Welcome to 2022 and the official start line for the new year, the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
The field is comprised of 39 golfers, with only Rory McIlroy taking a pass. Eight of the top 10 in the world are in Kapalua, Hawaii, which is not too bad of a spot to start off, all things considered.
Generally speaking, the Plantation Course is one of the easiest on the PGA Tour. In fact, last year it was the easiest on tour with a scoring average – average! – about three shots under par. With the proper winds, drivers soar and roll, with an overabundance of 400-yarders.
So, what does all that mean in terms of picking your team?
It doesn’t necessarily mean that only bombers have a shot. Yes, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas are past champs, but so are Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson.
Good putters, of course, will always prevail, especially at courses with big greens such as this one.
Overall, it will be tough to make a selection as there’s no recent track record on which to base things. Which players worked on their games, and which sat at home gobbling up the Christmas treats?
Despite all that, here are a few thoughts on where you might go.
Jon Rahm +800
Rahm has played this tournament four times and finished in the top 10 all four times, including a tie for seventh in 2021. There are so many crazy stats to show just how good a year Rahm had in 2021-22, including the fact that in his last 12 rounds on the PGA Tour, he was in first place after eight of them. In fact, starting with the U.S. Open, which he won, Rahm has been inside the top 10 after 22 of 24 rounds. The only thing he needed after last season was a break, which he took in November and December, meaning he should be refreshed when he tees it up in Hawaii.
Justin Thomas +800
Thomas seems to like starting the year in Hawaii. In his last four appearances here, he’s logged two wins and two third-place finishes. He’s earned a nifty $3.3 million playing here and is 93 under par in five appearances. After a lacklustre stretch following his Players victory and his off-course issues, Thomas seemed to be back to his normal self late in the year. Expect him to keep that momentum this season.
Brooks Koepka +2900
Not much of a history at Kapalua for Koepka, who has only three appearances with finishes of 24th, 34th and a tie for third, that coming back in 2016. Still, he seems to fit the model for the player who can score well at the Plantation Course. He hits the ball well and when he’s putting, he can be almost unstoppable. It might come down to determination and desire.
Marc Leishman +3300
The big Aussie had a hot-and-cold year in 2021 with a win in New Orleans with partner Cameron Smith, and a tie for fifth at the Masters, along with six missed cuts, the most since 2014-15. He seems to have stabilized late in the year and did enjoy a good start to the new season with a third and a fourth in the fall swing. He’s also currently 13th in Strokes Gained: Putting.
Phil Mickelson +12000
The last time Lefty teed it up at the Tournament of Champions was 21 years ago. He was paired with Bobby Jones and Sam Snead. Okay, we jest. But Mickelson first teed it up here two years before Rahm was born. The reason we still give him a chance is because he can still drive the ball a long way for an old guy, and his putting can get hot. Oh, and he won the PGA Championship, so there’s that too.
Lucas Glover +21000
Last year Glover won for the first time in a decade when he captured the John Deere Classic. The 42 year old has lots of talent and showed it frequently over that 10-year winless stretch. He said he just needed to clean up what was in his brain. Having seemingly done that, he’s playing free and easy now and might show up this week.