Hyundai Tournament of Champions Predictions
Dates: January 7-10, 2016
Where: The Plantation Course at Kapalua Maui, HI
TV: The Golf Channel/NBC
by Evergreen, Golf Betting Handicapper, Predictem.com
If you are a diehard golf fan, you know that the PGA season has no significant breaks throughout the year, essentially making for a 45 week schedule depending on what events you want to include. The more casual fan looks to January as the start of the season and that is where we are at now as the PGA Tour kicks off 2016 with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Golf has grown to be such a worldwide sport that the PGA will recognize players that log tournaments in Europe or Asia when it comes to official world ranks but if you want to have your scores count toward the PGA money list or the FedExCup, you basically are looking at this event as the start of the season. There were 36 different winners on Tour in 2015 and 32 of them made the trip to Maui for this exclusive event. Fourteen players are first time T.O.C. competitors and this no-cut event is essentially a bonus for winning as even last place guarantees you a nice check. Spending the holidays in Hawaii and logging a few pressure-free round sounds like a nice perk added to all the other good things that come with winning a PGA Tour title.
It is hard to gauge the state of many players games at this point in the year as some have been golfing very little since last fall while others have been busy travelling or taking care of sponsor requests. Others have been busy playing or at least practicing and some have even switched equipment manufacturers. It would be a great start for any pro to notch a win right away in 2016 but you have to remember that a good percentage of the pros in this field are simply looking to knock the rust off this week and get back in the groove of competitive golf.You might think that would mean the scores would be somewhat high but the Plantation Course at Kapalua is awfully friendly to those who arent 100% sharp just yet and there will be good scores shot, even by rusty players. Kapalua features wide, fast fairways and large greens. The field routinely averages 80% in greens hit for the week so there isnt much pure difficulty to this 7,411 yard, par-73 layout. The winds can bring a tricky element however and players will need to be somewhat sharp tee-to-green to get the kind of birdie looks that actually lead to minus-scores instead of just a lot of pars. There is no prototype player that typically wins here as both short and long players have seen success and there have been several editions where the event has been dominated by journeymen instead of the best in the world. A wide-open field usually makes for a good tournament and the winner only has to take down 31 other players instead of 150+ like most weeks.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the players that we think are the best bets to win it all. We make a few picks to win the event and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that you can find at most of the sportsbooks advertised on the Predictem site. Here are our picks to win the 2016 Tournament of Champions!
Bubba Watson (odds to win 10 to 1)
Jason Day and Jordan Spieth lead this field in terms of star power but betting them wont get you much value so lets look at Bubba as he is a near perfect fit for this course and a much better value for what amounts to essentially the same win possibility as the other two. Watson has been in the top-10 here his last two trips and it makes sense as his dominant length works wonders at this wide-open track. He played well in the Hero World Challenge, winning that unofficial event against a strong global field. He seems to be relaxed and having a good time and should be able to simply let his talents shine at Kapalua. He finished 2015 in the top-4 in both birdies and scoring and led the Tour in strokes gained tee-to-green. He should see a lot of birdie looks given the short approaches he will net with his driving distance so it will just come down to how many putts he will make. I think it could be plenty.
Zach Johnson (20 to 1)
Normally, I would fade most professionals that are in the middle of an equipment change like Zach is but no matter the manufacturer he is using, he can flat swing it. Johnson made the switch to PXG starting in 2016 but I dont see his no-nonsense game being affected by a change in equipment. Zach has a solid history of playing well in Hawaii, including win at both the TOC and the Sony so there is clearly something about island golf that suits him. I think he is one of the handful here that take this event very seriously and actually looks at it like a ripe opportunity to get the year off to a great start and keep all the exemptions in order. Johnson played well at both the Hero World Challenge and the Franklin Templeton Shootout leading up to this week and finished 2015 inside the top-10 in both fairways hit and scoring average. His usual mistake-free plan helps him cover up his lack of a true power game and he rarely makes the big mistake that takes him out of contention.
