January 3, 2024, 12:16 pm
The PGA Tour returns with a brand-new schedule for 2024, returning to the calendar format and getting rid of the wrap-around schedule. The 2023-2024 was pretty successful and I am looking forward to continuing that success into this season. We begin with a familiar friend and The Sentry (formerly the Tournament of Champions) played in beautiful Maui, Hawaii.
This event will kick off not only the season, but the first of a two-event swing in Hawaii. I always enjoy these events because it provides us with primetime golf as well as the stunning views of Hawaii and gives me hope that warmer weather is on the horizon someday.
Being that this is a Signature Event, that means there will be no cut and the field is limited (59 players this time around). For DFS purposes, we don’t have to worry about our golfers making the cut, so instead I will be attacking more volatile players, especially at the bottom of the board. I’m less concerned with finishing position points from those guys and more concerned with getting consecutive birdie streaks, eagles, etc. Another consideration with limited fields is making sure our rosters don’t get duplicated by the field. Really try and be conscious about roster construction and who you are pairing together. You should be doing this anyway in normal events, but just be extra mindful of it this week.
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The Plantation Course at Kapalua is the home of The Sentry for the 25th year now, so we have a pretty good history with this course. Other than the incredible views, the calling card here is the sloping fairways and massive elevation changes. The greens are also a massive 8,722 square, the largest on Tour. The Plantation Course is the only Par-73 on Tour and was the easiest course relative to par last season.
Off the tee is a dream for bombers as there are several downwind shots and the previously mentioned sloping in the fairways can lead to some gigantic drives. With the second widest fairways golfers will see this year and not much in the way of doglegs, there will be plenty of driver used here and that skill goes a long way at Kapalua. Just last year Jon Rham was able to win the tournament even though he ranked near the bottom of the field in strokes gained on approach, due to his prodigious driving where he ranked first off the tee (and ranking first with the putter as well). This opens up to playing golfers who tend to spray it off the tee, as it is really hard to be in too bad of shape here.
Approaches will mostly be wedges coming in under 125 yards or long iron shots north of 200 yards. With the previously mentioned humongous greens to attack and approaches frequently coming from the fairway, approach play is less important here than normal, but is still a vital part of success. The scoring will come in abundance, so if golfers are hitting poor approaches, they will not be leaving themselves the scoring opportunities required to keep pace with the field.
The greens are Bermuda and are on the slower side of things, reading only 10.5 on the stimpmeter. This should bring some of the less talented putters into play, but it wouldn’t hurt to do some research into who are the better lag putters on Tour, given the size of the greens.
Although this course has the 4th most bunkers on Tour, they aren’t too big of a factor in this event typically. There is zero water holes here as well, leaving the wind as the sole defense this course has to offer. When the wind picks up, we do see less scoring, but if conditions are mild, as they are expected to be this week, it is an absolute birdie fest as an soft handshake for the top players to open the year.
Kapula features 11 par-4s, 4 par-5s and only 3 par-3s. Not surprisingly, the four par-5s are the easiest holes on the course with all of them featuring a birdie rate flirting with the 50% range, especially the closing 18th which sees a birdie north of 60% of the time and a near 5% eagle rate.
Holes 1,2,7 and 8 typically average over par, so do not panic if your rostered golfers aren’t lighting the world on fire through that stretch of holes. The 550-yard par 4 17th plays as the toughest due to the near 3% double bogey or worse rate it sees.
Overall, this is a fun course to open the year with and should be fun to have golf back on our screens.
Here is a look at the beautiful Plantation Course at Kapalua:
The field is the largest it has ever been at this event with 59 players (it was supposed to be 60, but Rory McIlroy is not playing due to personal reasons). This is the first of several Signature Events this season that will be limited, no-cut events. For this particular event however, it is a combination of previous season winners (including the fall events) and those who finished inside the Top 50 of the FedExCup standings.
Here are some the key stats I am considering when building my lineups this week.
- SG: Approach– Iron play is always on this list and forever will be. It is the most correlated long-term stat with success. We have seen golfers get away with spottier iron play here in the past and have success, but I would consider that more an outlier than the norm.
- SG: Easy Courses- With the wind being the only real defense of this course, golfers have routinely picked apart Kapalua with winning scores even creeping up to the 30 under par range.
