SBS Championship Preview and Picks

SBS Championship
Thursday, Jan. 7 Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010
The Plantation Course Maui, Hawaii
The Golf Channel

by Evergreen of

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The PGA has one of the shortest off-seasons in all of professional sports, and its time to tee it up for 2010 as the season kicks off with the SBS Championship from Hawaii. SBS has taken over for Mercedes-Benz in the title sponsorship department, but the winners only field remains the same as does the host venue. The Golf Channel brings you all four days of competition, and with the time difference, you can click over at timeouts during the bowl game.

Ill refrain from any Tiger talk as its not a real issue in regards to this event, but Mr. Woods will earn last place money this week as he did qualify for the tournament. There are 28 players that will be in attendance looking to get off to a good start, and we will highlight a few that we like to win it all.

If you havent bet golf before, there are a couple of ways to get your money in. Most simple is the straight bet on one player to win. The casinos in Vegas along with offshore books assign odds to most if not all the players in the field each week, similar to what you might see for each NFL team when the preseason Super Bowl odds are released. Additionally, you can find head to head matchups where a single golfer has to beat the golfer he is matched against either for a single round or the entire tournament, you NASCAR fans have seen that before. Past those options, some books have prop bets that involve a player (Phil Mickelson round one score +/- 69.5) or the event itself (Will the tournament be decided in a playoff?). Well give you a breakdown of some players that we think have a good shot at contention (one short, middle and long odds golfer) and let you know who we like in head to head matches each week.

Lets start by taking a look at the host course.

The Plantation Course at Kapalua will be hosting its 12th PGA event and if you like to see a ton of birdies, the SBS will be your kind of tournament. The Plantation finished 2009 as the fourth easiest course in the Tour rotation with the field averaging two and a half shot under par per round. The wide fairways and big greens will have nearly everyone staring at birdie opportunities and the relatively slow putting surface will let them take aggressive runs at knocking them home. The only way that the scores wont be very low is if the winds blows hard all four days, but expect the winning score to be in the 18 to 22-under range, similar to the 24-under that Geoff Ogilvy carded to win in 2009. The first two holes on the course are the toughest, so keep your eyes on the players who get through there under-par as some 64s could come from the guys that get out the gate quickly.

Here are our three picks to win the 2010 SBS Championship.

Short: Zach Johnson (12 to 1)
Zach likes Hawaii, winning the 2009 Sony and finishing T6 here after getting off to a 71/75 start. Off-season events are shaky indicators of what is to come, but Johnson played well in the Chevron Challenge (T5) and the Shark Shootout (T11) so it looks as if his form is rust-free. Why hell win: Zach was second in the all around stat last year on the strength of his accuracy numbers tee to green. Everyone hits greens at the Plantation, but Johnson should be cashing in short looks. His 69.6 scoring average was 4th best last year.

Middle: Dustin Johnson (20 to 1)
There is just something about the lesser known guys and playing well in the early season. Maybe the stars are still on vacation in the early season or maybe the grinders have to get their swing in a groove, but any way you slice it, players like DJ just do well right off the bat. Dustin was 11th here last year and used that to springboard to a win at Pebble in February. Why hell win: Johnson is one of the longest players on Tour, averaging a third best 308 yards off the tee. Like most bombers, the accuracy isnt always there, but that wont be a huge issue at the SBS. All that length led to a 6th best birdies per round stat and his 13 eagles were 5th on Tour in 2009.

Longshot: Brian Gay (40 to 1)
With no other Johnsons to pick from, we found very good value here at 40 to 1 with Gay. Another journeyman that plays well when no one is watching, Gay had T18 and T5 finishes in his two Hawaii starts in 2009 and went on to win at the Verizon and St. Judes during the summer. Brian played a full winter schedule, making stops at the Justin Timberlake event and the Childrens Miracle along with the HSBC and the Shark Shootout, finishing under par in all. Why hell win: Brians real issues last year was not hitting enough greens, but hell find plenty at Plantation and his 4th ranked putts per round stat will take advantage of that. Gay is not a long player, but he could go the entire week without missing a fairway as he finished 2009 ranked 6th in finding the short grass.

Others to watch

Steve Stricker (8 to 1) Consensus favorite in the field coming off best year of career.

Geoff Ogilvy (9 to 1) Defending champion

Kenny Perry (16 to 1) T6 last year.

Pat Perez (33 to 1) Proved he can go low in winning the 09 Hope.

Head to Head Matches

In the coming weeks, youll find our breakdown of head to head matches in this spot. Given that many online bookies are still pounding the football, there were not a lot of posted matches as of early in the week, so well start the official picks come next week.