This week marks the beginning of the PGA Tours’ 2024 season as the Tour returns to a calendar year schedule for the first time since 2013.
With the return to a calendar year schedule, this week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions also returns as the PGA Tour’s kick-off event.
Previously, the Sentry Tournament of Champions would kick-off the new PGA Tour season but when the Tour went to a fall-to-fall format, the tournament continued to just kick-off the new calendar year.
This event also used to just include the winners on Tour over the past calendar year. Last year the event expanded to include the top 30 of the previous season’s FedEx Cup points standings. Now, the field consists of previous winners of the last calendar year and the top 50 of the previous season’s FedEx points standings.
This event received elevated event status a season ago, increasing the purse to $15 million. Now, the event is one-of-eight signature events on the PGA Tour for the 2024 season and too will have a $15 million purse.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua on the island of Maui in Hawaii will once again play host to this week’s event and has since 1999.
This week’s field will consist of 59 golfers that includes winners on the PGA Tour and the top 50 within the FedEx points standings over the last calendar year.
Rory McIlroy is the only eligible player who is not competing this week. McIlroy has played in the Sentry Tournament of Champions just once in his career so this is nothing out-of-the-normal for him.
Jon Rahm is the defending champion of this event but of course will not be in attendance due to his recent move to the LIV Tour.
Cameron Smith set the event record at -34 two years ago enroute to a victory before he too left for the LIV Tour.
Former Sentry Tournament of Champions’ winners in this week’s field include Harris English (2021,) Xander Schauffele (2019) and Jordan Spieth (2016.)
This week’s venue is arguably the most luxurious resort that those in attendance and their families will get the chance to stay at the entire year. This adds an incentive to those who qualify and attend.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua is unique as it is the only Par 73 that is played on the PGA Tour.
It plays at 7,596 yards which is a bit deceptive as the course plays as a Par 73 that includes three par-threes, 11 par-fours and four par-fives. That figure puts it as one of the longest courses on the entire PGA Tour.
The Plantation Course features a multitude of elevation changes that too help the long distance on paper play shorter than the number tells. The elevation changes allow for the ball to carry farther and roll out.
This is most prevalent on the signature 18th hole that is listed at 677 yards. This hole is still reachable in two for players with plus distance off-the-tee. This is due to the downhill tee shot and downhill approach.
The fairways featured this week are wide, undulating and lead to oversized tabletop greens. In other words, there isn’t much preventing golfers from swinging out-of-their-shoes off the tee.
The main, and possibly only, line of defense featured this week are the coastal winds as this course sits on Maui’s coastline. Both the possibility of coastal winds and rain will determine how low the winning score will reach.
Although this course is long, it annually plays as one of the easiest courses on the entire PGA Tour. Over the last three years, The Plantation Course ranked as the easiest course on the PGA Tour in scoring average, par-four scoring average, par-five scoring average, driving accuracy, off-the-tee difficulty, greens in regulation percentage and greenside bunker difficulty.
In all, weather-dependent, this week is set up to be a bona fide birde-fest.
As of the time of writing this, Friday is calling for a chance of scattered thunderstorms and Saturday holds a 40-percent chance of precipitation. Highs are set to remain between 73-to-74 degrees across all four days. Winds are also set to remain in the low single digits in terms of miles-per-hour. Of course, as this venue sits on the coastline, these numbers won’t tell the full story but it helps suggest that the weather may not be a major factor this week.
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT) / Average Driving Distance
Proximity to the Hole from 200-plus Yards
Par Five Average Scoring
Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda (SG: PUTT Bermuda)
Birdie or Better Percentage
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Most weeks I begin my DFS suggestions in this top price range. I’m going to skip this price range this week altogether however. There are two guys in the next price range that I love this week that I’d rather stack than spend up for one of Scottie Scheffler ($11,000,) Viktor Hovland ($10,500) or Xander Schauffele ($10,000.)
