Sentry Tournament of Champions preview: Setting the stage at Kapalua
, 2023-01-04 14:00:39,
The PGA Tour heads to Maui to kick off the 2023 schedule at the Sentry Tournament of Champions.
As the name suggests, the field is loaded with all of the winners from last year. As we’ve seen in recent years, they’ve also invited anyone that made it to East Lake last year. The result is 40 eligible golfers this week with 39 of them making the trip. World No. 1 Rory McIlroy is the lone opt-out.
New for this year’s edition, we see it marked as an elevated or “designated” event. That means that $15 million is up for grabs, up from $8.2 million last year. There is also 550 FedExCup Points available for the winner, 50 more than last year.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua is the star of the show this week. This Coore and Crenshaw design was laid out in the early 90s and received some touch-ups in 2019.
Glancing at the scorecard, we see a rare par 73 layout that features just three par 3s, but 11 par 4s.
With only three par 3s to worry about, scoring opportunities are maximized and we saw that to the extreme last year. Matt Jones bettered the previous PGA Tour scoring record by reaching 32 under for the week. He finished third. Jon Rahm set the new record for most birdies in a week (32). He finished second. It was Cameron Smith who clipped them with a 34 under winning tally. Smith won’t be defending his title this week as he’s no longer a PGA Tour member.
Off the tee, golfers will see extremely wide fairways and also rough that doesn’t heavily penalize missed fairways. The field has managed 70% GIR when missing the fairway. That’s certainly lower than attacking from the fairway (84%) but not an extreme dropoff. You can grip it and rip it for the most part.
One key feature at Kapalua is the elevation and rolling nature of the terrain. As Rickie Fowler put it, “Outside of Augusta, I mean it’s probably the only place where you get lies like that. And TV doesn’t do it justice. I was on 17 kind of above the hole after I tried to cover the ball, but I couldn’t. It wasn’t even really that bad of a swing. It was just that much slope. I stepped through like Gary…
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