Welcome to my first PGA Tour preview of the New Year! I hit on five winners in the 2016 calendar year, and six if you include me casually referencing I liked Justin Rose to win the Olympic gold medal in Rio when I actually previewed that week's PGA Tour event.
Technically the 2016-17 wraparound season has already started with seven official fall events. Really none of those had world-class fields except for the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in China in late October. This year's overall schedule is basically back to normal after last year's Olympics caused some summer shifting. There are a handful of new sponsors this season, including in this Hawaii event. It had been called the Hyundai Tournament of Champions since 2011. The former WGC event at Doral on the Florida Swing was moved to Mexico this March basically because Donald Trump owns Doral. Of course no one expected him to become president when the Tour made the decision.
The Masters is obviously is held at Augusta National every year. The U.S. Open is at Erin Hills in Hartford, Wisc., for the first time in 2017. The British Open goes to Royal Birkdale in England and the PGA Championship is at Quail Hollow in Charlotte. That course usually hosts the Wells Fargo Championship the first week of May, but that tournament will be held at nearby Eagle Point Golf Club in Wilmington, N.C., with Quail Hollow being prepared for the U.S. Open. As usual, the season concludes with the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta, and this is a Presidents Cup year. That will be held at Liberty National in New Jersey the week after the Tour Championship.
At Bovada , usually my favored book for golf, you can bet on just about every big-name player to win a major or not this year -- all yes-only props. Tiger Woods, if you are wondering, is +500. Can't say I recommend that. To win the money list title, Dustin Johnson is +350 to repeat, the same price as Rory McIlroy. DJ earned more than $9.3 million last season.
Keep in mind that most top Europeans won' t come over to the USA for a while as there are big-money events in the Middle East on the European Tour through the end of January. The SBS Tournament of Champions is as it sounds: open to only winners from the previous calendar year. But McIlroy, for example, isn't playing. A total of 32 players are expected to tee it up (11 first-timers) in the no-cut tournament, which is held at the spectacular Plantation Course at Kapalua on Maui.
There will be plenty of scoring this weekend as really the only defense the course has is wind, and it's often at players' backs. Unlike most PGA Tour courses, Plantation is a par 73. It looked like American Jordan Spieth was going to have another monster year in 2016 when he won this tournament at a whopping 30-under, with his worst round a 67. He beat second-place Patrick Reed by eight shots. Only one other player has ever reached 30-under in a Tour event and that was Ernie Els at 31-under to win here in 2003. Spieth shoots 30 under and doesn't even own the course record. That's crazy. Spieth actually had a disappointing season overall compared to the year before.
Golf Odds: SBS Tournament of Champions Favorites
Japan's Hideki Matsuyama and Johnson are the +500 favorites at Bovada. Matsuyama, No. 6 in the world, is red-hot coming in. In a four-tournament stretch during October and November, Matsuyama won the WGC-HSBC Champions by seven shots as well as two events on the Japan Golf Tour. He also finished second at the CIMB Classic and won the unofficial Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December. He has played here once and was third in 2015.
Johnson is the reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year and scoring champion on top of his money list title. He won three times last season and was 10th here in 2016. Johnson won the tournament in 2013 at 16 under.
Spieth (+550), world No. 1 Jason Day (+700) and Reed (+1200) round out the favorites. On top of his win here last year, Spieth was runner-up in 2014. Day hasn't played an official event since midway through the FedEx Cup playoffs as he had to WD from the final two playoff tournaments. He did play a pro-am in mid-December in Florida. Day was 10th here last year and has a best result of T3 in 2015. Reed had that runner-up last year and won in 2015 at 21 under.
Golf Odds: SBS Tournament of Champions Picks
There's a prop for Top-5 finishes but I'll stick with Top 10 and go with Matsuyama (-400), Reed (-150) and Brandt Snedeker (-120), who has been third here twice. The short prices are due to the small field. For top American, I'll go with Reed at +600. Like Matsuyama at +110 for rest of the world.
Head-to-head, go Reed (-130) over Justin Thomas (even), Bubba Watson (-120) over Thomas (-110), Matsuyama (-130) over Day (even), Johnson (-130) over Day (even), and Spieth (-130) over Day. So clearly I think Day will be rusty.
I will throw some longer-shot money on Snedeker to win at +1800, but I'll go with Reed because he clearly loves this course and has been playing fairly frequently around the world the past few months -- albeit not in top form -- while guys like Spieth, Johnson and Day haven't.
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