Sentry Tournament of Champions
December 31, 2019
Even though it is not the first official event of the 2019/20 PGA Tour season, the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua is the first event in 2020. Who doesn’t like starting their 2020 campaign in Hawaii? What’s even better for us on the east coast, we get another dose of primetime golf. Let’s take a look at what will take place January 2-5.
Only PGA Tour winners in 2019 can qualify to play in the ToC. That means even though Cameron Champ, Brendon Todd, Lanto Griffin, and Tyler Duncan technically won in the 2019/2020 season, they still qualify for the tournament. So if we look at everyone who won in 2019 we have 42 qualifiers for the event, but yet only 32 will make the trip this week.
With no cut for this small field event this week, golfers will be able to enjoy the views that Kapalua provides. They are still playing for a purse of $6,700,000 and a chance to return next year, so don’t think that they will be taking it easy this week. Even though Rory, Tiger, and Brooks aren’t making the trip, we will still get to watch 5 of the top 10 in the world tee it up this week.
There are some great pairings on Thursday that I can’t wait to see. Probably the pairing everyone wants to see if Patrick Reed and Kevin Kisner. Tiger’s captain’s pick versus the player most wanted to fill the spot. We will also be treated to a Justin Thomas/Xander Schauffele pairing which spotlights two past champions. Will we see Max Homa live tweeting his reactions to Kevin Na walking in putts? No matter what we will get some great golf at Kapalua.
In February of 2019, the Plantation course at Kapalua closed down for a complete renovation by Coore & Crenshaw, the original course architects. They resurfaced all the greens with Tif Eagle bermudagrass and tees, fairways, and rough with Celebration bermudagrass. The primary goal of the renovation was to improve the overall experience of their guests, but will be interesting to see how it looks this weekend.
The course’s dramatic elevation changes make it play less than the 7,596 yards as stated on the scorecard of this par 73 course. With two par 5’s and the unusually long par 4 17th in the final four hole stretch, the course provides excitement all the way until the finish. Last year, Xander Schauffele shot a final round 62 to come from behind to win thanks to birdies on 17 and 18.
From Dustin Johnson’s 430 yard drive in 2018 to Tiger and Ernie’s playoff in 2000, we have seen some incredible shots and this year will be no different. Even though the course favors long hitters, we have seen the likes of Zach Johnson win this event. Players will need to take advantage of the par 5’s if they want to have a chance on Sunday.
Predictions and Players to Watch
With two wins to start the 2019/20 PGA Tour season, I am really interested in seeing how Brendon Todd fares this week at Kapalua. It will be interesting to see if the current FedEx Cup leader can keep his momentum going. We saw a similar situation with Patton Kizzire in 2018 where he won a few events early and then struggled later on.
I am really interested in watching the foursome of Morikawa, Wolff, Champ, and Niemann this week. This will be Cameron Champ’s second visit to Kapalua but the other three will be playing the ToC for the first and most likely not their last time. All four can pound the ball and will look to use their length to take advantage of the Plantation Course.
Will newly married Jon Rahm continue his solid fall season? Rahmbo accumulated multiple wins on both the PGA and European Tour, most recently with the Race to Dubai title with his victory at the DP World Championship. This course suits his game and I would not be surprised at all to see the Europen Tour Golfer of the Year near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.
Since I just shared 6 of the 32 players competing this week, it is now time for my prediction. Besides Jordan Spieth’s 30-under par 262 in 2016, the winner has averaged 23-under par. With what looks like favorable conditions this week, I am going to say 25-under will win it. No matter what happens this week, I will still be jealous that they are in Hawaii while I watch in Maine.