The 2020-2021 PGA Tour season is well underway, but the first event of 2021 feels like a fresh start for big names emerging from winter hibernation
It’s that time of year where most of us in the Northern Hemisphere are craving any kind of sunshine and warmth. Golf fans in January can vicariously whet their appetites by endulging in the PGA Tour returning to competition in the Hawaiian islands after a month off.
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Next week brings the first full-field event of 2021 at the Sony Open. Now, we’ve got the 2021 Sentry Tournament of Champions.
There will be a tournament-high 42 players teeing it up at Kapalua Resort’s Plantation course, the event’s host site since 1999. For the first since the tournament began in 1953, non-winners are invited to join the fun in Maui.
Blame it on the pandemic. Due to the cancelation of several events in the spring and summer, the field would have only been 26 if it were winners only.
So, the PGA Tour also extended invites to the 30 players who qualified for the 2020 Tour Championship.
Three 2020 winners are opting out of the Tournament of Champions: Tyrrell Hatton, Jim Herman and Rory McIlroy. Notables who failed to qualify include Tiger Woods, Brooks Koepka, Matthew Wolff, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Tommy Fleetwood, Louis Oosthuizen, Jason Day, Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Phil Mickelson.
Kapalua is a generally well-received course by players and fans. It’s the lone par-73 on the PGA Tour schedule and perhaps the hilliest. You’ll never confuse the picturesque views of the Pacific Ocean with the azaleas and pines of Augusta National, but the two are comparable in the amount of elevation change and sidehill lies that come into play.
Both also feature wide fairways and playable second and third cuts.
The esteemed duo implemented Celebration Bermuda on tees and fairways and TifEagle Bermuda on the greens. Bunkers were also reworked. The overall hope is to get an oftentimes soft course to play with a bit more fire.
The winning score in the last five Tournament of Champions was 20-under or better, as well as nine of the last 11. In 2019, Justin Thomas prevailed at 14-under, the worst winning score since Vijay Singh in 2007 (-14).The long range weather forecast doesn’t call for gusts upwards of 40 miles per hour that were in play in 2020, but a steady double-digit breeze that’s expected will be just enough to be a factor for a rusty group of golfers.
Temperatures will be in the high 60s to mid 80s with no rain expected.
Course history is worth latching onto from a DFS/gambling perspective. Not just because it’s important at any tournament, but if a guy’s played Kapalua a lot, he’s clearly doing something right.
Remember, there’s no 36-hole cut for this event.
Let’s get into my top 10 for the first event of the New Year: