Our golf expert brings you his preview and predictions for this week's PGA Tour event, Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Sentry Tournament Of Champions - Winner
It is back to the status quo at Kapalua with only the previous season winners taking their invite to Maui. McIlroy is the only qualifier to pass up the chance whilst Xander Schauffele gets another crack at this event courtesy of his Gold Medal heroics in Japan. The widest fairways of the year present themselves here and you need to be way off target to find yourself in any significant trouble off the tee. The closer you get to the green the more nuanced it becomes. Imagination is needed as slopes and elevation changes play their part. Distance plays a fair part in the challenge as the longer players can really open their shoulders here but fine approaches and a hot putter is undoubtedly needed here to score beyond 20 under par which will more than likely be needed this week.
Tony Finau at 30/1 (6 Places)
16 golfers are priced ahead of Tony Finau this week in a field of 39 and I don't quite see why. After a previous top ten in his only other outing here he produced a lacklustre effort finishing 31st last year. Having gone close numerous times last year he eventually got that well deserved second victory at the Northern Trust. Last time we saw him he was flying at the halfway stage of the World Challenge only to fire 70-71 over the final two days and finish five back in 7th. Finau at 30/1 is surely a dangerous player in Hawaii and he certainly feels he still has plenty to prove, and plenty more to win. Reed, Spieth, Zach and Dustin have all won this and slipped on the Green Jacket whilst Xander and Thomas are two more with wins here and strong showings at Augusta. It doesn't quite fit a similar course narrative, but with wider fairways and imagination needed closer to the greens the two courses certainly share a correlating skillset. In four appearances there Finau has notched three top tens. The 30/1 on offer here looks a shade on the big side even though he has plenty to prove on the venue.
2pts each-way T.Finau 30/1 (1/5 6)
Sungjae Im at 28/1 (5 Places)
Sungjae Im putts well on this surface and can be expected to give a bold account once again following his 5th on debut last year. The Korean managed his second career victory in the fall series winning the Shriners which gives him back to back wins each of the last two seasons. He must be fancied to add to that tally this year given how consistent a performer he is. Last year he topped the tee to green stats yet was one of the worst performers on the greens. I'm hoping he has gained something from the flat stick debacle last year and should he manage a similar performance from tee to green this year he would be hard to beat. He is another with Masters form finishing 2nd to Dustin Johnson in the November edition in 2020. It could pay to look to Sungjae for some antepost major action as he is still somewhat under the radar given what he has achieved so far and another win could certainly strengthen his position in those markets. For now I'm happy to invest at 28/1 in an event where winners usually post another fine finish either before or after their win. His 5th on debut was impressive given his putting struggles and he'll surely fancy to go well again.
2pts each-way S.Im 28/1 (1/5 5)
Marc Leishman at 35/1 (6 Places)
Spieth, Schauffele and Dechambeau were all noted on my shortlist. Spieth has the imagination to always score well around here and he should be suited by a return to this type of test. Schauffele looks a fair price given his credentials here and Bryson really ought to have done better given his domination off the tee. His struggle with approach play may just play out here once again. Another who was interesting was Erik Van Rooyen. The South African won the Barracuda last term and didn't do a whole pile wrong afterwards making it all the way to East Lake courtesy of top tens at the Northern Trust and BMW. He could benefit from the elevation changes at Kapalua and a shade more room off the tee. I'll have my last dart however on Marc Leishman. The Aussie finished the year in fine style with a couple of top 5s in his last four events. He then bounded into the QBE Shootout where he and Jason Day held a sizeable lead heading into the final day before being surpassed by the brilliance of Jason Kokrak and Kevin Na. Leishman looked like he was putting all the pieces together towards the end of 2021 and was holing plenty on the greens. He still has another level to reach and could still one day be a Major Champion. He is another with a fine Augusta record with two top 5s and 1 top ten over the years. He has played well here a couple of times also and looks primed for another charge this time around.
2pts each-way M.Leishman 35/1 (1/5 6)