Russell Knox (30 to 1)
There are some PGA pros that dont bother to tee it up officially until February or even later but not Mr. Knox, he is already making his sixth official start of the season this week. He has gotten off to a great start with a win at the HSBC Champions event and he followed that up with a playoff runner-up finish at the Mayakoba. If Knox winds up making the Tour Championship all the way next September, he will likely have this fast start to thank. In those five events, Russell has averaged over 80% of greens hit in regulation and has scrambled to save par 75% of the time on the few occasions he missed the putting surface. His scoring average is 69.5 overall and all of the above are good signs for continued success. He didnt know he was heading here until the HSBC win so there might be a bit of jetlag or fatigue to deal with but Knox is one of the few that has put in a bunch of work already and should be in mid-season form.
Davis Love III (125 to 1)
Betting longshots in golf isnt easy but as long as you cut too big a hole in your bank, they can be the most fun bets to root for. Obviously, any player in this field has proved they can win and Love did so at the Wyndham Championship last fall. He only made 8-of-18 cuts last year but all signs point to Davis trying to get back in good form to take one more competitive lap around his favorite PGA stops before hanging up the spikes for the most part. Love made the cut in both of his late 2015 starts and still has the length and tee-to-green game to contend on Tour. The putting prowess has left him in recent years, a common theme among the veterans on Tour, but only having to best a short field makes him a more intriguing bet than it this were a full-field event. It helps to have some experience when navigating windy courses and Love has seen plenty of Kapalua throughout his career.
Picks to win based on final score after all four rounds. Check out Bovada Sportsbook for single round match-ups and a variety of prop bets. You get a 50% bonus on your first deposit up to $500 as well! FREE CASH!
Jason Day v. Jordan Spieth (pick to win: Day)
First things first, Jordan Spieth is amazing and I wouldnt hold it against anyone that takes him to win every single head-to-head this entire year, regardless of opponent or odds. That said, I can see a scenario where Spieth struggles a bit to start this year and it could be mean some easy money as the books will almost always have Jordan up against the very best, often as a big favorite. As good as Spieth is, he is coming off an offseason that has seen him do a ton of press and personal appearances. I think the kid has a good head on his shoulders and wont get bent out of shape over any of it but I wonder if he has been practicing the same amount as in years past. I wonder if arriving takes just a little hunger away from him or maybe he is starting to focus on Majors more. Im not predicting a disappointing season overall but Jordan would not be the first golfer to take a breath after a breakout season. Jason Day greets Spieth on the board at most sportsbooks and there is no wondering about Days motivation after last season contained so many near misses. Day is the better statistical player in this matchup with Spieth holding the edge in simply being clutch. Ive seen Day at even money and I will take arguably the second best player in the world at those odds, even against the No. 1.
Rickie Fowler v. Patrick Reed (pick to win: Reed)
It really is great for golf to see its TOC full of so many talented young players and while these two fall a notch below Spieth and McIlory, they are a threat to win any event they tee it up in. Reed won here last year and it seems he has stepped back from his bluster and brash attitude. That increase in maturity has helped him to some very solid results around the world against the best players so Reed appears that he is trending up if anything. Fowler has made a name for himself as a contender for the Major titles but Rickie has been pretty average for the most part outside the premier events.Maybe it is a little lack of true focus but whatever it is, I like Reed in this match as I think he is the player with the ability to simply make it happen. That is an awfully intangible reason to pick a player but courses like Kapalua dont separate players by making them hit great shots, rather those who find a way to squeeze out a gutty par save or snake it one extra birdie often wind up on top. Fowler is a stud but Reed has more of the magic quality and I think he takes the W in this head-to-head. Important Note: Many of you will be wagering on golf all season. Many will be overpaying for odds. Please consider making the switch to reduced juice betting. This isn’t just for golf either. It’s for all sports. Not to mention, the book we promote pays quicker than all others. —> 5Dimes. Simply the best!
Good luck and good golf!