Sentry Tournament of Champions kicks off 2018 season

Posted on Jan 4 2018 - 10:52am by Cody Flavell
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Justin Thomas poses with the Sentry Tournament of Champions trophy that he won last season on Tour. (Photo: Matt York/Associated Press)

The 2018 portion of the PGA Tour schedule gets under way Thursday with the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Kapalua, Hawaii, at The Plantation Course.

Out of 37 eligible winners from the PGA Tour last season, 34 of them will compete for a $6,300,000 purse as the winner on Sunday evening.

The Course

The Plantation Course is home to one of the largest courses on tour. 7,452 yards of pure Hawaiian views and beautiful golf course, the par here is 73.

In what is the longest hole on Tour this season, the Par-5 18th is a monstrous hole. Over the past few years, it has been the home to at least seven of the Top-20 drives from the respective year. It’s definitely an advantage for big hitters like No. 1 overall golfer Dustin Johnson.

But even average hitters like Jordan Spieth and Steve Stricker have won on the long course as well so there is more than one way to win.

The Field/Opening Day Tee Times

This year’s field includes 34 golfers, 14 of which are making their debut in the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Below are their tee times:

3:10 p.m. — Ryan Armour, Austin Cook
3:20 p.m. — Patton Kizzire, D.A. Points
3:30 p.m. — Jonas Blixt, Chris Stroud
3:40 p.m. — Si Woo Kim, Grayson Murray
3:50 p.m. — Cameron Smith, Bryson DeChambeau
4 p.m. — Wesley Bryan, Billy Horschel
4:10 p.m. — Brendan Steele, Hudson Swafford
4:20 p.m. — Patrick Cantlay, Jason Dufner
4:30 p.m. — Adam Hadwin, Kevin Chappell
4:40 p.m. — Kyle Stanley, Brian Harman
4:50 p.m. — Daniel Berger, Jhonattan Vegas
5 p.m. — Russell Henley, Pat Perez
5:10 p.m. — Brooks Koepka, Kevin Kisner
5:20 p.m. — Rickie Fowler, Hideki Matsuyama
5:30 p.m. — Jon Rahm, Marc Leishman
5:40 p.m. — Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson
5:50 p.m. — Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth

The most notable tee times for Thursday include Spieth and last year’s winner, Justin Thomas, as well as Dustin Johnson and Xander Schaufelle.

Johnson is currently the world’s No. 1 golfer and is one of the longest hitters on Tour which should play into his hand at Kapalua. Johnson had a career high four wins last season. Schaufelle is coming off his Rookie of the Year title and would love to make his sophomore season just as good and become a household name in golf.

The Thomas and Spieth pair is always one of the more fun ones to watch. They were paired 15 times last season and 28 times overall in their young careers. Spieth won the tournament in 2016 while Thomas claimed the title in 2017.

Defending Champion

As stated before, Thomas won this event in 2017. It was only the beginning for him as he went on to win the following week at the Sony Open also in Hawaii. He beat Hideki Matsuyama by three strokes.

Thomas was interviewed at the beginning of the week about how different this season is going to be after all the successes he had in 2017.

“At the end of the day, the lowest score still wins,” Thomas said. “I understand I’m going to be pushed or pulled in different ways but I can’t control that. It definitely beats the alternative of having an average year last year and no one caring.”

His best friend, and playing partner Thursday Spieth, had his own record successful year back in 2015 and has been very good ever since. He had his own advice for Thomas.

“He’s reached out,” Spieth said. “We’ve talked about it on a serious note…I’ve shared what I hope is some good insight on how to handle himself coming off a successful year.”

News/Notes

  • 132 players have played 8 or more career rounds in the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Only Jordan Spieth has a career scoring average lower than 68 (67.7). -via @JustinRayGC on twitter.
  • Justin Thomas can become the first player ever to win three straight matches in Hawaii. He won the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open the following week in 2017.
  • Rickie Fowler won the last competitive golfing event of 2017 when he shot a magnificent 61 in the final round of the Hero World Challenge in December.
  • Jon Rahm is making his first appearance at Kapalua in his career. He has finished in the top-5 in 13 of 36 competitive events on Tour. He finished No. 4 in the world last season after starting in 137.

Prediction

I’m going to take Justin Thomas this weekend.

While the course suits the bigger hitters, Thomas is no slouch. He took the tournament by storm last season and used that victory as momentum for the following week. After a nice showing in the President’s Cup in late September and another solid showing at the Hero World Challenge, Thomas has a chip on his shoulder and can be the first golfer to win three consecutive Hawaii matches.

Look for Dustin Johnson to have a solid weekend as the course suits his long-bomb type style. Expect a beautiful view on your television set all weekend and an opening tournament that should be a great prelude to what the 2018 season should hold.

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