2023 Sentry Tournament of Champions Picks: Target Xander Schauffele, 2 More
Pictured: Xander Schauffele. (Photo by David Cannon/Getty Images)
It’s a new year and the return of PGA Tour golf will be here Thursday. Things kick off from Kapalua in typical fashion at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
As usual, we get a strong field featuring many of the winners from last season. Additionally, this year is the inaugural year where all players who made the Tour Championship are also eligible for the first tournament of 2023. It makes for an exciting start as the 39-player field features 17 of the top-20 players in the world.
Last year, we saw Cameron Smith blitz this track to the tune of 34-under par with Jon Rahm and Matt Jones falling just short. It’ll be interesting to see if the same success is found this week since wind serves as the main defense for this course against low scores. I’ll keep an eye out for that weather as we get closer to go time, but for now I will have a direct plan of attack before odds are released Monday.
Historically, players tend to struggle in their first appearance at Kapalua as course knowledge and comfort around the sloping fairways and greens with big elevation changes is a big key to success. I’ll be crossing off anyone making their debut this week (yes, even the beloved Tom Kim) as I narrow down the board for my first card this year.
Early Best Bets
My how things can change over the course of a year.
Last year at this time — and through much of the first half of the year — I was fully fading Xander Schauffele in betting markets and letting him prove he could get back on the winning track before I went back there. He got that done in style as he won the Travelers and quickly turned around to go back-to-back in Scotland.
Prior to those tournaments, Schauffele’s last solo win was right here in Kapalua in 2019. This is a course he absolutely loves and he’s noted that many times along the way.
I am hopeful we get a number on him outside of the top three or so listed and it can be decent odds to buy in on a player that is an ideal fit for this course. He opened at +1000 on Sunday night at Caesars.
The first name I’ll look for Monday morning will be Sungjae Im. He’s going to be just far enough down from the true top tier that I think we’ll see a book leave him out a little long in the odds market.
It’s hard to say what that target number will be, but he’s one of the few players who seemed to have this place figured out in his first appearance. He has posted T5 and T8 finishes in each of his two trips to Maui, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take it a step further this week.
Im is at 18-1 to start the week at Caesars, even with the likes of Tom Kim, Tony Finau, Viktor Hovland and a few more.
It’s a short, elite field in Hawaii this week and I certainly think we see one of the bigger names take down the event. Unless odds are just all over the place, I don’t expect to have a very long card and would happily stop with three names I’ve listed if it plays out to allow that.
Burns is the next guy on that list for me this week. I often like to target Burns on courses where his struggles with accuracy off the tee are mitigated and that is certainly the case this week with the huge landing areas around Kapalua. He’ll be able to get away with a few more drives on this course than he would on others and that will allow him to take advantage of his strengths putting and on approach.
This course sets up to be a contest of elite approach play and putting on these huge putting surfaces, which also happen to be on Burns’ preferred Bermuda grass. All of it lines up for Burns to be a good option this week in his second trip to the Tournament of Champions.
Burns is +2800 at Caesars, tied with Max Homa, Will Zalatoris and Hideki Matsuyama.