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Handicapping

SBS Tournament of Champions Picks

The SBS Tournament of Champions
Dates: Jan 5-8, 2017
Course: Plantation Course at Kapalua Maui, HI
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Evergreen, Golf Handicapper, Predictem.com

The PGA Tour season knows no real end since going to the wrap-around schedule a few years ago so saying that we are starting a new year for golf really only means we are turning the page to 2017. The Tournament of Champions was the official start of the season for many years and it still is for those golf fans that turn their attentions to College and NFL football after the last shots are fired at the Tour Championship each fall. Most of the players in this winners-only field have teed it up at least once between East Lake and now but the TOC really starts the forward motion to things like prepping for the Masters. Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and defending champion Jordan Spieth highlight the field of 32 winners from last season. The TOC has a few interesting features but one is that all the golf is in primetime given the time difference so it is just about the only time you can sit down with your dinner and watch the PGA pros.

The Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort has been the home of the TOC since 1999. The island gem is the only par-73 course in the PGA rotation and can stretch past 7,450 yards from the tips. Much of that distance is cut down by the high elevation and roughly half of the longest drives on Tour came from this event last season. The fairways are wide, the green are big and soft so scoring conditions are about as good as they get. The course can play tough at times due to some potential windy conditions but the field hit roughly 80% of greens in regulation last year and twice the winning score here has been 30-under par. No one style has a distinct advantage here but the players that do best will have figured out the greens early and stayed on a hot pace in terms of downing birdie putts.

Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best bets. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of the most popular head-to-head matches featured at a variety of golf betting sites. Here are our picks to win the 2017 Tournament of Champions.

Patrick Reed (12 to 1 odds to win)
Reed had a strong 2016 that saw him rise all the way to 8th in the world rankings but a sketchy play during his fall starts has taken a little shine off the Ryder Cupper. That so-so play is mostly due to a spotty driver and that really won't hurt him too badly here so the 2015 champ and 2016 runner-up is a good bet to log another good finish. Pat finished 2016 as the second best putter in terms of overall average so I think he stands a good chance of getting hot and keeping up with the scoring pace. He is a good scrambler and above average as a tee-to-green player. Reed should be among the leaders come Sunday, just like the last few years at Kapalua.

Brandt Snedeker (15 to 1)
You might be tempted to bet on a bunch of the bombers with the par-5's as reachable as they are but you will probably fare better by sticking with the better putters. Everyone hits it long here but the best plays are the guys that can roll in the birdies and Sneds have proven he can do that over the course of his career. He ended last season as the 11th best total putting stat and he has been close at Kapalua with two 3rd place finishes on his TOC record. He has only played one official event in the fall but took part in the Hero Challenge and the Franklin Templeton Shootout, playing well in both. Brandt added some power to his game last season but didn't give up short game side of things and he finished inside the top-21 in both birdies and scoring. His rather calm demeanor fits well in these kinds of events and his veteran experience will pay off if he trails by six or seven after the first day. Anyone can be run down when the scores go as low as they do here but you need that good head on your shoulders in order to not press and put yourself in bad spots.

Jhonattan Vegas (80 to 1)
Given that all involved have one at least once in the past year, there aren't any slouches in this field but there are still longshots. Jhonny V. won the RBC Canadian Open to punch his ticket to Hawaii and his win was one of the better feel-good stories as he was slipping dangerously close to losing full-time playing status. Vegas enters the week ranked 71st in the world and could use a couple of good finishes early to get inside the top-64 that would have him exempt for the WGC events. He made three of his four cuts in the fall with a T10 at the Mayakoba as his best finish so he has retained some of the good play that we saw from him last year. Vegas is a superb ball striker and finished 2016 ranked 10th in greens hit but the putter is often his undoing. He ranked 126th in putting average last year and winds up an also-ran if he cannot figure out the greens. When he does putt well however, he is a legitimate contender. Jhonny is averaging 4.1 birdies per round in 2016-17 play so far and while he will have to do a bit better than that to win this week, anything north of four birds per round is a sign of solid play.

Head-to-Head Matches
Picks to win selected matches are based on predicted score for all four rounds. Check with 5Dimes Sportsbook for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.

Dustin Johnson v. Jason Day (pick to win: Johnson)
#3 in the world DJ versus #1 JD, this should be a pretty good match throughout the year but I think Johnson has a bit of an advantage this week. Day is reportedly over the back issues that plagued his playoff finish but back issues and golf are a toxic pairing. I'd personally like to see him put in a month of full practice and play before laying any money his way. On the stat side, Johnson was a PGA best in terms of birdies and scoring last season despite Day being the best putter on Tour. DJ is the slightly better player from tee-to-green and can easily erase Day's putting advantage on a course like Kapalua. Both men stand to have good showings if they are right but give that slight edge to Dustin in the early portion of the schedule.

Branden Grace v. Ryan Moore (pick to win: Moore)
This will be Grace's first trip around the TOC and there is something about this place that tends to sour most debuts. Island golf is just different enough to cause some uncertainty with shots and knowing that every par is losing strokes to the field makes for a tough mental challenge. Throw in a short field that includes some of the best in the world and it is easy to see why some first-timers kick it around a bit. Moore is about as steady as they come and his big key to winning this matchup will come on the greens. Ryan finished 2016 ranked 47th in putts per round while Branden lagged a bit at 121st. Expect both players to hit a ton of greens as most everyone does but there will be more and more pars for Grace based on that putting stat while Moore should get a few more birdies to fall. If the scoring pace is going to be fast, you don't need to look much further than that.

Good luck and good golf!

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