The PGA Tour gets back underway following the Christmas break with a cracking event in Hawaii. The Hyundai Tournament of Champions is a limited field event in which 32 players who won on Tour last season go up against each other around the beautiful Plantation Course at Kapalua, Maui. The qualification criteria for this event means that there are always strong fields assembled but this year’s is particularly special with the top two in the world, Jason Day and Jordan Spieth in attendance.
The Plantation Course is unique on the PGA Tour in that it is a par 73 layout. It is a long course at 7,452 yards but it is a relatively easy course for players of this standard with the average winning score somewhere around -20. The main challenges posed by the Plantation Course are the sloped fairways that will provide all number of difficult lies, the huge greens which provide a big test of putting and the exposure to the coastal winds which have caused havoc in this event’s recent history.
As ever with a PGA Tour event the course dictates the sort of player we should be looking to bet on. This week we should be looking at players who can control their iron shots into the wind, move the ball both ways and who can consistently avoid the dreaded three putt when they find themselves on the putting surface a long way from the hole. We also need to consider that this is a quirky course that makes it very tough for debutants to put a challenge together for this prestigious tournament.
The top two in the world are also the top two in the betting. Both Spieth and Day have come close to winning in their limited starts and both could go all the way but of the two Day makes the best appeal. He shares the course record here and was just one shot off last year’s playoff. Last season he was sixth for strokes gained putting and can cut loose with his driver safe in the knowledge that rough isn’t particularly penal in Maui so back him at 6/1 with Ladbrokes.
When people talk about the incredible number of young players at the top of the game they often throw Patrick Reed in there towards the end of the list. He’ll hate that. Reed wants to reach the very top of the game and his competitive spirit will see him go hell for leather to beat Spieth and Day whenever possible. He’s got great control of his ball flight, is a solid putter and, as the defending champion, knows just what is required to go low here. At 12/1 with Betfred, Reed is a good price to go back to back.
One player worth betting on at longer odds is Jimmy Walker who is 45/1 with Betfred. Walker loves playing in Hawaii and at this time of the season. He made a playoff with Reed last year, displaying his brilliant ball control and impressive putting. Having seen his form tail off for much of last season Walker will be desperate to rediscover that winning feeling and is well worth an each-way bet.