PGA Tour Picks: Hyundai Tournament of Champions Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/2/2014
Look, I understand that golfers are independent contractors. They pay their own way to tournaments and their caddies out of their pockets. But it just makes you realize how wealthy and privileged some of these guys are when the turn down the chance to play in Hawaii for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and at worst pocket tens of thousands of dollars just for showing up at the beautiful Plantation Course at Kapalua on Maui.
The event used to be the season opener on the PGA Tour, but that's no longer the case with the new 2013-14 wraparound schedule. It's not a full-field event, open only to the winners on the PGA Tour from the previous season. There were 35 winners on Tour a season ago, and 30 are competing this weekend at the Hyundai, which will match the Tour Championship as the smallest field of the season. Not here: Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell. Tiger hasn't played this tournament in nine years and Lefty since 2001. Rory McIlroy, who just got engaged to tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, also isn't playing, but he didn't win on Tour last year. We won't see Tiger and Phil in the same tournament likely until the Farmers Insurance Open in three weeks at Torrey Pines, the site of Tiger's last major win.
The big name on the marquee this week is reigning Masters champion Adam Scott, who dominated in Australia late last year. He's up to No. 2 in the world but apparently won't be catching Tiger anytime soon because Scott plans to take a six-week break after next week's other Hawaii stop, the Sony Open. Scott won't return until the Honda Classic in Florida, missing the WGC-Match Play and the entire West Coast swing. Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth is one of 13 players in the event for the first time, and I'm very intrigued to see what Spieth does this year. Is he golf's next star or will he flame out early like David Duval?
Plantation is a par-73 -- the only one on Tour -- and wind is usually factor, but there's plenty of scoring because the greens are massive. Dustin Johnson is the defending champion, finishing at 16 under a year ago when the event was shortened to 54 holes due to weather. Friday, Saturday and Sunday rounds were all canceled due to extremely high winds so the tournament ended on Tuesday. Johnson loves those weather-shortened events as three of his eight career wins have come via that route. Steve Stricker was runner-up a season ago at 12 under.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Hyundai Tournament of Champions Favorites
At Bovada, Scott is the 11/2 favorite, and no surprise there. He nearly won the Australian Triple Crown, finishing second at the Australian Open thanks to a near-miracle win by McIlroy. Scott has a best finish of runner-up at Kapalua in 2007. He last played in 2011 and was 21st. If he's already talking about taking six weeks off, I worry that perhaps Scott is mentally fatigued, so I'm not a huge fan this week.
Johnson is 7/1 to repeat, and I think he's due a huge year -- I liked him to win his first major in a props story I did last week here at Doc's. Winning this tournament back-to-back isn't all that rare. Geoff Ogilvy did it in 2009-10, and Stuart Appleby went three straight starting in 2004. Maybe you have to be from Australia, though. Johnson is the only former winner of the event in the field.
Mr. Consistent Matt Kuchar is next at 8/1, followed by Webb Simpson (9/1) and Zach Johnson (12/1). Kuchar hasn't finished lower than seventh in his past four starts around the world and in the three times he has played this tournament hasn't been worse than ninth (last year). Simpson was T-3 at Kapalua in 2012. This course doesn't seem to fit Johnson all that well as he's not a big hitter. He has one Top 10 in six tries.
PGA Tour Picks: Hyundai Tournament of Champions Predictions
On the head-to-head, I like Kuchar at +110 against Scott, Dustin Johnson at -130 over Simpson (even), Brandt Snedeker (-115) over Zach Johnson (-115) and Ryan Moore (-115) over Spieth (-115). I also like DJ at -300 for a Top-10 finish as well as Kuchar (-300) and Snedeker (-175).
Martin Laird seems like good value at 22/1 to win. He has played at Kapalua twice with finishes of fourth and second. His stroke average at the Plantation Course is the best in the field at 68.25 over his eight rounds. Moore also is worth a look at 18/1 as he closed 2013 very strong, is a big hitter and finished sixth here in 2010. However, I think Kuchar is the guy. You can also get him at +155 for a Top-4 finish.
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