Tournament of Champions

Kapalua, Maui, HI

It will be a particularly strong field that will begin play tomorrow in Kapalua as most of the Tour’s best players won at least one tournament in the most current wraparound season. Historically, this tournament has had many eligible players decide to take a pass. This year there will be only two no-shows – Rory McIlroy has opted out and Jim Herman recently tested positive for Covid-19.

The plantation course generally yields low scores as fairways are generous, the elevation is high and many of the longer holes are downhill. The course will favor long hitters who can wedge it close.

Who should win? – Justin Thomas (8/1)

JT has had two wins and a runner-up finish in the past four events. This course suits him perfectly, so if he is putting reasonably well this week, he will be in the final few groups come Sunday.

Who could win? – Xander Schauffele (12/1), Collin Morikawa (11/1), Viktor Hovland (14/1), Sam Burns (18/1), Cameron Smith (22/1)

Jon Rahm (9/1) is a notable omission from this list, but the best player on Tour last season has had a couple of MCs in Europe lately so it is difficult to consider him a favorite until he straightens out whatever is ailing his game. Schauffele is also a past winner with a runner-up finish last year so he is almost a lock to be in the hunt this week. Morikawa has such a sound overall game that he will be a favorite in every event in which he tees it up. The same can be said for Hovland. He has won his last two starts so the odds are against him, but hard to best against this engaging Dane. Sam Burns appears to have no weaknesses in his game. He’s long off the tee, hits it close, and was one of the top putters on Tour last year. On top of that, as I have said before, he, like JT, expects to win and is not intimidated by the top dogs – he is now one of them. Cameron Smith has the stats to suggest a strong showing in Maui. He could and should be a consistent presence and winner on leaderboards this season.

Longer-shots to consider – Patrick Reed (28/1), Marc Leishman (35/1), Jason Kokrak (40/1)

Reed is usually not considered in the longshot category but with 28/1 odds, he might very well be the best bet this week. He lost in a playoff last year, he finished just behind Spieth in 2016, and has had one other top-10 in this event. Leishman has also performed well on this course in both 2018 and 2019. Jason Kokrak has started to putt really well and that should see him racking up the wins in the next few years.

Who will win?– Justin Thomas

It’s hard to bet against JT on a course that he plays so well and has so many fond memories.

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