Welcome to Three Shots at the Green, where each week I’ll use my experience as a PGA Tour caddie and golf writer to identify the three best bets on the board.
An elite 39-man field tackles the Plantation course at Kapalua resort this week for the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the first elevated tournament on the revamped PGA Tour schedule.
There are ample elevation changes on the par-73, 7,596-yard Coore / Crenshaw design as well, the most drastic occurring on the downhill par-5 18th hole, where 400-plus yard drives are routine.
Massive fairways and large undulating greens give these elite pros a chance to pad their stats on the second easiest course on the circuit. Anyone interested in winning better have 30-under par in mind. Of course, last year, that wasn’t good enough as Cam Smith, Jon Rahm and Matt Jones all bettered the mark.
— Sentry Tournament of Champions (@Sentry_TOC) January 4, 2023
Course history matters here. Once players become comfortable with the sight lines and trade winds, they tend to post good results each year.
The Plantation course demands creativity and the ability to shape shots off severe downhill, uphill and sidehill lies. That skill set combined with avoiding 3-putts is also a key ingredient in a few months at Augusta National and helps explain why a small group of players thrive on both courses.
We looked for birdie makers on easy courses, par-5 scorers and bombers and gave them a bump in our model this week as well.
Let’s take three shots at the green and start 2023 on a heater.
Collin Morikawa – Top 10 +155
The two-time major champion will populate my betting card often this year as I expect him to bounce back after a lackluster 2022. No better place to start than Kapalua where Morikawa has finished inside the top 10 in all three appearances.
Morikawa should receive favorable prices early in the year and his combination of course history, pinpoint iron play and overall opportunities gained on easier courses makes him a smart play this week.
Justin Thomas – Top 10 -120
In general, it’s a good idea to ignore placement bets at negative prices. This one is too good to let go, however, and offers a great path to pad the bankroll early in the year. JT certainly does the same on Maui each January, finishing in the top-5 each of the last four years and winning the tournament twice in the last six years.
Thomas has 71 Top-10 finishes in 200 career starts (35.5 percent) and has thrived in short-field, no-cut tournaments throughout his career.
Sam Burns – 110 over Max Homa
Let’s finish the card with a head-to-head matchup. Burns has a strong career record on Bermuda grass golf courses while the California native Homa does not. That’s the main premise for this action as both players are rising stars with a winning tool kit.
Burns also rated 13 spots higher in our model, which put only minor emphasis on putting and Bermuda-only performance. Burns is 3rd in the field in 3-putt avoidance. He’s also 6th in scoring on easy courses while Homa is 33rd.