It’s been about a month and a half since the last proper PGA TOUR event, The RSM Classic, and I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to get back into the swing of things. So what better way to kick off the new year. Let’s say say Aloha to 2022 and Aloha to 2023 by handicapping 2023 Sentry Tournament of Champions odds in Maui, Hawaii.
The Sentry TOC has always served as the tee off to the new year on the PGA TOUR for all winners over the past calendar year, but for the first time this year, it will carry added significance as an “Alpha” event under the new Elevated schedule series, increasing its purse from $8.2M in 2022 to $15M this year.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua rewards longer hitters, elite ball strikers, and – assuming the calm conditions the weather forecast currently calls for – an ability to go low in easy scoring conditions. We’ll run through the key facts and info about Kapalua ahead of the 2023 Sentry Tournament of Champions.
SENTRY TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS ODDS: THE FAVORITES
Scroll to the bottom for full outright odds and to compare prices across legal sportsbooks in your state. As of Sunday morning, Caesars Sportsbook was one of the few domestic operators that had released Sentry Tournament of Champions odds. These are the players shorter than +1500.
The field is set at 39 for the 2023 Sentry Tournament of Champions, with Rory McIlroy being the lone qualified player who’s elected to skip. Rory has only made the trip to Maui once in his career, so it’s not shocking to see he’s decided to skip once again, although many speculated he may reconsider, given the new elevated status of the event. In any case, 39 players is still a healthy field for this event compared to past years, as the TOUR has adjusted the qualification criteria to include TOUR Championship finalists from the previous season in addition to all PGA TOUR winners over the last year.
Cameron Young, Sahith Theegala, Adam Scott, Scott Stallings, Brian Harman, Corey Conners, and Aaron Wise would each not qualify under the old criteria but are in the field by way of finishing in the top-30 of the previous season’s FedEx Cup Standings. Overall, a strong field is in store with 17 of the OWGR top-20 players set to tee it up this week, highlighted by stars like Jon Rahm, Scottie Scheffler, and Patrick Cantlay. Previous winners of the Sentry Tournament of Champions returning to action this week include Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, and Jordan Spieth.
Cam Smith is your defending champion at this event, however will be absent this time around since leaving the PGA TOUR behind for LIV. Hudson Swafford and Joaquin Niemann would have also qualified for this event if not for joining LIV.
INTRODUCTION TO THE PLANTATION COURSE AT KAPALUA
The Plantation Course at Kapalua, which sits on the shores of Maui, Hawaii is arguably the most luxurious resort golfers and their families get the chance to stay at the entire year – an appropriate reward to offer all TOUR winners and TOUR Championship finalists.
The massive coastal property is one of the longest courses on the PGA TOUR at 7,596 yards, featuring wide, undulating fairways and over-sized tabletop greens. Heavily exposed to Maui’s coastline, wind and rain have played a significant factor in determining how the course will play.
Monitor The Weather
Last year, soft and calm conditions led to a course record -34 score from Cam Smith. With three players surpassing -30 and a tournament median score of -19, the conditions in 2022 were the easiest in tournament history as a result of soft conditions from heavy rainfall leading in and uncharacteristically calm wind.
Prior to 2022 however, stronger sustained winds have led to more moderate scoring. In four of the last 10 years, the field median score has been kept to single digits under par as a result of firmer conditions and stronger winds, so similar to an Open Championship week, it’s best to monitor weather conditions in Maui throughout the week before placing any Sentry Tournament of Champions bets. As of now, dry conditions and relatively calm wind are expected, which would suggest a target winning score in the mid-twenties under par in 2023.
How It Breaks Down
Though listed at 7,596 yards, the total yardage of the Plantation Course at Kapalua is a bit deceptive for a few reasons. For one, it’s the only Par-73 we see on TOUR, with just three Par-3s to go along with 11 Par-4s and four Par-5s. The course also features a number of dramatic elevation changes, causing the ball to carry farther and roll out more here than TOUR average. For example, the signature 18th hole is listed at 677 yards, but is still easily reachable in two for players with plus distance, given the downhill tee shot and downhill approach from fairway to green.
At a glance, the Plantation Course at Kapalua sets up to be one of the easiest tracks on TOUR. A 20-under-par winning score is the de facto barometer to classify a given tournament as a “Birdie Fest”, and the winner of the Tournament of Champions has exceeded that mark in seven of the last eight years. A quarter of the field shot -20 or better in each of the last two years.
The course itself is long with dramatic elevation changes and severe undulations in both the fairways and greens complexes. These are some of the easiest combination of fairways and greens to hit on TOUR, making this another bona fide birdie best, favoring the best iron players, birdie-makers, and hot putters on slow Bermuda greens. Distance as always will only help players this week, as they can swing freely at these open fairways with little resistance from the sparse hazards on property.
