Table of Contents
By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
RESETTING ON HAWAII
Just…like…that…we’re back to PGA Tour normality. The calendar has flipped, the holidays are in the rear and we now have PGA Tour action every damn week for the next 9 months. Though it feels like a fresh start, we are eight events into the current wraparound season and some fresh faces have peeked their heads out early like Seamus Power and Taylor Montgomery. Now it’s time for the big guns to return to competitive golf and make their imprint on 2023.
While we’re still in the wraparound season mindset on tour, I can’t help but look back fondly on 2022 and the wealth of winners we’ve handed out. Dating back to last spring as these weekly articles began, I racked up SEVEN outright winners and an endless count of top 10’s from our picks. Let’s not mess around with what’s working, time to break down Kapalua and who we like this week.
WINNERS CLUB…SORT OF.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua is our host and has been for decades. One wrinkle that has changed the qualifications of this event is that you don’t HAVE to have won an event in the prior season to be here. There was also a “top 30 qualifier” FedEx cup standing which got some of the 39 into this week’s field – what it did was essentially fill out and improve an already solid field. Combine this with the elevated status of this event (i.e. giving out more money), and we have ourselves some drama in paradise to start off the New Year in golf.
Headlining the field of 39 players and champions from 2022 are Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, and many more winners from the last year in golf. Fan favorites Tom Kim, Sahith Theegala, and Viktor Hovland are also in the loaded field, and everyone here should expect to go crazy low to contend. Last year’s -34 mark from Cam Smith broke every record imaginable for 72 holes, and even dead last place finished 7 under par for the week. Break out the birdie machines and start dropping putts.
FORECASTING THE SENTRY
As we start the year with a small field of winners in paradise, this is essentially a nice soft landing at a target practice type of course for the world’s best. EVERYONE will go low this week, but it’s the best putter that gives themselves the most looks inside of 15-20 feet that usually hoists the trophy here.
I’m prefacing my weekly picks based on exactly what I value the most. With every play I make, I’m always taking into account these factors, and for the Sentry TOC at Kapalua, I’m mixing in some hot players from the fall with some top-tier players that are putting well.
1. Who’s hot and trending – recent high finishes, top-10 streaks, and consistent play are never a bad thing.
2. Horses for courses – players love certain courses and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.
3. What the numbers tell you this week – while I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.
4. Intangibles – while this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding that feels “due” or if the price looks just right for buying.
At the PNC Championship to wrap up 2022, I was all in on Teams Daly and Woods, and neither lifted the trophy. I would have liked one more winner to cap a successful 2022, but you can’t get them ALL. That week was a C- for picks but we’ve already moved on and mentally we’re at Kapalua.
(Wanna start a Pick-X pool with your friends? Learn more here! Or, if you’re looking to start your own PGA One-and-Done pool, check those out here) (Hint: the main difference between the two is how many players you’ll pick each week)
1: Jon Rahm – He’s been knocking on the door of winning this event in recent years, and he’s playing. An unavoidable favorite to back this week.
2: Cameron Young – A first-timer, but who cares? He’s routinely placed high in debuts throughout his ascension in this game, and was putting well in fall events he played most recently.
3: Sungjae Im – The analytics seem to lean his way this week, and his odds are slightly overshadowed by a powerful field.
4: Patrick Cantlay – His great history both here in Kapalua can’t be ignored, and his 26 under-par tally here last year was good enough for 4th.
5: Seamus Power – Let’s ride the POWER TRAIN into the new year, he’s arguably one of the top 5 hottest golfers in the game right now and has thrived at other birdie fest events as well.
6: Aaron Wise – This week’s longshot pick had a nice run of top 20 finishes in the fall and hopes to continue momentum to Hawaii.
RYP One and Done Pick: Sungjae Im
Where to watch: Golf Channel all weekend – nothing like some primetime golf from paradise to fill the voids in our cold winter hearts.
Why to watch: The champions of 2022 and other top names are back on tour to kickstart a new year, and boy is Kapalua easy on the eyes this time of year.
What to eat: Musubi, aka Hawaiian spam in a sushi roll. They swear by it over there on the island.
Purse: $15 million
Winner’s Share: $2.7 million