As previously mentioned, there are two golfers in this price range that I am equally high on. Patrick Cantlay ($9,900) is my overall favorite per my model to win this week. In a limited field of just 59 golfers, we have to take potential ownership into account as well. With the names above him, I believe Cantlay will be lesser owned and he’s primed to kick off 2024 with a victory. He finished last season first in par five average scoring, fourth in both SG: OTT and birdie or better percentage, seventh in ball striking, eighth in bogey avoidance, 16th in SG: APP, 37th in average driving distance, 57th in SG: ATG, 58th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards and 95th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. We haven’t seen Cantlay since the Ryder Cup so we can only hope that a few months off is what he needed to get back into the win column. I’m playing two units on Cantlay at +1700. Also consider Wyndham Clark ($9,600.) I’m very high on Clark this week per my model and his overall value. He finished the last season eighth in par five average scoring, 15th in average driving distance, 22nd in birdie or better percentage, 27th in SG: ATG, 29th in SG: APP, 32nd in bogey avoidance, 44th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 49th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, 59th in ball striking and 74th in SG: APP. We last saw Clark at the Hero World Challenge where he placed 19th. He also made a stop on the DP World Tour at the Andalucia Masters during the PGA Tour’s Fall Swing. I’m playing a unit on Clark at +4500.
This tournament seems like one of those tournaments that Tony Finau ($8,400) will thrive at - a resort event with a limited field. Typically it’s the smaller events Finau wins, but I believe his time is coming to claim a signature event and why not just start 2024 there? Finau played both the Hero World Challenge and the Grant Thornton Invitational recently where he placed T4th in both. He finished the 2023 PGA Tour season fifth in SG: APP, 12th in par five average scoring, 25th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, 26th in both ball striking and birdie or better percentage, 44th in SG: OTT, 49th in SG: ATG, 58th in bogey avoidance and 66th in average driving distance. The difference for Finau will come on the greens as he ranks 137th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. Finau can get very cold with the flat stick so we can hope that isn’t the case this week. I’m playing a unit on Finau this week at +2900.
My favorite value play of this week is Cam Davis ($7,100.) The Aussie finished the last season eighth in par five average scoring, 17th in SG: OTT, 26th in average driving distance, 30th in proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, 45th in birdie or better percentage, 46th in SG: ATG, 67th in ball striking, 75th in SG: APP, 76th in SG: PUTT Bermuda and 84th in bogey avoidance. In other words, he’s above average in each of the ten statistical categories we took into consideration this week. Davis was on a tear during the PGA Tour’s Fall Swing back in October. He placed third at the Fortinet Championship, T7th at the Shriners Children’s Open and T12th at the ZOZO Championship. He also played twice on the DP World Tour at the Australian PGA Championship and Australian Open. He placed T7th at the Australian PGA Championship. I’m playing a unit on Davis at +6500.
I’m digging deep this week and taking Akshay Bhatia ($6,200.) I do love the value he offers this week with his plus distance off the tee, above average iron play and the ability to go low. I do fear his ownership will be high based on this and name value alone, but it’s too good to ignore. Bhatia played in every leg of the PGA Tour’s Fall Swing, making the cut each time. That run was capped by a T10th at the World Wide Technology Championship. He finished the last season sixth in ball striking, 13th in birdie or better percentage, 23rd in par five average scoring, 32nd in both SG: OTT and proximity to the hole from 200-plus yards, 33rd in SG: APP, 47th in bogey avoidance, 59th in average driving distance and 128th in SG: ATG. We know where the troubles are for Bhatia and that is on the greens. He ranks 179th on Tour in SG: PUTT Bermuda. He’ll need a magical putting week for his standards to compete with the big boys of the Tour.
Patrick Cantlay (+1700) - 2u
Tony Finau (+2900) - 1u
Wyndham Clark (+4500) - 1u
Cam Davis (+6500) - 1u