Traits and Notable Facts
There are several unique characteristics of The Plantation Course at Kapalua which stand out compared to TOUR average. Over the last two years, Kapalua ranks as the easiest course on TOUR in terms of scoring average, Par-4 Scoring Average, Par-5 Scoring Average, Driving Accuracy, Off-The-Tee Difficulty, Greens In Regulation Percentage, and Greenside Bunker Difficulty. In shorter terms, it’s a free-for-all off the tee with massive rolling fairways and large landing areas on the greens. Without wind, the course is relatively defenseless and serves as target practice for the best golfers in the world.
PLANTATION COURSE AT KAPALUA COURSE SPECS
- Yards: 7,596
- Par: 73 (3x 3’s / 11x 4’s / 4x 5’s)
- Greens: Bermuda (Slow)
- Rough: 2.5″ Bermuda (Moderate)
- Average Green Size: 8,722 sq. ft (Giant)
- Average Fairway Width: 46 Yards (Massive)
- Architect: Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw (Original design & 2019 renovation)
- Comp Courses: Augusta National, Nine Bridges, Congaree, Caves Valley, TPC Craig Ranch, Albany, Corales, Coco Beach, Vidanta Vallarta
BETTING TRENDS & COURSE HISTORY
|Year||Winner||Pre-Tournament Odds||Winning Score||Field Median Score|
Looking down the list of winners over the last 10 years, this has proven to be an event with limited upside from longshots, as Harris English’s win in 2021 at 33-1 represent the longest Sentry Tournament of Champions odds of any winner over that span. Moreover, the favorites have been dominant in this event, with five winners of 14-1 odds or shorter. Therefore, this shapes up to be a good week for a short betting card or even a single bullet strategy.
From a Course History standpoint, this event has proven to be one of the most predictive based on previous results, given the unique intricacies of the course, and the nuances that come with this being the first event after a long layoff in a very different time zone.
Only three golfers have played this event in each of the last five years: Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, and Xander Schauffele. Over the last three years, there is a clear tier of six top players who have consistently played this course well. Rahm, Thomas, Schauffele, Patrick Cantlay, Collin Morikawa, and Sungjae Im each have posted multiple top-10 finishes with none finishing worse than T13 over that span.
The top-10 players in the field in terms of Course History at this event are Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Cantlay, Sungjae Im, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, and Brian Harman. Notables who have failed to crack the top-10 over multiple Sentry Tournament of Champions appearances include Max Homa, Tony Finau, Billy Horschel, and Viktor Hovland.
Jon Rahm has yet to convert a win at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but he has knocked on the door every year, finishing top-10 in each of the last five years. That includes two runner-up finishes, most recently at the 2022 Sentry Tournament of Champions. Rahm was one of three players to eclipse 30-under-par last year, and with the other two (Cam Smith and Matt Jones) having moved on to LIV, the door may be open for him to finally convert his first victory in Maui. With two DP World Tour wins over his last four starts, Rahm is a deserving favorite on a set up that suits his game perfectly.
In terms of course comps, it’s Augusta National which surprisingly draws the strangest trends. Of course, the stakes and course difficulty of Kapalua pale in comparison to Augusta, but the cross-over is clear. With the exception of Harris English, each of the last 10 winners of this event were either Masters champions (Patrick Reed, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Zach Johnson) or had registered a top-5 at The Masters (Cam Smith, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas). They are both comparable in the sense that each favors longer hitters who can take advantage of Par-5s, have wider fairways that forgive slight misses off the tee, and feature a massive property with distinct undulations and many sloping or uneven fairway lies which reward clever shot shaping.
Beyond Augusta, I also like Congaree, host of the 2021 Palmetto Championship and 2022 CJ Cup, as both courses are long with massive, open fairways, reachable Par-4s, and large, tabletop Bermuda greens complexes. They’re also both plantation courses, for what it’s worth. On a secondary level, Corales, Coco Beach, Albany, Vidanta Vallarta, and Nine Bridges are easier, coastal, and open courses that share similarities to Kapalua. TPC Craig Ranch and Caves Valley also share the same advantage to bombers, though with less influence from coastal winds.
Looking at SG: TOT L36 rounds across each of the noted comp courses, the top-10 players in this field are Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Will Zalatoris, KH Lee, Xander Schauffele, Sam Burns, Sungjae Im, Corey Conners, Scottie Scheffler, and Patrick Cantlay.
KEY STATS TO CONSIDER
- SG: APP
- Driving Distance
- Par-5 Scoring
- Prox: 200+
- Prox: <100 Yards / SG: ARG
- Birdies or Better Gained
- 3-Putt Avoidance
- SG: P (Bermuda)
- Course & Comp Course History
With most of the field having not played a competitive round since November, “form” is a bit of a mystery heading into the Sentry Tournament of Champions. That said, the top-10 players in this field in terms of SG: TOT through the Fall Swing are Brian Harman, Tom Kim, Keegan Bradley, Tony Finau, Seamus Power, Mackenzie Hughes, Max Homa, Viktor Hovland, Tom Hoge, and Patrick Cantlay.
