The 2020 PGA Tour schedule begins with the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui, Hawaii. Thirty-four golfers who won at least one tournament during the 2019 calendar year will be in attendance, including 15 first-time winners. Five of the top-10 golfers in the Official World Golf Ranking are in the field, fronted by World No. 3 Jon Rahm and defending champion Xander Schauffele (No. 9). Below, we break down the best betting picks for the Tournament of Champions, with sleepers, values and our pick to win.
Four of the last five champions and seven members of the winning US Presidents Cup team will tee off Thursday. Eight golfers in the field have already claimed a victory early in the 2019-20 PGA Tour season. Next week’s Sony Open in Hawaii will be the Tour’s first full-field event since The RSM Classic in late November.
The course: Plantation Course at Kapalua
The Kapalua Plantation Course measures 7,518 yards and plays as a par 73. Each of the last five winners finished 21-under par or below. The three par 3s range from 167 to 211 yards; the most difficult hole on the course at last year’s tournament was the 203-yard No. 8, playing to a scoring average of 3.136. The easiest hole in 2019 was the 555-yard, par 5 15th with an average of 4.417 strokes. There were two eagles, 81 birdies and just six scores of bogey or worse. The remaining par 5s range from 507 to 680 yards. The 11 par 4s range from 287 yards to a long of 558.
Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore were the original course designers when it opened in 1991. It underwent a significant renovation following last year’s event. It features wide fairways and large Bermuda greens lending themselves to low scores.
Key stats to consider for the Sentry Tournament of Champions
The key stats we’re looking at this week are Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Ball-Striking, Bogey Avoidance, Sand Saves Gained, Good Drives Gained and Proximity 175-200 Yards. The stats are tailored to the design of the course and historical data from Fantasy National.
With scoring opportunities coming relatively easily at this venue and with such a strong field, we’re looking instead at the golfers who are best at avoiding trouble and drop the fewest strokes where others make them. We want to credit ball-strikers who can leave themselves the best putts, rather than just reaching the expansive putting surfaces in regulation. Our key proximity distance targets those best able to go for the green and avoid costly lay-ups. Getting up-and-down from the sand is a must, here. Length is rarely an issue for today’s Tour pros, especially with Kapalua’s rolling, sloped fairways, but we want drivers who can hit their spots to set up their approach.
Pay added attention to golfers with success at other long courses with Bermuda greens.
Sentry Tournament of Champions betting picks: Sleepers and value bets
Conners concluded the 2019 PGA Tour schedule ranked No. 60 in the world, a rise of 207 spots from his end of 2018 rank. He claimed his first career Tour victory at the Valero Texas Open. His next best finish was a T-6 at the Zozo Championship in Japan in late October. He now makes his debut at this event having missed just one cut in five events during the fall swing.
The Canadian is a great driver and excellent ball-striker who normally struggles on the greens. With putting less of an emphasis at this venue, his strengths will shine through. He’s a strong value as a great fit to the course, with others having their betting odds suppressed due to the small field.
Niemann kicked off the 2019-20 schedule with a victory at A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. His first career win vaulted him to No. 50 in the OWGR, but he enters this week ranked 58th following a missed cut at the Mayakoba Golf Classic as his last official event. His breakout 2019 year, just his second on Tour, concluded with an appearance at the Presidents Cup on the International team.
The 21-year-old is averaging 302.7 yards per drive early in the season and the wide fairways will help make up for some accuracy struggles. He’s an expert from the sand, ranking third in the field in Sand Saves Gained over everyone’s most recent 50 rounds. His victory at The Greenbrier saw him finish at 21-under par and win by six strokes over Tom Hoge. He has the ability to go low.
Morikawa didn’t miss the cut in 14 events in 2019. He played just four times on the PGA Tour’s fall swing with a top finish of T-10 at the Safeway Open, but he most recently tied for fifth at the Japan Tour’s Dunlop Phoenix. He claimed his first win as a rookie at the Barracuda Championship, and now figures to be a consistent contender in full-field events as a sophomore.
The 22-year-old leads this week’s field in SG: Approach over everyone’s last 50 rounds, and he’s fourth from our key proximity distance. He’s 65th by the OWGR to start the week, but he’s a popular breakout candidate who’ll be motivated to prove his worth in an elite field at the showcase event.
Sentry Tournament of Champions betting picks: Our winner
Cantlay is fifth by the odds at both DraftKings and FanDuel, despite being the fourth-best golfer in attendance by the OWGR measure. He didn’t participate last year, but he was T-15 in 2018. His 2019 victory came at the Memorial Tournament in June, following back-to-back T-3 results. He went on to finish as the runner-up at both the BMW Championship and Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
One of the seven recent Presidents Cup champs in the field, Cantlay leads my stat model for the week at Fantasy National. He ranks first in Sand Saves, second in Proximity and third in Bogey Avoidance. He finished inside the top 10 at each of 2019’s first two majors, and can clearly compete in these elite fields.