January 2, 2023, 5:10 pm
The PGA Tour returns this week after a short hiatus for the Sentry Tournament of Champions. This event is played at the Plantation Course at Kapalua located in Maui, HI. This venue has been the host of this tournament since 1999 and is a 7,596-yard, par-73 (the only par-73 course on tour) that features four par-5 holes, three par-3 holes and eleven par-4 holes.
This week is the first of 13 “elevated” PGA Tour events this year featuring a 39-man field (down from 40 after the WD from Rory McIlroy) with no cut and a $15 million prize pool. Due to the nature of this event with the small field and no cut, there is going to be an extra emphasis on getting unique with your lineups this week. Before we get more into the field, let’s look at the past five winners at this event:
2022: Cam Smith -34
2021: Harris English -25
2020: Justin Thomas -14
2019: Xander Schauffele -23
2018: Dustin Johnson -24
We have seen all types of golfers have success on this course over the years. Looking at the total yardage of the course would lend one to think you need to be a bomber to have a chance here, but that is not necessarily the case as evidenced by past winners, specifically the last two in Smith and English who were not even in the top-50 in driving distance according to pgatour.com. Here are the key stats I am considering when building my lineups this week.
- SG: Approach– A staple stat that translates to any course. It is the stat that has been proven to be stickiest over a long sample and correlates with long term success
- Birdie or Better %– As evidenced by the scores above, we are going to need scoring and a lot of it. Obviously, this translates to DraftKings scoring as well and finding the best players in the field at this will be key this week.
- Proximity Gained 100-125 Yards- All Par-5s are over 525 yards this week which will lend the majority of the field to layup and not go for the green in two shots. There are quite a few “short-ish” Par 4s as well which will lead to plenty of wedge shots from this range. Cameron Smith was automatic from this range (as well as on the green with his putting) on his way to victory last year.
- Par 4 & Par 5 Scoring Gained: With Par 4s and Par 5s composing 15-of-18 holes this week, we will make sure we roster golfers with solid overall scoring on these holes.
Always remember to blend in a mixture of course history, recent form and long-term form when evaluating who to roster. There may be certain instances that we will weigh more towards one of these categories than others. For instance, this week there is not a lot of recent form to rely on as most of these guys have not played competitive golf for a few months.
Follow me on Twitter @mlafem10 for additional thoughts and I’ll be happy to help out with any lineup questions you have. Let’s make some money!
Round 1 Props
Thrive Contest Plays for Thursday’s Round 1 Action
Justin Thomas 3.5 Birdies MORE (80 PTS) – A 2-time champion of this event, Thomas has made at least four birdies in a round at this course every round since the third-round of the 2018 edition of this tournament. This is an easy click.
Collin Morikawa 0.5 Eagles LESS (50 PTS) – Eagles are few and far between at the Plantation Course at Kapalua. In twelve career rounds here, Morikawa has two eagles total (both coming last year in rounds 3 and 4). While an excellent player, Morikawa lacks the distance to regularly be in a position for eagle, especially at this course. If we can get by the par-5 fifth hole, which is the best opportunity to land an eagle on the course, this should in the clear.
Will Zalatoris 2.5 Bogeys MORE (115 PTS) – This one feels quite scary to click, but there are reasons to believe this can come in. This is the first time that Zalatoris will be teeing it up since the third-round of the BMW Championship last August where he was forced to withdraw due to back discomfort. Some rust is to be expected, sure, but something else going against Willy Z is the putting. While he did show improvements last year, it is easily the weakest part of his game and this course features some of the largest greens on tour leaving plenty of opportunity for a 3-putt here and there. 3 bogeys is certainly in the realm of possibilities.
DFS Top Tier Play
As mentioned at the beginning of the article, we are going to have to get different as much as we can this week given the small player pool we have to work with. I expect most to start with Justin Thomas ($9,900) and Xander Schauffele ($9,500) with good reason. They have impeccable records here and provide pricing relief. Rahm had a “down” year by his standards last season with his lone win coming at the Mexico Open. However, Rahm has dominated this event as well, having never placed outside the top-10 including two second-place finishes, most recently last year when he, Matt Jones and Cameron Smith dusted the rest of the field. Give me Rahm to start the year off in a big way.
DFS Mid Tier Play
Matsuyama certainly comes with some WD risk, but he has had well over a month to rest of and get ready for the new year. Hideki has three top-5 finishes here in five career appearances and I expect an ownership discount here because of his middling performance during the fall swing, which is something I have no concerns with whatsoever. The defending champ of next week’s Sony Open (also located in Hawaii) returns with his world class iron play. All we need is for his putter to cooperate for a big week from Matsuyama.
DFS Value Play
Keeping with the theme of avoiding as much ownership as possible this week, J.J. Spaun is a great alternative to the likely popular Tom Hoge ($6,500) in this range. This is Spaun’s debut appearance at this course, but it should be a nice setup for the debutant. He has shown the ability to have spike weeks with the putter to go along with his consistent iron play, the type of profile I like to target in the bottom tier. His $6,300 price tag also opens of a lot for you to do whatever you would like with the rest of your roster.
Outright Betting Picks
*All odds are curtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Xander Schauffele (+1100)
Collin Morikawa (+1800)
Hideki Matsuyama (+3000)
Position Player Name DK Salary G John Rahm $10,000 G Hideki Matsuyama $8,100 G J.J. Spaun $6,300 G G G REMAINING BUDGET $25,600 for 3 plays