The biggest deal about winning a tournament on the PGA TOUR is the reward of getting invited to Augusta National for The Masters. Slightly (okay, quite a bit) lower down the chain is getting invited to Maui for the Tournament of Champions.
Just looking at the TOC field each year, you’ll generally find about five golfers who decide to skip the event for scheduling reasons. Who would want to go to Hawaii for a nice vacation just after the holidays to receive a guaranteed paycheck, right?
The golfers that did end up committing will take on Kapalua Resort’s Plantation Course. It’s an unorthodox challenge as it’s a par 73 course, the only one on TOUR. The fairways are massive here which turns it into a second-shot course. Because of all the undulations and elevation changes, there aren’t a lot of long-iron shots either. That turns this into a wedge and short-game competition most years.
Geoff Ogilvy is a two-time winner here and had this to say about his success here: “I do well with a wedge and it’s a real wedge-based course. The greens putt like Melbourne greens with big sweeping putts, 30-foot putts that break 12 feet.”
Many golfers surprisingly compare it to Augusta since you can grip-it and rip-it off the tee without fear of danger if you go slightly off line, plenty of side-hill lies, and big swooping breaks on the greens. Brooks Koepka had this to say last year, “You’re not going to find a slopier golf course than this. There’s so many awkward little lies, ball above your feet, below your feet and then downhill and then you’re hitting up the hill. Things like that you just don’t find anywhere besides maybe here and Augusta.”
When you look at the Augusta aficionado (Jordan Spieth) and see he’s finished 2nd and 1st in two tries here…it checks out.
Check out the Fantasy Golfanac for more quotes and angles on Kapalua Resort.
Stat-wise, I will stick to the the short-game stats this week. I’m going to look at scrambling, putting, and birdie-or-better percentage. BoB% is more important in formats like DraftKings that heavily weight birdies and eagles.
Sticking to DraftKings strategy, it’s important to remember that with just 32 golfers in the field you will likely need the winner on your team this week. That also means duplicate lineups will be showing up left and right, so leaving a good chunk of change leftover is a great idea this week, but even then you may run into duplicates.
Browsing for correlated courses, I’m going to have a look at Augusta National, Pebble Beach, Golf Club of Houston, Riviera CC, and Torrey Pines.
Players to Watch
Jordan Spieth… Already mentioned the connection to Augusta National so it makes perfect sense that Spieth shines here on Maui. In two trips he’s finished no worse than solo second. He’s the man to beat in my book.
Patrick Reed… The other half of the lethal Ryder Cup duo… Reed is no slouch here at Kapalua, either. He finished T16 in his 2014 debut but has similar results to Spieth in his other two appearances (1st and 2nd-place finishes). If scrambling is the name of the game here then Reed is certainly the man you want on your team.
Hideki Matsuyama… Enters with wins in four of his last five starts, internationally. The other finish was a measly runner-up at the CIMB Classic. Long-term, however, the WGC-HSBC Champions win is the only one of those four that we are going to look back and cite with any real significance. Also has a T3 in his only appearance at The Plantation Course (2015). Has to be considered one of the favorites this week due to form and past success. However, if we are talking DraftKings strategy, he might be one to swerve due to increased popularity. A lot can happen to a golf swing following a break of a few weeks, so if he loses some of that killer form, he may become an over-owned DraftKings play that finishes middle of the pack. Certainly a golfer you want to examine closely this week.
Jimmy Walker… Has six wins in his career and four of them came on greens where the stimp was set to 11 feet or slower. It goes hand-in-hand with his success on coastal tracks because these types of courses are often forced to have slower greens or else windy conditions will wreck havoc on the putting surfaces. Does Walker shine because of his great wind game or great ability to read slow, big-swooping putts? Either way, he’s a great fit for Kapalua so you have to give him a look.
Jason Dufner… If this turns into a wedge competition, Dufner can hang with the best of them. When he’s locked in with the wedges and short irons, it’s a thing of beauty. It’s a somewhat big ‘if’ but the upside is there this week.
Tony Finau… If we’re playing the local angle, Finau might come the closest. He’s not from Hawaii or anything like that, but with parents of Tongan and Samoan descent, I’m guessing Finau has visited the islands more than his fair share and should feel right at home with the Hawaiian culture around him this week. Maybe he’ll even bust out his old fire knives and join in on the festivities. Oh, it also helps his cause that he’s good at golf and should feast on the par 5s.
Mackenzie Hughes… In the intro I talked about how putting can be crucial here at Kapalua. Hughes is the perfect example of a boom-or-bust play this week. His putter can really catch fire (like it did at The RSM Classic). His long game is nothing to write home about, making him a candidate for dead last this week but the flat stick is the wildcard. Other with boom-or-bust potential that will need a great week putting include: Cody Gribble, Aaron Baddeley, Fabian Gomez, Brandt Snedeker.
My Top 32 for the 2017 Tourney of Champions
1. Jordan Spieth
2. Dustin Johnson
3. Patrick Reed
4. Hideki Matsuyama
5. Jason Day
6. Jimmy Walker
7. Brandt Snedeker
8. Bubba Watson
9. Jason Dufner
10. Justin Thomas
11. Russell Knox
12. Tony Finau
13. Ryan Moore
14. Daniel Berger
15. Jhonattan Vegas
16. Branden Grace
17. Fabian Gomez
18. Charley Hoffman
19. William McGirt
20. Brendan Steele
21. Rod Pampling
22. Pat Perez
23. Vaughn Taylor
24. Jim Herman
25. James Hahn
26. Aaron Baddeley
27. Si Woo Kim
28. Brian Stuard
29. Billy Hurley III
30. Cody Gribble
31. Mackenzie Hughes
32. Greg Chalmers
Featured Image courtesy of Sportsunbiased.com