Preview – PGA Tour – SBS Tournament of Champions – Kapalua Resort Plantation Course – Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii –
Professional golf returns this week.
The PGA Tour’s 2017 calendar season opener at the SBS Tournament of Champions in Maui, Hawaii tees off this week featuring a limited field of tournament champions from last year including headliners Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and last year’s PGA Tour Player of the Year Dustin Johnson.
Kapalua’s Plantation course (par-73 at 7,452 yards) hosts the 72-hole event, which boasts its strongest field in years including World No. 6 Hideki Matsuyama. Hideki rides a wave of hot play into Hawaii including four worldwide victories in his last six starts and the solo lead in the early standings for the FedEx Cup.
To qualify for this invitational, players needed to win PGA Tour event last season. While Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson are among those skipping this tournament, several up-and-coming stars are in Hawaii including Justin Thomas, Cody Gribble and Fabian Gomez.
Traditionally, a long hitter triumphs in Hawaii to jump-start the season. The event carries FedEx Cup points for the competitors. The tournament could come down to who plays the “Home Hole” the best — the par-5 18th hole that measures 663 yards.
Winds are expected to challenge players along with the Plantation Course’s sloppy greens. Look for 400+ yard drives in Hawaii this week thanks to elevation changes and sloped fairways.
Australian-born players won this tournament five of seven years from 2004-2010 (Stuart Appleby three times and Geoff Ogilvy twice).
But, Americans have captured the last half dozen editions: Spieth, Steve Stricker, Dustin Johnson, Jonathan Byrd, Zach Johnson and Patrick Reed.
- Spieth (30-under) capped off an 8-shot victory over Reed by dominating the five Par 5s at the Plantation Course. Brooks Koepka and Brandt Snedeker logged T-3 efforts.
Golf Channel has television coverage.
FANTASY: This week can be difficult to handicap with rusty players (Day is making his first since WDs in the last two FedEx Cup Playoff events), equipment changes and first-time visitors to Kapalua’s tiered greens. Take Spieth with his history here including a runner-up in 2014 and won in Australia last fall. Consider Walker, who has two Top 10s here and Thomas, who won the CIMB in Malaysia in late October.
BETTORS: Matsuyama (5-to-1 at www.golfodds.com) is the betting favorite after his hot fall season. He was T-3 here in 2015 finishing a shot back. Spieth and DJ are 5 ½-1 picks but for the value, consider Snedeker (15-1). He putts great everywhere and has challenged here recently. Take a flier on Charley Hoffman (60-1 payoff) and play Walker at 25-1 odds.
Other Golf News:
- The European Tour re-starts its 2017 calendar season in mid-January at the BMW South Africa Open.
- Day who continues to hold the top spot as World No. 1 in the Official World Golf Rankings, signed with NIKE Golf for an apparel deal. He will fashion the new wear this week in Hawaii.
- The LPGA Tour visits the Bahamas in late-January for its season debut at the Pure Silk-Bahamas LPGA Classic on Paradise Island. Lydia Ko ended 2016 as the Rolex No. 1 ranked player but Ariya Jutanugarn (five wins) rallied to win the Rolex Player of the Year honors and the Race to the CME Globe title.