In easy scoring conditions, the best iron players tend to be best equipped to generate the volume of birdie opportunities needed to contend. The top-10 players in terms of SG: APP leading in are Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, Tony Finau, Tom Kim, Russell Henley, Collin Morikawa, Tom Hoge, Corey Conners, Scottie Scheffler, and Hideki Matsuyama. At Kapalua, we’ve seen an emphasis on long iron approaches from 200+ yards. The top-10 players from this distance are Xander Schauffele, Aaron Wise, Collin Morikawa, Sungjae Im, Luke List, Adam Scott, Trey Mullinax, Cameron Young, Tom Hoge, and Max Homa.
What’s most fascinating about Kapalua, is that despite it being a Birdie Fest, the course still emphasizes Around The Green and Scrambling. Four Par-4s sit under 400 yards and set up <30-yard wedges for up and down birdies, and each of the four Par-5s will also leave players in a similar situation if they aren’t already putting for eagle. The top-10 wedge players (weighting SG: ARG and Prox: <100) are Justin Thomas, Billy Horschel, Tony Finau, Max Homa, Cameron Young, Russell Henley, Xander Schauffele, Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, and Jordan Spieth.
The ideal player for Kapalua should be above-average in Driving Distance, SG: Short Game, Birdies or Better Gained, and Prox: 200+. There are just four players who rate out above average in each: Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, and Aaron Wise.
Looking at the correlation charts this week, we see a fairly notable decrease in the importance of P5: 550-600 and SG: APP, which checks out given the unique hole layouts at Kapalua, and the higher GIR percentage expected from the field. On the other hand, P5: 500-550 and SG: Short Game make the most notable jumps in importance at the Sentry TOC, each vaulting into the Top 10 this week. It’s also worth noting the importance of Birdies (or Better) Gained, which are the top-two stats for historical success at TOC.
Taking each of the above key categories into account, there are just 3 players who rate out above average in all 10 top categories: Xander Schauffele, Tom Kim, and Sungjae Im.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: SUNGJAE IM
Sungjae Im has grown too familiar with the role of bridesmaid, finishing runner up in three of his final eight starts to close out his 2022 calendar year. Well, now he’s married! So the bridesmaid concerns are behind us and the era of Sungjae Im the prolific closer may now be here.
It’s not easy to find value in a 39-man no cut event, but if there is any perceived value to be had, it’s likely in Im, whose odds are sure to open behind an elite tier of players like Rahm, Thomas, Cantlay, Scheffler, Schauffele, Hovland, and Morikawa.
Sungjae has taken a liking to Kapalua early on, finishing top-10 in each of his first two appearances. In his debut here in 2021, Sungjae led the field from tee-to-green, and would have cruised to victory if not for an uncharacteristically poor showing on the greens. This time around, there’s plenty more room for optimism, as Sungjae carries a streak of seven consecutive events in which he’s gained strokes putting.
A model of consistency across all Strokes Gained categories, Sungjae’s game travels regardless of the course set up. His form at The Masters (two top-10s in three starts) checks the box for the Augusta cross-over trend, and he joins Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, and Jon Rahm as the only four players to rank top-10 in both Course History and Recent Form (SG: TOT L36 rounds) leading into this week.
It remains to be seen where Sungjae is priced, but his profile and past results at this event make for a high floor placement bet consideration at the least.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR AT THE 2023 SENTRY TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS
The weather will be the most important piece to monitor this week, but as it stands, conditions look to be trending calm and dry. If that holds, we should see ample birdie opportunities for the third consecutive year, with more of a premium on iron play to continually generate enough birdie looks to reach the mid-twenties under par.
With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the 2023 Sentry Tournament of Champions odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by actualized pricing/odds tier for Draft Kings with odds and pricing released earlier this week.
For my model in Fantasy National this week, I’m prioritizing SG: APP, Birdies or Better Gained, Course & Comp Course History, and Prox 200+, followed by a more balanced mix of Driving Distance, SG: ARG, and SG: P (L36, Bermuda 3-Putt Avoidance).
2019 champion, Xander Schauffele emerged as No. 1 in the model this week. Over his last four TOC starts, he’s finished 12th, T5, T2, and 1st. Between the Augusta connection and emphasis on distance and long irons, Kapalua is a perfect fit for Xander’s game, so the consistent results at this event are little surprise. He’s won three events since the last Tournament Of Champions and will be a popular consideration for 2023 Sentry TOC bets.
After Xander, my model’s top 10 is rounded out by Will Zalatoris, Justin Thomas, Tony Finau, Patrick Cantlay, Sungjae Im, Jon Rahm, Tom Kim, Cameron Young, and Scottie Scheffler.
When Sentry Tournament of Champions odds are released, I’m looking to build a short card with exposure to one or two players at 18-1 odds or shorter. The odds will determine where I land, but I can confidently say at least one of Jon Rahm, Patrick Cantlay, Xander Schauffele, and Sungjae Im will land on my outright card.
Thanks for reading, and good luck navigating 2023 Sentry Tournament of Champions odds!
2023 SENTRY TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS OPENING ODDS
The full odds comparison table will be out by Sunday evening. Here are the opening odds at Caesars Sportsbook, as of Sunday morning. Players not listed are +5000 or longer.