2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions Betting Preview

Defending champion Dustin Johnson. (Courtesy TourProGolfClubs.com)

Defending champion Dustin Johnson. (Courtesy TourProGolfClubs.com)

The first PGA Tour event of 2014, and seventh of the new season, takes place this week in Hawaii as the Plantation Course at Kapalua plays host to a 30-man field made up exclusively of last year’s PGA Tour winners at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

2014 Hyundai Tournament of Champions Fact Sheet

  • Course: Kapalua Resort – Plantation Course
  • Location: Kapalua, Hawaii
  • Yardage: 7,452 yards, par 73
  • Defending Champion: Dustin Johnson
  • Five Consensus Favourites: Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson, Webb Simpson and Zach Johnson

TV Schedule

  • Friday – 5:30 PM to 10:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday – 2:30 PM to 7:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)
  • Sunday – 3:00 PM to 4:00 PM ET (Golf Channel) & 4:00 PM to 10:00 PM ET (NBC)
  • Monday – 4:00 PM to 8:00 PM ET (Golf Channel)

Key Storyline This Week

This tournament used to mark the brand new PGA Tour season, but with the wraparound schedule starting a few months ago, we’re now looking at the Tournament of Champions being played seven events into the season. It makes sense that eventually this tournament would be moved into that October rotation, but we’ll see what the PGA Tour ends up deciding going forward.

As it relates to this year though, the field is actually stronger than it has been in previous years. Of the 35 players who were eligible to compete as winners on the PGA Tour in 2013, 30 of them are taking part this week. Granted, the five that are missing are big names in Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Justin Rose, Graeme McDowell and Henrik Stenson, but the field here is of good quality. The usual allotment of FedEx Cup points is available and by the looks of things, the weather won’t be as brutal as it was last year, which led to this interesting display from Ian Poulter and Johnny Miller:

Plantation Course

The Plantation Course is interesting because for the viewer, it’s fantastic with the scenic views and the elements which can make things difficult, but the players themselves are not overly fond of the place. For what it’s worth, the players are usually pretty complimentary of Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw who designed the course, but the land it was placed on is usually the big complaint. In Golf Digest’s Player Poll in 2012, the Plantation Course was listed as the 10th worst on the PGA Tour schedule.

The closing stretch of holes is usually the most important here, with risk/reward options on the final four. Last year, the 17th and 18th in particular were of huge consequence, as the 505-yard par-4 17th played as the most difficult hole on the course at an average of 4.09 strokes and the 663-yard par-5 18th was the easiest, coming in at an average of 4.71 strokes.

I mentioned that the weather probably won’t be as brutal as it was last year, but it is still going to be a factor. Rain is expected throughout the week, and the winds will get up to 20 mph at points during the week. With the length of the course and Dustin Johnson coming away with the win last year, you’d think that being overly long is the key here, but outside of Johnson, the winner has only ranked inside the top-15 in driving distance once in the last five years, and that other time was when Steve Stricker did it. What you want to look for is guys who have an ability to go real low, as in the fifteen years that the tournament has been held at Kapalua, the winner has been at 20-under par or lower eight times.

Thoughts On The Favourites

  • Adam Scott: In his last four tournaments, the 2013 Masters champion has finished no worse than third, which isn’t too bad, you know? No, those weren’t the best fields, but if you go on that kind of run with two wins included, I don’t care who you’re playing as long as it isn’t me. He’s been off for about a month now so he should be rested, but at roughly 5-1, I’m not liking him in this spot, especially considering his prior form at Kapalua where his last top-10 finish came in 2007.
  • Matt Kuchar: Kuchar pretty much followed Scott for November and December, playing wherever he was and much like Scott, he’s been playing well. Three consecutive top-10 finishes, and he’s only had one round over 71 since the Tour Championship in September. Three consecutive top-10’s at Kapalua makes me think he’ll be there at the end on Monday, but I’m not crazy about him at roughly 8-1.
  • Dustin Johnson: Not only is Johnson the defending champion, he’s coming off of a win in his last start in early November at the WGC-HSBC Champions. As usual, the issue with him will come down to his consistency, as he probably has more talent than anyone in the field outside of Scott, but the threat of 63 or 75 is usually enough to scare me off.
  • Webb Simpson: Simpson is also on a good run at the moment, with three consecutive top-10 finishes. The last came at the McGladrey’s in early November, and since then, he’s been resting up for this event. Two years ago, he finished tied for third in his first time at Kapalua and still managed a tie for 11th last year in the tough conditions.
  • Zach Johnson: I assume that Johnson is listed as the fifth favourite only because of his recent win at Sherwood because Johnson’s track record at Kapalua is not good at all. In six appearances, Johnson has one top-10 finish back in 2009 and usually seems to start slow in the early going. Straight pass this week.

Suggested Plays

Jordan Spieth (Best Odds 25-1 at Ladbrokes)

I’m usually scared off by players who are playing a course for the first time, but I’m not concerned with that when it comes to Spieth in this one particular spot. First off, he can go low as we’ve seen in the past, and secondly, he’s usually a very good wind player, with 7 of his 25 rounds as a pro in 20+ mph wind being in the 60’s. Even in a good field, I don’t understand why he’s coming in around 25-1.

Jason Dufner (Best Odds 25-1 at Sky Bet)

Dufner’s another one that I don’t get being had at this price, but I think that it has something to do with his performance last year that got him a T18. It’s tough to judge someone on those conditions though, and if it wasn’t for that second round 77, he might have been in line for a top-10 finish. Dufner at 25-1 on an each-way bet is perfect.

Gary Woodland (Best Odds 33-1 at Paddy Power)

Before he won in Reno, I was of the opinion that Woodland was turning it around since his short game was actually starting to resemble that of an actual professional golfer. After a runner-up at the CIMB, Woodland went to South Afrcia and performed admirably at the Nedbank, and should be rested for his second appearance at Kapalua. He fits the bill for someone who can go low and his ability to bomb the ball doesn’t hurt things either.

Boo Weekley (Best Odds 66-1 at Betfair)

It’s been a long time since Weekley has made the early season trip to Kapalua, last teeing it up here in 2009, so there could be some rust and as we all know, Weekley isn’t exactly the most consistent player out there but 66-1 is good value here. His first appearance in 2008 had him put up rounds of 80 and 74, but he’s been under par in each of his last six at the course. If you’re giving me a great ball striker like Weekley at 66-1, I’m going to take it.

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