PGA Tour Preview: Sentry Tournament of Champions

Can Justin Thomas bag his second win of the 2017/18 season?

BY Niall McGrath 21:19 Wednesday 3 January 2018, 21:19 3 Jan 2018

IMAGE: ©INPHO/Getty Images

With the official 2017/18 PGA Tour season already eight events deep, we look forward to the biggest tournament of the campaign to date.

 Course: Kapalua Plantation course in Maui, Hawaii.

 Par: 73

 Purse: $6.3 million 

The Field

The 2017/18 season is well underway, but this is the first big event of the season. The event comprises last season’s tour winners, who are the only players eligible to compete, hence the strong field.

Only Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson have chosen not to compete from this year’s 37 qualifiers.

Of the 34 qualifiers, 14 are making their debut in this year’s tournament, proving how difficult it is to win on the PGA Tour with the abundance of young talent on show every week.

The Major Championships in 2017 ushered in three maiden winners, with Sergio Garcia, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas breaking their duck. Jordan Spieth claimed his third major title, winning the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale.

World number three Justin Thomas is back to defend his title, after winning by three shots last year, ahead of Hideteki Matsuyama to scoop the $1.2 million prize.

The course has averaged the easiest on tour over the last three seasons, but can cause problems for players if the wind picks up. 

 

Contenders

Dustin Johnson: The World number 1 has been a revelation since finally breaking his major duck in 2016. The consistency he showed last season was most impressive, along with an ever-improving short game. The 2016 U.S Open champion won four times on tour last year. Johnson is an obvious contender on this course after his 2013 victory.

Tournament odds: 7/1

 

Jordan Spieth: The 23-year-old won this tournament in 2016. He also finished second behind Zach Johnson in 2014, and has never finished outside the top three. Like Dustin Johnson, Spieth should go well on a track he’s very familiar with. 

Tournament odds: 11/2

 

Justin Thomas: He started off last season on fire, winning back-to-back events. Thomas won this event last year, and added the Sony Hawaii Open title one week later.

He already has one win on the season, picking up 500 Fedex cup points for his victory at the CJ Cup at Nine Bridges. The 24-year-old has seven career wins to date, so don’t be surprised if he makes that eight on Sunday.

Tournament odds: 13/2

 

Rickie Fowler: Fowler’s game is ever improving and there could be a big season in store from the 29-year-old. The world number 7 is coming off a recent win at Tiger Wood’s Hero World Challenge event, so expect his form to be good.

Fowler always plays well in the wind, and it’s expected to get breezy over the weekend. He has one win and two second-place finishes in his last three starts. The Oklahoma State University alumnus could be the value bet this week.

Tournament odds: 13/2

 

Hideki Matsuyama: The Japanese superstar is a combined -39 below par after two visits to the Kapulua course, finishing runner-up last year behind Justin Thomas.

Image: USA TODAY Network/SIPA USA/PA Image

He’s another player who goes well on this track, and the five-time PGA Tour winner should be in contention on Sunday evening.

Tournament odds: 12/1

  

Outside selections

Cameron Smith: The 24-year-old Australian qualified for this event by winning the Zurich Classic, last May.

He’s started this season well, finishing third and tied fifth in his last couple of starts. His scoring average of 69.071 should translate well on one of the tour’s lowest scoring courses.

Tournament odds: 45/1

 

Xander Schauffele: The American won the Greenbrier Classic and Tour Championship last season and seems a good value outside contender this weekend.

He’s a player who always treats himself as an underdog, and the young star could have an even bigger impact than last season. He pipped Justin Thomas at last season’s Tour Championship event, and that will give him huge confidence in another exceptionally strong field.

Tournament odds: 54/1

 

Where to watch: 11pm Sky Sports Golf (4th-7th January) 

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