Sentry Tournament of Champions Betting Preview

FILE - In this Jan. 7, 2016, file photo, Justin Thomas hits from the seventh tee during the first round of the Tournament of Champions golf tournament at Kapalua Plantation Course on Kapalua, Hawaii. With a new five-year sponsorship deal with Sentry Insurance, the PGA Tour strengthened its commitment to start the new year in Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

The first PGA Tour event of the 2021 calendar year is the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which will tee off on Thursday. It traditionally begins the new golf year, but no longer the PGA Tour season. The tournament is the 14th of the 52 tournaments in the 2020-21 season.

The 2019-20 PGA Tour season had 13 tournaments canceled due to COVID-19-induced schedule changes. As a result, the qualification requirements for the Sentry Tournament of Champions were expanded beyond the winners during the 2020 calendar year.

Players that qualified for the 2020 Tour Championship not otherwise eligible were added to the field. Forty-two players will tee it up at the par-73 Plantation Course at Kapalua in Maui, Hawaii, the tournament site since 1999.

The field includes eight of the top nine players in the Official World Golf Ranking. The top 10 in the FedEx Cup standings are also playing at Kapalua.

Tournament History

This event has been held at a variety of courses and with a number of sponsors since 1953. The field has always been made up of tournament winners of the previous calendar year. 

Past winners of the tournament include Dustin Johnson, Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Johnny Miller, Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead.

Ernie Els holds the tournament record of 31-under-par 261, winning by eight shots in 2003. Jordan Spieth came within a stroke of tying Els, shooting a 30-under-par 262 while also besting the field by eight. Gene Littler won by a record 13 strokes in 1955.

The largest margin of victory at Kapalua was David Duval’s nine-shot win in 1999, the first event at the course. Duval would go on to win the following week at the Desert Classic with a closing 59, only the third in Tour history. 

Last year, Justin Thomas defeated Patrick Reed and Xander Schauffele in a playoff, shooting a 14-under-par 278.

Sentry Tournament of Champions Betting Lines

In what is becoming a familiar theme on the PGA Tour, Dustin Johnson is the betting favorite, with odds of +650 for the tournament. He’s a two-time winner of the event, in 2013 by four strokes over Steve Stricker and in 2018 by eight shots over Jon Rahm.

Defending and 2017 champion Justin Thomas and the aforementioned Rahm are next on the list at +800. The 2019 winner and last year’s runner-up, Xander Schauffele, is fourth at +1000, followed by the world’s fifth-ranked player, Bryson DeChambeau.

There are two other past champions in the field: 2015 winner Patrick Reed and the 2002 victor Sergio Garcia. Reed is one of the favorites with odds of +1800, while Garcia is well down the list at +8000.

Tournament Preview

Since 2009, the winner had scored better than 19 under par when the tournament went 72 holes until last year. Last year, after original architects Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore made alterations to Kapalua’s layout, Thomas managed to win at just 14 under par.

One year doesn’t make a trend, but based on the challenges presented in 2020, a higher-than-average winning score can be expected. Ball striking will once again be rewarded, and players won’t be forced to go low to have a chance to win.

The alterations didn’t appear, however, to have an effect on course familiarity. Thomas gained his second victory, and Reed got his second runner-up finish to go with his 2015 win. 

Look for familiar faces on top of the leaderboard, but the expanded field could bring some new faces into contention.

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