PGA Tour Picks: Hyundai Tournament of Champions Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/7/2015
Before we kick off the golfing New Year -- also remember that 2015 is the final year that players can anchor putters to their stomachs -- with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, allow me to look back at my final golf preview of 2014. That was the DP World Tour Championship in Dubai, which closed out the European Tour's 2013-14 season.
I had pretty profitable 2014 in terms of hitting on Top-10 finishers, betting against Tiger Woods when given the chance, and on head-to-head matchups in tournaments. Alas, I didn't have a single winner in 2014 -- until Dubai. Henrik Stenson, my choice, won the tournament to finish second to Rory McIlroy for the European Tour's version of the FedEx Cup playoffs. So I'm rolling!
As usual, the New Year begins in glorious Hawaii with the Hyundai (or whatever it has been named over the years), which is a Friday-Monday tournament open to PGA Tour winners only from the previous season. If you are a golf and college football fan, pray there isn't a long playoff in this tournament on Monday because it's scheduled to end shortly before the start of the Oregon-Ohio State National Championship Game.
McIlroy is eligible to be here but is dealing with some legal matters with his former management company. Tiger and Phil Mickelson wouldn't play even if they were eligible, but they had just one combined Top-10 finish between them in 2014: Phil's runner-up at the PGA Championship. You won't see them for a few weeks.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua is a monster par-73 at 7,452 yards, but generally you have to approach 20-under to win because the fairways and greens are huge. Six of the past seven editions had winners at no worse than 18-under. If the winds are blowing in a big way, it will lower those numbers. However, the winds are usually at the players' backs. Overall, six of the nine longest drives during the 2013-14 season occurred on this course.
A total of 34 tournament winners are scheduled to tee it up, so no cut, led by unlikely FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel, Masters champ Bubba Watson and defending Hyundai winner Zach Johnson. Seven of the world's Top 20 are playing. A lot of top Europeans are staying overseas ahead of next week's big-money Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. There are 12 first-timers here. The last player to win in his debut was Daniel Chopra in 2008.
Last year, Johnson finished at 19 under and won by a shot after closing with a final round 7-under 66. He had four birdies in a five-hole stretch on the back nine to pull away from the field. Jordan Spieth had a one-shot lead heading to the back nine. He closed with a 69 to finish second. Johnson and two-time winner Geoff Ogilvy (2009-10) are the only former Kapalua winners in the field.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Hyundai Tournament of Champions Favorites
Watson is the 13/2 favorite at Bovada . He's also the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 4. This is Watson's fourth career start at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, with his best previous finish coming in 2013 when he tied for fourth.
Aussie Jason Day, who battled injury a lot of last season, is 15/2. He earned a trip here with an early-season victory at the WGC-Match Play. This is only Day's second visit to this event, and he was T9 in 2011.
Matt Kuchar (8/1), Hideki Matsuyama and Johnson (both 14/1) round out the favorites. Kuchar missed just two cuts last year and had 11 Top-10 finishes. Seriously, just bet on him for a Top-10 almost every week. This is sixth trip to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. He has finished in the Top 10 in four of his five previous appearances, including a third in 2010. Matsuyama opened the new wraparound season with two Top-10 finishes. He has never played this event. Prior to last year's win here, Johnson's only other Top 10 was a T6 in 2009.
PGA Tour Picks: Hyundai Tournament of Champions Predictions
I'm a bit surprised that Bovada is offering Top-10 props with such a small field. Take advantage of it, although guys are priced thus accordingly. I do like Watson with his length on this course for a Top 10 at -275. Ditto Kuchar at -220 and Chris Kirk at -125. Kirk has played two events already in the wraparound season and was T4 and T14. He was T16 here last year.
Take a shot on Ogilvy at +450 as the top Australian as he obviously likes this course. To no surprise, Day is the heavy -175 favorite there. Head-to-head, go with Watson at -120 over Day (-110), Matsuyama (-115) over Johnson (-115), Patrick Reed (-115) over Horschel (-115) and Ogilvy (-115) over Seung-Yul Noh.
I hate to go chalk, but Watson is the choice to win. He will be hitting some drives nearly 400 yards with the wind at his back, meaning plenty of eagle chances.
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