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Read The Line

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Published about 2 months agoΒ β€’Β 6 min read

Aloha 2024!

The PGA TOUR is back. The first of eight signature (elevated, etc.) events takes place this week on the island of Maui in Lahaina. The Sentry is no longer just the tournament of champions. To qualify for the weeklong Hawaii vacation, one must have to be a current tournament winner or inside the top 50 of the FedEx Cup standings from the prior season. As a result, we have 38 of the top 50 in the OWGR for the 59-man field. Seventy-two holes over four days with no-cut to split up a $20 million dollar purse.

This is the first of 35 weeks in the 2024 FedEx Cup season. No more wrap around calendars, just January through Labor Day to decide the FedEx Cup winner. Alongside those eight signature events, we will have four majors, and the Olympics in Paris! You have to love the new structure. Since it will probably change again in 2025 when all of these negotiations end, I suggest we enjoy the simplicity of this season's setup.

Sentry starts in...

Count down to 2024-01-04T16:30:00.000Z​

I have enhanced the design of the newsletter for 2024. As you read through, you will see fewer words replaced by vital links to relevant information. I received a great suggestion asking about the weather. "Keith, thanks for the report, but where do you get it? What happens if it changes during thew week, and I want to go look it up?" Better information in real-time has always been one of our primary missions at RTL. Pay attention to the links below. I will choose the best information vital to winning and watching. Course conditions as described by the Superintendent, local online weather, and more throughout the season.

The Plantation Course at Kapalua is a unique par 73 design by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw (1991). The scorecard displays three par 3s, four par 5s, and 11 par 4s totaling 7,596 yards. Near sea level, the third longest course on TOUR will not play nearly that long. For example, the 677-yard finishing hole drops over 150' in elevation leading to 400+ yard drives every year. The landscape is a beautiful blend of topography that provides a very entertaining venue for the world's best.

The average winning score over the past 5 years is 25 under par. Twenty-four under par over the past decade. The cream of the crop tends to take home the trophy. We will do our best to build a balanced outright card, but only one winner in the last ten years have owned pre-tournament odds over +2200 (22-1). Three of the last ten winners have started the week with odds under +1000 (10-1). Thirteen of the holes on the Plantation Course have a birdie rate over 15%. The four par 5s average a birdie rate over 50%! Kapalua means "arms embracing the sea." If you ask me the translation should just be straight birdiefest.

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Course conditions

​The Plantation Course at Kapalua​

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TV/Streaming

​Coverage times​

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Real-time weather

​Lahaina, HI​

Ride the wave

To play well and win at The Sentry, you must understand what makes the Plantation Course so unique. Many will look to the length and say it is a bombers paradise. Truth is you really don't have to be a bomber to succeed at Sentry. A large majority of the landing zones off the tee have collection areas. All 59 players are going to find themselves in the same approach area round after round. The real separation comes on the long par 4s and par 5s with a 200-yard approach and wedge play inside 100 yards.

That is a unique combination with the iron game, but that is what it will take to win this signature event. That polar skill set and a tremendous putting week. Analyzing the iron game further, 50% of the last ten winners saw their largest gains on approaches around 200 yards (175-200, 200+). You have three par 4s over 500 yards, two long par 3s 200+, and four par 5s to attack in two. Eight of the remaining nine holes are all a wedge approach. Most of them will be from well inside 100 yards. Eleven par 4s means par 4 scoring is just as key to contending as birdieing (or eagle) the par 5s.

Read The Line recap πŸ—žοΈ

Jon Rahm gained 6.1 strokes on the field with his flatstick last year. The talented Spaniard made 30 birdies in 2023 and 33 birdies in the 2022 edition. If there's a formula for success in Maui, her has it. Power off the tee followed by exemplary iron play creates a significant number of scoring chances.

In the final round last year, he made nine birdies and an eagle to shoot 10 under 63!

Those approaches need to be precise. Kapalua can trick you if you don't look inside the numbers. At 8,722 sq/ft on average, these are the largest greens on TOUR. Hitting the green is not good enough, your proximity to the hole from long range and short must be precise. These putting surfaces are separated into small sections divided by steep elevation changes. Players three-putt a bunch on the Plantation Course. Approach putting and three-putt avoidance are two other stats I have strongly considered.

The last five winners have gained over five strokes against the field with their flatstick. That's the highest gain of any major strokes gained category. Those same five winners averaged 28 birdies in route to winning. Every birdiefest requires great putting. Converting 25+ birdie chances cannot happen without an excellent roll on these Bermudagrass greens.

The Plantation Course sits alongside the Pacific Ocean, but the terrain is anything other than coastal. This is one of the longest walks on the PGA TOUR and goes up and down considerably. From the second green to the seventeenth tee is an elevation difference of 400+ feet! Nine holes climb the hillside while the other nine take you back down. Ball striking becomes essential when you are consistently hitting from uneven lies. That's why players like Tiger, Rahm, DJ, JT, etc. have all played well here.

Our outright selections are all coming off a successful fall campaign with plenty of rest. These next 35 weeks will be a fatigue test to remain healthy and focused. Each member of the field is aware of how Rahm's start launched his career season right into winning a green jacket. Speaking of which there is a very strong correlation between Augusta success and contending at Kapalua. Another significant connection comes from down under. Australians have won this event six times in the last 20 years.

The season is here, and I will be on the road once the PGA TOUR gets back to the mainland. For now, enjoy the primetime golf and keep an eye on the favorites. If the Hero taught us anything, the bunch at the top is not losing their motivation to win anytime soon. If Scottie is about to go on a serious heater, we will find ways to cash in just as we did in the prop and live markets in the Bahamas. Welcome back now let's get a win in week one!

Outright winners - The Sentry

Collin Morikawa's game is tailor made for the Plantation Course.

  • Morikawa is a top 3 wedge player in the field.
  • Overall, Collin is the only player who can consistently rival both Scheffler and Hovland on approach from long range.
  • In four starts at Kapalua, Morikawa's average SG:Total is over six shots!

After an excellent Ryder Cup, Matt Fitzpatrick won the Alfred Dunhill Links (October) and finished fourth in the Bahamas at the Hero.

  • Fitzpatrick is one of the best putters in the field gaining in six of his last seven events with the flatstick.
  • Since finishing the Fed Ex Cup playoffs 2-9, Matt's five fall starts were 3-18-1-27-4.
  • Excellent par 5 scoring with combination of length and wedge game.

Read between the lines

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Check out RTL live on their channel and download the app while you are there.

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Happy New Year from Read The Line.

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