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: $1,440,000 and 500 FedExCup points
The Tournament of Champions at Kapalua is about as good a way to start the calendar year of golf as you can get. A very strong field taking on possibly the most unique course on Tour in primetime. It also gives many of us a brief reprieve from the below freezing temperatures a number of us are facing. Unlike the 2021 edition last year where non-winners were added due to the COVID shortened season, in 2022 only winners from the 2021 calendar season are eligible. The only of the 39 players that qualified for the event that will not tee it up is Rory McIlroy, who will start his 2022 in two more weeks in Abu Dhabil.
Phil Mickelson will be teeing it up at Kapalua for the first time in 21 years after his remarkable win at the PGA Championship last May. World No. 1 Jon Rahm will be making just his second start on the PGA Tour this season, but Collin Morikawa will have a chance to overtake the Spainard once again this week. Overall, 19 of the top-25 in the OWGR are in the field at Kapalua. There will also be five former winners of the Tournament of Champions in the field in Harris English, Xander Schauffele, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, and Patrick Reed. As crazy as it sounds, Schauffele is still looking for his first PGA Tour win since the 2019 Tournament of Champions, but gets a nod into this event after having won the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Kapalua is known for it's wide fairways, massive elevation changes, and stunning views of the ocean. The players that were lucky enough to make it here are in for some stunning weather, with temperatures all four rounds set to touch 80 degrees. Wind will always be a factor here given the proximity to the ocean and the lack of trees, but this week it might be more mild than we have seen in past years. If that does indeed turn out to be the case, expect scores to be extremely low once again.
2021 – Harris English (-25)
2020 – Justin Thomas (-14)
2019 – Xander Schauffele (-23)
2018 – Dustin Johnson (-24)
2017 – Justin Thomas (-22)
2016 – Jordan Spieth (-30)
2015 – Patrick Reed (-21)
2014 – Zach Johnson (-19)
2013 – Dustin Johnson (-16)
2012 – Steve Stricker (-23)
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- SG: Putting
- SG: Off-the-Tee
- Birdie Average
For as long as the yardage on the card says, Kapalua has been won by short and long-hitters alike. That being said, the fairways are the widest that players will see all year, which gives the bombers extra incentives to just completely wail away. There are a number of par-4's that can be driven depending on the wind direction and four par 5's that can be reached as well. With the size of the greens at Kapalua, GIR's won't serve as much of an indicator for the best iron players this week. Instead we should focus on SG: Approach and proximity numbers. You're going to have to make a ton of birdies, and possibly even a few eagles, to stay in the hunt by Sunday afternoon. The easiest way to do that is give yourself a large amount of putts for birdie from within 20 feet. Despite a large amount of undulation, these greens are typically pretty easy to convert on by Tour standards. Six of the last seven winners have had a winning score of at least 21-under-par and with lighter than normal winds expected, it wouldn't surprise me to see the best in the world knocking on the door of Jordan Spieth's 30-under-par winning score in 2016.
FanDuel Value Picks
Justin Thomas ($11,900)
Thomas loves himself some Hawaii to start the year. This will be his seventh straight appearance at the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua where he owns a pair of wins and a pair of third place finishes. The 28-year-old leads the PGA Tour this season in birdie average and ranks fifth in SG: Tee-to-Green. Thomas finished 2021 with finishes of third at Mayakob and T5 at the Hero World Challenge.
Viktor Hovland ($11,400)
Hovland had an extremely strong finish to 2021 that saw him successfully defend his title at Mayakoba and then come from behind to win the Hero World Challenge. Hovland's ball striking is as good as anyone and his putting continues to improve. The Norwegian ranks second this season in birdie average and will look to put up a lot of red numbers at Kapalua.
Sam Burns ($11,100)
From start to finish, nobody had a better fall portion of the schedule that Burns. He picked up his second career win at the Sanderson Farms Championship and notched four other top-7 finishes. Burns is currently leading the Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green and is also top-5 in SG: Approach and birdie average.
Cameron Smith ($10,700)
Smith went T9-T15-T4 in three starts in the fall on three very different golf courses. He is starting to become one of the best internationals in the world. The Aussie ranks seventh this season in SG: Approach and 11th in SG: Putting. The only criticism of his game at times is he can be loose with the driver, but he won't have to worry about that at the wide-open Kapalua.
Longer Shots with Value
Marc Leishman ($9,600)
Leishman had a really strong fall, starting the season by going T4 in Napa and then T3 at the Shriners Open. He has a decent amount of experience around Kapalua as a five-time PGA Tour winner. His last two starts here were a T7 and a T4. Leishman ranks 13th in SG: Putting, 11th in SG: Total, and ninth in scoring average this season.
Talor Gooch ($9,400)
Gooch came on near the end of 2021 and closed it out with his first PGA Tour victory at the RSM Classic. That came after posting four consecutive top-11 finishes to start the fall portion of the schedule. Gooch has a complete game, ranking fifth in SG: Approach, 13th in SG: Around-the-Green, sixth in SG: Tee-to-Green, and fifth in scoring average.
Billy Horschel ($8,800)
Horschel has as much experience at Kapalua as anyone under $9,000 this week, as he will make his sixth start following last year's win at the WGC-Match Play. The Florida alum made three starts on the European Tour during the fall, the best of which was a win at the BMW PGA Championship. Horschel is one of the best putters on bermudagrass greens, so if the putter is hot he will be a factor.
Joel Dahmen ($7,400)
Dahmen is the fifth-lowest salaried player in the field, but he isn't playing like it. He picked up his maiden PGA Tour win at the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship, a test that should be very similar to what he will face this week. Coming into that week Dahmen had missed six-of-seven cuts and since then he has missed just two cuts in 17 events. He is also gaining at least 0.35 strokes per round in all categories outside of short game.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
These limited field events are never easy from a strategy standpoint. There are a high number of players above $10,500 that have good records at Kapalua, well because they are the best players and this is a winner's only event. Once you get on the lower end of the salary range, I think you're either looking for players with three or more starts at Kapalua or players who had a really strong fall. With no 36-hole cut and plenty of birdies to be had, you can either make up a lot of ground really fast or fade quickly if a few of your players are unable to break 70.