- SG: P (Slow Greens)– The Bermuda greens here are massive, but they are very slow compared to PGA Tour norms. Due to the size of the greens, I will also be factoring in 3 putt avoidance into my analysis.
- Proximity 125> YDS- Due to the elevation changes, this course plays shorter than the yardage book would indicate. There is a ton of wedge shots coming in, so players who excel with that club will be a priority.
- Par 5 Scoring- the four easiest holes on the course are the four par-5s and they will need to be taken advantage of if golfers want to keep pace with the field.
DFS Top Tier Play
Starting the year out gross with recommending Cantlay, welcome to 2024! In all seriousness, I was immediately drawn to Cantlay when the betting odds came out and there is a lot to like about Cantlay’s game at Kapalua. Dominating easy par-5s, strong off the tee with a good amount of distance and his overall play on easy courses are just some of the feathers in the cap for Cantlay this week. There is nothing from a statistical outlook that leads me to believe that Patrick will not have a successful week, finishing number two in my final model weighted over the past 100 rounds. I am not weighing course history all that much this week, but it is nice that he has a couple top five finishes here and has never really had a bad outing in five attempts having never finished worse than 16th. From an ownership perspective, Cantlay will certainly come with some ownership as he is one of the top plays on the boards, but I don’t see it getting too out of line compared to those around him such as a Xander Schauffele or a Max Homa. I think that Cantlay makes a ton of sense to start your lineups this week or as a second man in if you really want to lean into the stars and scrubs approach given that it is a no cut, 59-player field.
Others Considered: Tommy Fleetwood ($9,000), Scottie Scheffler ($11,000)
DFS Mid Tier Play
The $8K range is stacked with attractive options from Ludvig Aberg and Tom Kim up top to Sungjae Im and Tony Finau in the mid to low range. You also have the likes of Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler in this range that people are going to want to play. I am going to take my stand here in this range after a chalky start with Cantlay and pivot to Sam Burns. At a tournament where putting on Bermuda greens is one of the biggest factors in determining success, give me Burns every time. A lot of people are going to be turned off by his horrendous performance here last year where he came in 32nd out of 39 players while gaining five strokes on the greens. There is no sugarcoating it, he was awful in what was an up and down year for Burns. I believe in his long-term talent and Burns does a lot of things well that are required for success here. I mentioned the putting on Bermuda greens, but his distance off the tee, wedge game and his three-putt avoidance on these large greens should give Burns plenty of opportunities to score and he instills confidence he can knock them down. Burns also plays well in no-cut events and on easier courses. I think last year was an aberration and the rest of his game just needs to be decent and let his putter lead him towards the top of the leaderboard.
Others Considered: Sungjae Im ($8,100), Ludvig Aberg ($8,700)
DFS Value Play
Norrman isn’t going to pop in models because he has a pretty low floor, but in a no-cut event like this one, I am playing the upside game. Norrman started to show flashes of that upside with two wins and six top 25s overall worldwide since July. Norrman is an absolute bomber off the tee and should be able to leave himself a good amount of flip wedges into these massive greens. Granted Normann leaves a lot to be desired with his wedge play and his putting is nothing to get revved up about, but if there was ever a course to slightly move approach to the backburner, Kapalua is the place. I think the slower paced greens will help negate Norrman’s struggles somewhat which would be a huge boost for the young Swede. Entering his second season on the PGA Tour and already having two professional wins under his belt, Norrman is somebody I am going to be playing a lot of this season given his awesome ability with the driver. I don’t see a reason why a top 20 cannot be in the range of outcomes for Vincent this week and his salary and ownership will really allow you to go whichever way you want to fill in the last three spots of your roaster. Between Norrman and Burns you have enough pivots to make yourself unique and avoid being duped, which is a major concern in these limited player fields.
Others Considered: J.T. Poston ($7,200), Chris Kirk ($6,800)
Patrick Cantlay +1700 (1.2U FD)
Jordan Spieth +2600 (.8U FD)
Position Player Name DK Salary G Patrick Cantlay $9,900 G Sam Burns $8,200 G Vincent Norrman $6,500 G G G REMAINING BUDGET REMAINING BUDGET: $25,400 FOR 3 GOLFERS