This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Sentry Tournament of Champions
Course: Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort (7,596 yards, par 73)
Winner: $1,340,000 and 500 FedExCup points
With 10 tournaments having to be canceled last season, the PGA Tour decided to revise the qualifications for the 2021 Sentry Tournament of Champions. Now not only will the 28 different PGA Tour winners in 2020 be eligible, but also all those players that made it to the Tour Championship last season. That will boost the total number of eligible players to 45 qualifying for the most exclusive event on the schedule, which is typically about 10-15 more than we typically see in Maui. Among the eligible players, only Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton, and Jim Herman did not commit this week. The favorites for the title at Kapalua will no doubt be World No. 1 Dustin Johnson and No. 3 Justin Thomas. Johnson will be making his first start since a dominant win at the Masters in November, while Thomas will be gunning for his third win in this event and fourth overall victory in Hawaii. Kapalua is one of the most unique challenges players face all season, as huge fairways and greens are coupled with massive elevation changes. The weather is expected to be glorious, with very little chance of rainfall and winds that aren't expected to be too crazy for the area.
2020 – Justin Thomas
2019 – Xander Schauffele
2018 – Dustin Johnson
2017 – Justin Thomas
2016 – Jordan Spieth
2015 – Patrick Reed
2014 – Zach Johnson
2013 – Dustin Johnson
2012 – Steve Stricker
2011 – Jonathan Byrd
2010 – Geoff Ogilvy
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- SG: Putting
- SG: Off-the-tee
Kapalua obviously is not the most difficult driving course. Most of the fairways are so wide open and you would have to hit a pretty bad shot to end up in a spot of bother, although there are a number of fairways that will naturally feed balls into the rough if it gets the right bounce. Greens in regulation will be an overrated stat this week due to the massive size of these bermuda greens. Finding the correct quadrant will be very important to give yourself legit chances at birdies and at the same time avoid three-putts that become very easy with an errant shot. There are a number of hole locations on this course that can be fed into by playing the slopes correctly. Players will get a ton of wedge and short iron opportunities, even at a course that stretches to nearly 7,600 yards. Control with the shorter clubs and putting has described more of the past champions here than absolute bombers that wail away on this wide-open property.
FanDuel Value Picks
Dustin Johnson ($12,200)
This is about as chalky a pick as you can get. Johnson is No. 1 in the OWGR by a wide margin. He's finished either first or second in six of his last seven starts overall with the most notable being that domination at Augusta National. Johnson has also played great in his career at Kapalua with two wins and no finishes outside the top-10 in his last eight starts in the event.
Justin Thomas ($12,000)
Thomas would probably say that he's just had an average start to the season, but when you take a look at the results they are pretty damn good. In five starts, he hasn't finished worse than a T12 and had a solo fourth place showing at the Masters. Thomas is fourth in SG: Total and third in birdie average this season. The 27-year-old owns two victories and a third place finish in five career starts at Kapalua.
Xander Schauffele ($11,400)
Schauffele nearly went back-to-back at Kapalua before ultimately falling in a playoff to Justin Thomas. In 2019 he came from behind to take down Gary Woodland following an 11-under 62 in the final round. Part of the reason that Schauffele plays so well here is that he is so solid playing in the wind and has great control with both his short irons and touch on the greens. Schauffele has a runner-up at the CJ Cup and a fifth place showing at the U.S. Open so far this season. He ranks 13th in SG: Putting and 11th in SG: Tee-to-green.
Patrick Reed ($11,200)
Another man that plays great in the wind, Reed has a win here in 2015 and two other runner-up finishes in six career starts at Kapalua. He also has not finished outside the top-15 in any of his last six starts worldwide. His touch both on and around the greens should be on full display this week. Reed ranks first in birdie average and 13th in SG: Total on the PGA Tour this season.
Longer Shots with Value
Harris English ($9,900)
English has great value in this small of a field at a price less than five figures. He is coming in hot with top-10 finishes in of his last six official PGA Tour starts. That doesn't even include his win with Matt Kuchar at the QBE Shootout in mid-December. All aspects of English's game are strong and he ranks seventh in birdie average and fifth in scoring average.
Cameron Smith ($9,400)
Smith quietly had one of the best closes to 2020 as any player, finishing 11th at THE CJ CUP, T4 at The ZOZO Championship and capping his run with a T2 at the Masters. A course like Kapalua should fit right into Smith's wheelhouse. There's plenty of room off the tee, and at the end of the day, it will come down to controlling trajectories off uneven lies and putting. Smith is 16th in putts per GIR and seventh in three-putt avoidance this season.
Abraham Ancer ($8,800)
Ancer profiles like some of the players who have had success at Kapalua in the past. He's not the longest, but he is very accurate through the bag and is sharp on and around the greens. Ancer played well at the tail end of 2020, closing the year with three top-15's in his last five starts. The Mexican was a strong player at the Masters before struggling on Sunday. The creative element that you have to have at Augusta National very much exists at Kapalua.
Ryan Palmer ($7,700)
You're going to have to hang a lot of birdies up to contend this week and not many are better at that than the Texan, who ranks third this season in birdie average. Palmer has always been a very strong driver of the ball and his iron play has gotten better as his career has gone on. This season he ranks inside the top-45 in both GIR percentage and proximity to the hole. This will also be Palmer's fifth start at Kapalua and that kind of experience is hard to find this far down the salary chain.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
This week the number of attractive options really falls off the table once you get below $9,000 in this exclusive field. It's a tough balance considering the strength right at the very top of the board. I think you're better off taking a shot with a player under $8,000 and trying to get as many five figure players as you can this week. Carlos Ortiz, Brendon Todd, and Sebastian Munoz would all be intriguing players to me under that $8,000 number. I'm going to avoid Jon Rahm for a bit to see how he adjusts to his equipment change to Callaway. Webb Simpson, Viktor Hovland, and Tony Finau are other players I think have very generous price tags this week.