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One Whale of a Start 🐳

Published about 1 year ago • 6 min read

Kapalua here we come!

I cannot wait for 2023, and here's why. Outside of the major championships, nearly a dozen times we are going to get treated to great fields. These "designated" events determined by the PGA Tour not only will have the best players, but much larger purses as well. The Sentry Tournament of Champions will play host to 39 of the best golfers on the PGA Tour. These men will be competing for a $15 million dollar purse. That is almost double the $8.2 million they played for in 2022!

  • Seventeen of the TOP 20 of the world rankings are coming to Kapalua.
  • There are three past champions in the field: Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, and Jordan Spieth.
  • The average winning odds over the last five years are +1800 (18-1) and over the last ten +1500 (15-1).
  • Winning score? The last five years have averaged 24 under par, all-time at The Plantation Course 19.5 under par (24x).

In fact, if you were twenty under par last year you would have finished tied for 15th! We expect good weather again this year, so these guys better pack their birdie bags. Temperatures on Maui for the tourney will be in the low 80's. What little rain that is predicted this week will happen on Tuesday and Wednesday. We always have "trade-winds," but they will average in the mid-teens and primarily blow out of the northeast. This means a majority of the holes will be contested in a mild cross wind.

The real challenge of this nearly 500 acre former pineapple plantation are the elevation changes. The Plantation Course at Kapalua peaks at over 500 feet above sea level.

  • Plantation Course: Par 73 played at 7,596 yards
  • Scorecard: Eleven Par 4's, four Par 5's and three Par 3's
  • Ten holes travel downhill from tee to green while the remaining eight climb uphill.
  • Ninety-three bunkers are scattered throughout this wonderful Coore-Crenshaw design (1991).
  • The average green size is over 8,700 square feet. That's quite large by PGA Tour standards.

The course is covered in Bermudagrass. We will be looking for players who can capitalize on big Bermuda greens with the putter. A dozen of the holes have a birdie rate over 15% and the four Par 5's average a 53% sub par score. Just three holes carry a bogey rate of 15% or more. The theme will be scoring this week. Last year, three guys shot thirty under par or better.

Make sure your selections, like ours, can capitalize with the flatstick. Each of the last ten winners gained strokes on the greens. Over that time, they averaged 3.7 strokes gained with the putter. In the last five editions, they have averaged 4.5 strokes gained on the greens. Many experts agree Augusta National correlates with Kapalua. I agree, and these putting statistics prove why.

Welcome back faithful RTL fans. This is week 1 of 34 coming for the PGA Tour. The newsletter format is similar, but with a couple enhancements. I've streamlined the stories and made it more efficient for every reader to bet. Thank you for wagering on us for another FedEx Cup run. I cannot wait for the season to start tomorrow and to show you all what we have planned for 2023!

Tournament of Champions on TV:

  • Thursday & Friday 2:30 - 10:00pm (ESPN+), 6:00 - 10:00pm (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday & Sunday 12:45 - 8:00 pm (ESPN+), 4:00 - 6:00pm (NBC), 6:00 - 8:00pm (Golf Channel)
  • Complete details on PGATour.com
  • All times EST.


The Sentry starts in...


Who will win..?

The more things change...

We predicted Cam Smith to win at Kapalua last year. Unfortunately, he's not eligible to defend his title. When I wrote about him, my main focus was on scoring from 125 yards and in. On paper, the Plantation Course looks long, but the fact is most of the really long holes play downhill. So the best scoring chances, the ones you must continue to take advantage of to reach twenty-five under, all come with a scoring wedge in your hand.

The second most important approach shots are found on the Par 5's. Those long approaches in two seeking a chance for eagle play a vital role as well. Add it up and eight approaches come from 125 and in and another eight from 200+. We start building our winning golfer with these two skills in mind. The greens at Kapalua are big. They average 8,700 square feet in size. So the GIR rate is almost 80% and that's nearly 15% better than the tour average. The key on your approaches, is proximity to the hole.

Contenders will need to hit the ball close because the these large Bermudagrass surfaces lead to a very high three-putt average. It is no surprise, that all putts over five feet (10', 15', 20', etc.) have a make percentage below the tour average. Putting isn't always a significant differentiator on tour, at Kapalua it counts. Remember, Ben Crenshaw did help design these putting surfaces.

Eleven Par 4's of varying length make the Plantation Course very entertaining for the viewer. Three of them measure over 500 yards and the remaining eight are all under 425 yards. With fairways this wide, players will attack those short Par 4's and scrambling will be another influence on contention. The combination of short pitches and medium length putts are what will determine our champion on Sunday.

Before we get to the outrights, let's consider the crazy topography of this former pineapple paradise. This course changes elevation like an elevator in a busy hotel. Ball striking with your iron game must be on point. No lie will be level, especially as we get closer to each green. Strokes gained ball striking and tee to green are essential. Rest assured our outright list flushes the golf ball.

So the more things change (bye Cam) the more things stay the same. We've got plenty of other great contenders in this field ready to start us off just like last year... with a win.

Outright winners - Sentry Tournament of Champions

Patrick Cantlay (+1100)

  • I might start calling Patrick Cantlay, the "Prince of the Plantation Course." Cantlay's course history is clean. In his last four starts he has two Top 5's and two Top 15 finishes. Whether it is the Mai Tai's at the lobby bar or his amazing ability to be ready from the start of the season, who cares? Last year he took 105 days off prior to playing and finished 4th. All the skills we just described, he's great at. Wedge play, long iron approaches into Par 5's, Par 4 scoring and putting. Looking for a guy who wants to win whether he's staying at the Ritz or a Ramada Inn, the Iceman is my choice.

Tony Finau (+1500)

  • Nobody has played better than Tony Finau over the last six months. He leads this field in Birdies Gained, Short Game, and Par 4 scoring. Ranked second in Ball Striking, T2G, BoB%, and Bogey Avoidance. So he makes more birdies than anyone and less bogeys. Sounds like the combination we need to contend and win. Tony's weakest area are approaches over 200 yards. Except, he rarely has any approaches from that length! Finau has found his mojo and I think he'll continue making more money.

Pick 3* (+2000)

Pick 4* (+3000)

*- member content


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