 3s, Kapalua is the only par 73 of the season, but a winning aggregate from 25- to 30-under is in play thanks to generous fairways and some of the largest greens any golfer will see all year. In scorable conditions last year, the field averaged 11.85 (of 15) fairways and 14.19 greens in regulation per round. Both splits were the highest of 51 courses measured during the super season.
Harris English prevailed in a playoff over Joaquin Niemann at 25-under 267. Both were in their second appearance, so at the end of regulation, the tournament was guaranteed to crown its fifth champion in seven years who was in his first return trip. Patrick Reed (2015), Jordan Spieth (2016), Justin Thomas (2017) and Xander Schauffele (2019) preceded. The most recent of the three first-timers to win at Kapalua is Daniel Chopra in 2008. That’s ominous for the nine debutants in this week’s field, while another seven are getting their first look at the renovation.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.