After a month-long hiatus over the festive period, the PGA Tour returns in full force for the Sentry Tournament of Champions this week.
The return also marks to beginning of the ‘serious’ season on tour after the formalities of the wrap-around season have drawn to a conclusion.
And it shows in the field. Made up of any winners on the PGA Tour in 2017, seven of the world’s top 10 head to Hawaii to tee of the new year. That includes the entire top five in Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm and Hideki Matsuyama as well as numbers seven and eight, Rickie Fowler and Brooks Koepka.Embed from Getty Images
It’s a short 34-man field that’s further made up with the likes of TOUR Championship winner and 2017’s Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele, and winners on tour already this season, Brendan Steele, Pat Perez, Ryan Armour, Patrick Cantlay and Austin Cook (as well as Thomas and Fowler who have already amassed wins this campaign).
Last year Thomas ran out winner at this event by three shots, over Matsuyama, for his second of five season titles and his first of two consecutive wins with the Sony Open the following week. World-numbers one and two Johnson (2013) and Spieth (2016) have also won this event in the past. No other past winners enter this year.Embed from Getty Images
Since moving to Kapalua Resort in 1999, this event has never proved a real test to its field. In the 19 outings at the venue, 20-under-par has been broken 11 times. Even 30-under-par has been broken twice, Spieth won at 30-under two years ago and Ernie Els set a tournament and PGA Tour record of 31-under in 2003.
The Plantation Course facing the players is the PGA Tour’s only par-73 and has seven holes of 500 yards or more. Yet it also has six par fours under 400 yards; in total the course measures 7452 yards. Stunning mountain backdrops and elevation changes set a picturesque scene as well as some challenging approaches.Embed from Getty Images
The venue has stayed the same for 19 years, but the tournament has a new sponsor name this year, its sixth since being at Kapalua. SBS took the title rights for one year in 2017, taking over from Hyundai, before Sentry signed on for five-years beginning in 2018.
It’s a small field in Hawaii but an exciting prospect as the golfing elites begin to take the campaign seriously into the new year.