Sentry Tournament of Champions Wrap Up
Collin Morikowa must have gone to sleep on Saturday night thinking that in less than 24 hours he’d have the lei put around his neck whilst holding the whale trophy, starting 2023 with a W and $2.7m to help with the cost of flying to LA for West Coat Swing.
Jon Rahm had different plans. An incredible 31 (-5) on the back 9 to finish -10 for the round and the winner by two stamped his mark on the 2023 season and sets up what could be an incredible battle between Rahm and Rory this year. Rahm was vocal in his discontent for the influence Rory had over the PGA Tour last year as it turned into the Tiger and Rory show - the theory was protect the Tour by keeping the two biggest names on side. They influenced many of the changes that we’re seeing now, like bigger purses for select events at the Sentry. Similar ideas have been championed by Phil and others for years but a small group led by Rory and Tiger on the players side got it over the line. The fact that some of the biggest and most loyal players like Rahm didn't have Jay Monahan's ear in equal measure didn't sit well.
Two things stood out for me as we look back with 20:20 vision in hindsight at how Rahm got it done for the first time at Kapalua (ignoring the fact he was pre tournament favourite!). Firstly, Rahm said after the tournament that he feels he’s been the best player in the world since August. Second, he was in Hawaii a week before the event to prepare. It’s a very dangerous mixture when world class talent meets confidence and the drive to put in the work needed to be the best consistently. Contrary to my thoughts pre tournament, Rahm was a deserved favourite and even with a full strength field for the next few events he should be the favourite alongside Rory.
We’ll remember this week for the Morikowa crumble and Rahm’s incredible Sunday but more than this we have some clues for early season form and players that continue to emerge as starts to challenge the Rorys and Rahms.
Tom Kim was the best performing player from my tip column and a T5 with four rounds under 70 is a solid start to the season in which I still think he can have a huge year. There’s plenty of weeks on Tour where consistency will be rewarded - no doubt Kim has the ability to shoot a low score but I think we’ll se him thrive on more difficult, weather affected courses because his temperament is so calm giving him the ability to roll with the ups and downs of a difficult event. .
Hideki had a strange week - he was -16 overall but -14 on the back 9 overall - so shooting -2 for the event over four rounds on the front 9 won’t get it done when the winning score is -27. T21 for the week, bottom half of the field, will be disappointing but there’s some signs (like Saturdays -6 for the last 6 holes) that point towards his game being in a good place.
JT was third of the 3 picks for this week despite being the shortest odds. -15 and T25 from 38 players that finished the tournament will be tough considering Kapalua has been such a happy hunting ground in previous years. Three double bogeys will catch the eye of where to improve - eliminating big mistakes will be crucial when it comes to majors and more difficult courses. 25 birdies and an eagle will point towards the obvious positives so it could be a case of shake the rust off and we’ll see some fireworks in a couple of weeks.
Aside from my tips for the week, Max Homa was a standout performer and one I’ll be looking at very closely next week. Two 70’s followed by -10 on Saturday shows his ability and a strong Sunday finished the weekend -17 from two rounds which tied up $840,000 for the four days work.
Below is the final leaderboard with prize money - another great week for Tom Hoge who continues to surprise me and JJ Spaun had a great start to the week and had a great tournament with four rounds under 70 - both will be on my DraftKings radar as value picks for next week.
I'll be back with the American Express tips later in the week but hope you enjoyed the first golf week of 2023!