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PGA TOUR: Mike Glasscott's Sentry preview

Welcome to the New Year and the new season!

For the 26th consecutive January, the PGA TOUR will begin the calendar year at the Plantation Course at Kapalua on Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii. 

The first of 36 events will also be the first Signature Event of eight total on the 2024 docket. The field of 59 players consists of PGA TOUR winners from the 2023 calendar year and those who qualified for the BMW Championship in August. 

The Signature Event purse is $20 million, with the winner earning $3.6 million plus 700 FedExCup points.

PGA TOUR

Top of the Board  

The news will be when Scottie Scheffler (5/1) isn’t the pre-tournament favourite in 2024. Finishing 2023 with a three-shot victory at the Hero World Challenge, the machine from Texas racked up his ninth podium finish in 2023. Making his third visit to Maui, he’ll be looking to pick up his first podium (T7, T13) at the Plantation Course. The difference maker in his bag, the putter, will need to show up this week.

Reigning FedExCup champion Viktor Hovland (8/1) will be looking to win his third consecutive start on TOUR in official events. The winner at TPC Southwind and East Lake Golf Club added another top-five payday in London (T5) before winning the Ryder Cup in Rome with the European outfit. Finishing tied for second at the DP World Tour Championship and adding a tenth-place finish at the Hero World Challenge rounded out his career-best season. Making his fourth start on Maui, T18 is his best payday.

A Collin Morikawa (12/1) win ticket will lead my selections this week. There are too many factors pointing the two-time major winner towards the trophy. A winner in October in Japan at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP by six shots, his first victory since the 2021 DP World Tour Championship Dubai, will alleviate any self-pressure on getting the “next win”. Family ties to the island are real and so is his comfortability in this part of the world. Last season he sat six shots clear after 54 holes before a final round of 72 knocked him to T2. With four T7 or better paydays from four visits, he should be ready to make the leap into the winner’s circle in front of friends and family. It’s not a home game, but it’s close.

Ludvig Aberg (14/1) was the final winner of the 2023 FedExCup Fall at The RSM Classic. Picking up his first victory on the PGA TOUR after turning pro last June, he pushed into the event this week and will have a chance to improve on his ranking of 29 in the OWGR. He’s won twice in his first 14 professional starts and now has veteran caddie Joe Skovron on his bag. Only Daniel Chopra (2008) has won on debut at the Plantation Course in 25 previous editions. Going back-to-back on TOUR would add another chapter to this already incredible six-month run.

Making his first start on his own ball since The TOUR Championship, Patrick Cantlay (14/1) will need to knock the rust off sooner rather than later to factor. In five previous visits, he’s posted solo fourth twice, but the other three results were all outside the top 12. Looking for his first win since the 2022 BMW Championship, the Californian, recently married after the Ryder Cup, will have four rounds in this no-cut event to get into the mix.

Max Homa (14/1) will look to extend his streak of T13 or better finishes worldwide to nine. The champion in South Africa the week before Thanksgiving, Homa’s game travels. Trending wonderfully at Kapalua, he reduced his total each of the last three seasons (T25 to T15 to T3). Be patient as this closer posted 17-under on the weekend last year after 13-under in 2022. Most of the winners from the recent past have all come in on form and he qualifies. A super putter, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s in the mood again this week.

Along with East Lake, the Plantation Course is circled annually on the calendar of Xander Schauffele (16/1). The 2019 winner tried to become the first player to repeat as champion in a decade but fell short in a three-man playoff in 2020. The 2021 edition (T5) capped off a three-year run in the top five before he picked up 12th in 2022 and WD (back) after one round in 2023. Making his sixth start in Maui, the Las Vegas resident will be looking for his first victory since July of 2022 at the Scottish Open. Joining Schauffele in the field as past champions are 2016 winner Jordan Spieth (18/1) and 2021 victory Harris English (100/1).

Angles 

The Plantation Course tips at 7,596 yards, the third longest course used in 2023, and plays to Par-73. 

The Plantation Course has ranked as the easiest course on TOUR the last three seasons, playing more than three shots under par per round annually.

The resort course features generous fairways and the largest greens complexes on TOUR. 

Elevation changes and uneven lies will challenge players on second shots. 

TifEagle Bermuda greens running at 11 feet will allow players to be aggressive on the short grass.

The course record, 61, was posted three times in the 2022 edition (none of the players are in the field this week).

The winning total has been 20-under or better in eight of the last nine events, including the record, 34-under, in 2022.

The last eight winners have produced seven champions who finished either first or second in SG: Putting.

The last eight winners have ranked in the top eight in SG: Off-the-Tee.

The field of 59 contains 21 of the top 25 OWGR.

Stretching

Players for top 10 and top 20 action

Australian Cam Davis (66/1) will try and continue the proud Australian tradition at this event. The last wire-to-wire winner and champion to defend was Geoff Ogilvy (2009-2010). Stuart Appleby rattled off three straight wins from 2004-2006. Cameron Smith set the tournament scoring record in 2022. Making his second start, he quietly picked off a T10 on debut in 2022 with four rounds in the 60s for 23-under.

The top 10 finishers of 2023 included debutants Tom Hoge (150/1) at T3, Tom Kim (22/1) at T5, and Matt Fitzpatrick (28/1) at T7. This year, 18 players are making their maiden voyages at the Plantation Course. While Tyrrell Hatton, Tommy Fleetwood, and U.S. Open champion Wyndham Clark will get most of the looks, Floridian Eric Cole (66/1) makes for a lovely outsider. The 34-year-old rookie ran T3 to Aberg at The RSM Classic to wrap up a fruitful debut season on TOUR. He’s the best putter in the field, loves Bermudagrass, and won’t be bothered by the big names or big ballpark. 

Akshay Bhatia (110/1) thrives in coastal settings and when conditions get breezy. 

Mackenzie Hughes (150/1) quietly closed 2023 with a runner-up finish to Aberg at The RSM Classic two weeks after cashing T7 at El Cardonal in Mexico. The Canadian opened with 66 and closed with 65 here last year for T21, his best result from three visits. 

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