The First Look: Sentry Tournament of Champions
December 28, 2018
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- December 28, 2018
Dustin Johnson dominates the field of winners at Sentry
PGA TOUR Player of the Year Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Francesco Molinari headline the field as the PGA TOUR rings in the season restart in Hawaii, when Kapalua Resort welcomes a 34-man lineup comprised solely of tournament winners from 2018.
Dustin Johnson, whose three PGA TOUR wins in 2018 was bettered only by Bryson DeChambeau, seeks a third Sentry Tournament of Champions crown as he defends last year’s Sunday runaway. It’s also the Kapalua debut for Rory McIlroy, taking the plunge in the seventh time he’s qualified for the event.
FIELD NOTES: Cameron Champ, who won the Sanderson Farms Championship in the second start of his rookie season, and Kevin Tway (Safeway Open) also are among a group of nine pros making their first visit to Kapalua. … Charles Howell III, who won The RSM Classic in the final stop of the 2018 docket, returns to Kapalua for the first time since 2008. Paul Casey (Valspar Championship) last played in 2010; Molinari (Open Championship) in 2011. … Johnson, who also won the wind-whipped 2013 edition, is joined by Justin Thomas (2017), and Reed (2015) as the only former Sentry Tournament of Champions winners in the field.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
STORYLINES: Koepka, last a year ago amid wrist problems that eventually shelved him for four months, seeks a touch of redemption upon his return to Maui. He was third in his Kapalua debut in 2016, though Jordan Spieth was a runaway winner. … McIlroy arrives as part of a renewed focus on the PGA TOUR schedule. In past years, he started his year at the European Tour’s Middle East swing and often didn’t make his U.S. debut until Florida. … Jon Rahm, second in his Kapalua debut last January, hopes his strong 2018 finish can roll over into the new year. The Spaniard stood atop the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas, two weeks after placing fourth at the European Tour’s season finale. … DeChambeau seeks his fourth win in a five-month stretch, including two FedExCup Playoffs wins last August. He also was a winner in Las Vegas. … Johnson has the chance to become the Sentry Tournament of Champions's first back-to-back winner since Geoff Ogilvy in 2009-10. … The event marks its 21st edition at Kapalua, having taken up its calendar-opening slot in 1999. The event dates back to 1953, with Jack Nicklaus winning it four times.
COURSE: Plantation Course at Kapalua, 7,518 yards, par 73. Situated at the foot of the West Maui Mountains, the Plantation Course rings in the new year with some of the most dazzling views seen all season. One of the first projects by the tandem of Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore. the course opened in 1991 and makes use of dramatic elevation changes that include several downhill tee shots. With that beauty, though, comes an exposure to the elements that can flirt with the extreme, evidenced by the turbulent 2013 edition that required a Tuesday finish. In most years the trade winds stay gentle enough for the winner to approach 20-under par over four days.
72-HOLE RECORD: 261, Ernie Els (2003).
18-HOLE RECORD: 62, K.J. Choi (3rd round, 2003), Graeme McDowell (4th round, 2011), Jason Day (4th round, 2015), Chris Kirk (4th round, 2015).
LAST YEAR: Johnson powered his way to a fifth win in an 11-month span, punctuating an eight-shot romp with by a 432-yard drive at Kapalua’s 12th hole that nearly went in for a par-4 ace. The drive stopped 6 inches from the hole, highlighting an 8-under-par 65 that was best of anyone on the week. Johnson began the day with a two-shot edge over Brian Harman, taking firm control with three birdies in his first six holes, adding another at No. 9 to open a six-stroke margin. He wound up with the 17th career PGA TOUR win, and the eight-shot gap was one off David Duval’s standard since the tournament relocated to Kapalua in 1999. Rahm led the chase pack after a closing 69, while Harman was third after struggling to a 72.
HOW TO FOLLOW
TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 6-10 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 4-6 p.m. (NBC); 6-8 p.m. (GC). Sunday, 6-10 p.m. (GC).
PGA TOUR LIVE: None.
RADIO: Thursday-Friday, 4-10 p.m. Saturday, 3-8 p.m. Sunday, 5-10 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.COM).