2013 Hyundai Tournament of Champions Betting Preview

Plantation Course, Kapalua

Plantation Course, Kapalua (Photo credit: tobze)

There really isn’t an off-season anymore when it comes to golf. Events with big names were still being played a couple of weeks ago, with the European Tour opening their 2013 season in South Africa on December 8th. The PGA Tour’s 2013 schedule commences this week, with the winners only Hyundai Tournament of Champions from the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Hawaii. The 30 player field comprised of last year’s winners on the PGA Tour is a little light on star power, with Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Luke Donald and Justin Rose skipping the opener, among others. However, the field is a little better than usual, led by 2012 Masters winner Bubba Watson, Ryder Cup star Ian Poulter and defending champ Steve Stricker.
 
2012 Hyundai Tournament of Champions Fact Sheet

  • Course: Plantation Course at Kapalua
  • Location: Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii
  • Yardage: 7,411 yards, par 73
  • Defending Champion: Steve Stricker

TV Schedule:

  • Friday – 5:30 to 10:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 5:30 to 10:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Sunday – 3:00 to 6:00 PM ET (NBC) & 6:00 to 10:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Monday – 4:00 to 8:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)

2013 will be the last year that the Hyundai remains as the season opener on the PGA Tour, with the Fall Series officially taking over that mantle later this year. It gives the tournament organizers a chance to rework the format of the event, since many of the stars traditionally skip the event. Woods himself has only played eight times in the event, which doesn’t do much for the tournament. Introducing a full field for the event might be the best way to go in the future, but for now, the 30-man field remains. Note that the Hyundai starts on Friday and has a Monday finish. Also, prime time golf on the East Coast!
 
Stricker is the only player in the field who has won at Kapalua in the past, and actually has the only runner-up performance as well. Stricker’s score of 23-under par was the fourth lowest winning score recorded on the PGA Tour in 2012, but it’s only the fifth lowest winning score recorded at Kapalua. In the fourteen years that the PGA Tour has stopped at Kapalua, the average winning score has been 20-under par, with Ernie Els holding the 72-hole record with a 31-under par 261 in 2003. Basically, this means that you can expect another really low number in 2013.
 
If you look at the winners of the event since 1999 when Kapalua became the host, the players walking away victorious are usually those who have the ability to get hot and go real low. Stricker is the exception to this of course, as he doesn’t usually go real low, but seven of the previous nine winners have been either first or second in strokes gained putting during the week, which speaks to Stricker’s success.
 
Now, without a truly dominant player like Woods or McIlroy in the tournament, there’s some good value betting options available this week. In most books online, Matt Kuchar is listed as the favourite at roughly 11-1, but we’re looking for a little more value than that. Here are five plays that I like this week:
 
Ian Poulter (Best Odds 14-1 at William Hill)
 
I’m a big fan of Poulter, and as I mentioned last week, he’s been one of the best players in the world for longer than most people think, as he hasn’t been out of the top-30 in the world rankings since April of 2009. He’s one of the world’s best putters, and as we saw at the Ryder Cup, he has the ability to go low. In his lone appearance at Kapalua, he finished T-6 at 18-under par. 14-1 is great value for Poulter.
 
Brandt Snedeker (Best Odds 16-1 at SkyBet)
 
Arguably the best putter in the world, Snedeker had his coming out party in 2012 with two wins and nearly $5 million in earnings. Snedeker’s lone prior appearance in 2008 yielded a tie for 10th, and he has been known to start hot in previous seasons.
 
Rickie Fowler (Best Odds 25-1 at Stan James)
 
Call this a hunch. Fowler hasn’t played at Kapalua before, as his win last year at the Wells Fargo was his first on the PGA Tour, but much like Poulter, his ability to go low is well known. I don’t think he’s ready to win a major this year, but he’ll be disappointed if he doesn’t pick up a couple of wins, and an easier course against a small field is one of his better chances. He’ll likely either be there at the end, or he’ll never be close. No middle ground here.
 
Jonas Blixt (Best Odds 37-1 at Betfair)
 
Blixt’s win at the Frys in October may have only been recognized by hardcore golf fans, but his numbers suggest he’s one to watch in 2013. He finished 16th in scrambling and 2nd behind only Snedeker in Strokes Gained Putting last year on the PGA Tour. Outside of that win at the Frys, he did have four other top-10’s and only had four rounds of 75 or higher all season. That’s a pretty good level of consistency for a rookie on the Tour. The best thing is, you’ll be able to get him at long odds all year, until he starts winning regularly.
 
Johnson Wagner (Best Odds 100-1 at Sporting Bet)
 
Wagner is my longshot play of the week, but it is justified. He’s been under par in all eight of his rounds at Kapalua in the past, and he has the fifth best average finish at this event of any player in the field, with a pair of top-10’s. Betfair actually had Wagner at 113-1 when I started writing this post, and has taken him down to 61-1, so people are quickly moving on him. Get in on him while you can, even as a nice each way bet.
 
Those are my picks for the Hyundai, and I’ll be back again next week for the Sony Open.

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