Golf is back after its festive break and we have a great year of action to look forward to with the countdown already underway to the first major of 2018 at Augusta in April. It all starts with the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Thursday and the very nature of this event ensures a strong field.
To qualify, players must have won at least one tournament on the PGA Tour in the previous 12 months so let’s get straight to it and assess this classy set of entries. We will conclude with our Sentry Tournament predictions and betting picks.
Jordan Spieth is our narrow favourite and, having won this event in 2016, he picked up three tournament wins in 2017 including the Open Championship in July. However that was his last victory of any kind as the 24-year-old lost some momentum, taking regular breaks as the year came to a close.
Behind the leader, the USA sports betting sites are struggling to split three men with Justin Thomas, Rickie Fowler and Dustin Johnson all locked as joint second favourites with a number of outlets. Already we can see the quality of the field with Thomas our reigning champion and Fowler our most recent winner, albeit in a non-tour event at the Hero World Challenge in December.
Of those three, Johnson is also a previous winner here in 2013 but if there is any momentum to be carried over, it’s with Fowler who continued to compete while the opposition chose to sit out the final events of 2017.
Hideki Matsuyama was second in this event, three shots behind Justin Thomas last year and he is behind the top four by a number of points in the Sentry Tournament of Champions outright winner betting lines. Two Tour wins in 2017 plus a tie for second at the US Open suggests we can’t rule out the Japanese player this week.
Behind Matsuyama, Jon Rahm and Brooks Koepka are locked with most sportsbooks and both enjoyed productive seasons. Spain’s Rahm is also a recent winner, claiming the DP World Tour Championship in November and he qualifies this week by virtue of a win in the Farmers Insurance Open nearly twelve months ago.
The price on Koepka could be more interesting however and while he had just the one Tour win last year, it was the US Open and his wider success around the world makes him a player who can adapt to most conditions.
Gaps start to open up now and one of the mid-range golfers that interests us is Marc Leishman, the Australian who returned an emphatic performance at the BMW Championship in September, beating Rickie Fowler and Justin Rose by five shots.
While this is a restricted event, there are some really long prices going into three figures all the way down to our rank outsider D A Points so there could be some value this week. Other potential options for win and place bets include Jason Dufner who claimed the Memorial Tournament in June, Players Championship winner Si Woo Kim and Kevin Chappell, who added a number of Top Ten finishes to his Valero Texas Open victory in April.
Sentry Tournament of Champions Course, Picks, Betting Trends & Predictions
The Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort in Hawaii has played host to this event since 1999 and it carries an unusual Par 73 at just under 7,500 yards. The key factor is the wind however and if it’s more than breezy, the course is a challenge but if conditions are calm, wide fairways and greens at around just 10 on the Stimp can lead to very low scoring.
Interestingly, we didn’t see a single home winner between 2002 and 2010 although Americans have dominated since, winning every renewal from 2011 onwards.
The start of any season can be tough to call: Players are rested and refreshed but there is no immediate form to call upon so it’s a case of looking at the key stats required to get over the line. Power Hitting isn’t an issue and accuracy can only come into it if the wind plays its part.
Ultimately, it can all come down to a battle with the flatstick and recent renewals show that the men in form with the putter take the prize. With no form, that becomes a tougher call but based on last season, and his tie for third here in 2017, Brooks Koepka is a man to watch although at this early stage of the season. Our preview’s betting prediction and pick is:
- Bet on Brooks Koepka to win @ best odds of +1400 (14/1) with Bookmaker.
- You could also bet on Koepka to finish in the top five with Bovada at +225 (9/4).
Matt Harris is a golf and soccer expert for USA Betting. His other area of specialist knowledge is cricket. He is well known in sports journalism and contributes articles to a plethora of big-name websites and media outlets. Titles that he writes or has written for include: Betfair, BetVictor, Unibet & Just Bookies.