Sentry Tournament Of Champions Tips & Betting Preview

Niall Lyons looks to kick off the new year in style with his two American picks!

Niall Lyons
Tue, 1 Jan, 14:04

We have checked in and now waiting in the departure lounge for the 2019 kick off. Space Mountain will have nothing on this year's Rollercoaster we are about to embark on. Plenty of stories will be told and no doubt heartbreak will play out on numerous occasions but the

massive highs will make it all worthwhile when we sit and reflect on the season next December. As ever I pledge to try my best to make us all financially more secure throughout the year. I wish you all the best of luck.


As ever Hawaii gently glides in to kick off the new year and it is always a welcome event for punters and tipsters alike as it eases everyone into proceedings with a limited field. Those lucky to gain a victory last year take part in Hawaii with a small handful of absentees, most notably Tiger Woods who can tweak his schedule a bit, having been a busy man searching for form in 2018.


A top class field still goes down to post as Kapalua is an exciting venue and the start of year party is one not to be missed if you qualify. Dustin Johnson has won this twice in the last five years and with reed and Thomas filling the gaps in between you can certainly conclude that length off the tee is a string to your bow around this track.


Stricker and Zach Johnson have shown there is more than one way to skin a cat around here also whilst Spieth's postings of 1st, 2nd and 3rd back up the two old-timers wins that a sharp wedge/short game is equally as efficient around these parts. Wind plays its part too and ability to control the ball into and with the breeze will help. Putting looks the most important stat when it comes to the winner with almost always the winner of the event finishing in top3 in the putting stats. 


With the ball flying a long way here and fairways as wide as my post-Christmas waistband I'll be looking for players who can get it closer to the hole than average from around 100 yards and generally decent putters from inside 10 feet. Throw in someone with a controlled ball flight in the wind and that is the profile I want. No surprise that Johnson rates around an 11/2 poke and I won't be too worried should he win unbacked here. Rahm is in similar territory for someone prone to mistakes in contention.

Nevertheless his recent record is tremendous and is one of the most prolific performers in the sport. It'd be no surprise should he add Hawaii to his growing list of worldwide wins in USA, Dubai, Bahamas, Ireland and Spain. He for me looks like the most likely winner and I wouldn't put anyone off but I'll stray to a couple of bigger priced selections.


First up, WEBB SIMPSON looks primed for an attempt at this event which has already yielded two top 3 finishes in only 3 visits. He was a standout performer in 2018 getting back into the winner's enclosure at Sawgrass and he finished the year off a shade unfortunate not to land another victory. 2nd in the Wyndham, 6th in BMW, 4th at East Lake and 3rd at the RSM was a fine finish to a super season which seen him rise into the top 20 in the world rankings.


His worst finish here in 3 starts was 11th in 2013. Interestingly though that event was plagued with bad weather and in particular high winds. Round 1 scores were scrapped as players struggled to cope with gale force winds. Simpson was a tad unfortunate as he had posted 3 under through 7 in the height of the bad weather but was left to start again a day or so later when play re-started for the whole field. This result is sandwiched between two third-placed finishes with 17 and 19 under par posted on both those occasions.


That bodes well for this year's renewal as for me he is a much better golfer than back then considering the dip in form he took for a few years. He may make hay on the first two days and try to hold off the more powerful players as the wind dies down over the weekend. He ranked 6th in Approaches from 50-125 yards last year and putts as good as most these days so I certainly want to have him on side this week.

BUBBA WATSON has been somewhat dismissed by the bookies this week and it may pay to have the slugger on your dockets this week on a track that plays into his driver. His record is sketchy enough given his advantage off the tee but he didn't play last year and over the last 12 months one part of his game has dramatically improved. Watson finished 10th in GIR putting from 5-10 feet last year having posted 167th in the same stat the previous year. He has ranked in the bottom handful in the field in putting statistics here on his last few attempts and if he can continue holing putts from this 5-10ft distance then he could prove to be a force this week. He clearly has the profile of a winner here and improvement with the flat stick may just be the difference between a top ten and a winning performance. 


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