Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:55 AM

Best Bets - Sentry TOC

Sentry Tournament of Champions - Best Bets

After multiple weeks off for the holiday season, the wraparound PGA Tour schedule gets going again, and this time it's the beginning of an eight-month stretch of important action all the way through. They begin as they always do each new calendar year, out in Hawaii for a couple of weeks, with only past winners from last season being able to shake off some of that rust early.

Venue: Kapulau Resort
Par-Yardage: 73, 7,500

The Tournament of Champions is a short field, no-cut event that acts as a boost for guys entering the new year, rewarding them for finding the winner's circle in the previous 12 months. It's an event that attracts plenty of the game's best, and if you want to win here, you'd better be able to go low. The longer track on paper really isn't all that long for these guys, and the Par 73 layout gives plenty of opportunities to score. With each of the past five winners finishing at -21 or lower, that birdie train better be running early and often for whomever you back.

What makes that interesting, is that in narrowing down an already small field, you'll see that winners of this event for at least the past 10 years have all played in this tournament at least once before recently. That run is going to be tested with 15 guys teeing it up this week that haven't played this event from 2010 on. That's another sign of the youth movement we've got in the game right now, as names like Collin Morikawa, Joaquin Niemann, and Matthew Wolff are all apart of that list.

Betting Odds

The favorites in an event dominated by favorites are always going to get plenty of looks in the market, and for this week, that honor belongs to Jon Rahm (4/1). Behind him are names like Justin Thomas, (5/1), the defending champ Xander Schauffele (8/1), and Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay sitting at 10/1 odds each.

Gary Woodland, Patrick Reed, and Rickie Fowler (14/1) round out the group of guys with odds better then 20/1, and with the list of defending champs going Xander, DJ, Justin Thomas, Spieth, and Patrick Reed the past five years, chances are it will be one of these favorites who win this week when all is said and done. But this influx of Tournament of Champions rookies makes this week's event so intriguing, because if one of those new faces runs hot for four days, they've got all the talent in the world to take down this type of field.

Top 10 Betting Choices

  • Jon Rahm 4/1
  • Justin Thomas 5/1
  • Xander Schauffele 8/1
  • Dustin Johnson 10/1
  • Patrick Cantlay 10/1
  • Rickie Fowler 14/1
  • Patrick Reed 14/1
  • Gary Woodland 14/1
  • Collin Morikawa 20/1
  • Paul Casey 25/1
  • More...

Odds per Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook

Golfers to Watch

So here are the guys I'm backing this week, broken down by odds range, and with a tournament matchup at the end to boot. Hopefully we can start off 2020 on the right foot!

Favorite: Justin Thomas (5/1)

In a normal field event, there is little chance I'm taking a guy below +1000 odds pre-tournament, as there is just too much variability at that time for a 72-hole event. But in 30-man fields, you've got to shrink your range a bit and try to stick to the upper class of talent. JT is clearly that in this field, and he is looking to become the 3rd guy since 2010 to win this tournament twice in his career.

As a past winner it's already been proven that Thomas has all the tools to win on this track, and nothing has changed in that regard. His overall length will have him staring down plenty of birdie or better putts during the four days, and him sinking that putt on 18 on Friday of the President's Cup while teamed with Tiger to essentially bring the USA back into that match, is a good thing for him to build on. When he won here in 2017 he went on to win PGA Player of the Year that season, with claiming his first Major victory as apart of that.

Who knows what 2020 will bring, but the Hawaii leg on Tour has always been kind to JT and it very well could be again this week.

Mid-Range: Rickie Fowler (14/1)

Fowler is far from a true “mid-range” guy, but as I said, this tournament needs usual rules like that to bend a bit, and this would be a great way for Fowler to start 2020.

Concerns about rust are no more after Fowler went down to Australia to play in the President's Cup, and that never hurts. He's got a great field to deal with for sure, but it's not the deepest it could be with guys like Rory, Brooks, and Tiger sitting out, and that works to Fowler's favor as well. He's plenty capable to beat the best of the best, but with how many runner-ups and 3rd's he's had in his career relative to wins (5 wins to 21 second or thirds), only having to best a handful of the best names in the world is always going to be better for Fowler then trying to beat a baker's dozen of them each week.

Furthermore, you know his long game will give him plenty of opportunities to go low at this type of track, one where he's never finished worse then 6th in the three times he's played here since 2013. With market sentiment fading on Fowler thanks to so many close but no cigar finishes from him throughout his career, 2020 might be a great year to start zigging while everyone is zagging off him now.

The prices on Fowler – who has burned so many, so many times - are only going to be that much better, and having gotten married and likely thinking about starting a family soon, you wonder how that potentially effects his game on the course. With a 4th 5, and 6th place finish on his resume at this event, it makes plenty of sense to see if the potential change is a positive for Fowler at this price, in this type of short field event.

Longshot: Matthew Wolff (50/1)

A usual mid-range price turns into a valuable longshot here, as if you are going to try to buck the trend of first timers never winning here, you might as well take a guy like Wolff.

Wolff has been ultra-aggressive on the golf course since Day 1, and when his swing clicks consistently for four rounds, golf courses that give up low scores like this one will have no choice but to submit. Wolff has got all the various ball striking numbers you need to have success here, and as long as things are kept playable and his putter can be lukewarm at worst, knocking on the door of a victory here is worth the risk.

Spreading him out to a Top 5 or top 10 bet might be the better way to ultimately go, but some of those “new”, young names will be among the leaders come the weekend, and Wolff's as good as any of them to be up there.

72 Hole Matchup to Take: Rickie Fowler (+100) over Dustin Johnson (-120)

Debated on including Matthew Wolff (+115) over Joaquin Niemann here as well, as it's kind of hard to turn down plus-money on guys you already like to win it all. But with both DJ and Fowler having course history more on their side, going with the more proven commodity of Fowler makes a bit more sense.

I touched on the potential for big things to happen for Fowler this year, and winning this event has kick-started things for a few guys in recent memory. Xander had two Top 3 finishes in Majors last year – was Top 20 in the first three – DJ won two more times in 2018 and had Top 10's in the first two Majors of that season after winning here, and JT won his first Major and POY back in 2017. Most of that is going to be on the table for Fowler this year, and after years of coming up just that shot or two short, his bandwagon has become a lot thinner. That's the time to jump on board with guys who are talented as Fowler.

Dustin Johnson can overpower this course with ease, but it's all about interest level for him, and having won this tournament twice already this decade, I'm not sure the hunger is going to be there when it matters. And that's if the putting stroke is there to begin with. DJ really struggled on the greens late last season, and I'm not totally convinced that's not an issue for him anymore.

Yes, DJ having a Top 10 finish in each of his last seven starts here is a bit of a thing to be up against, but the price on backing Fowler is worth it.

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