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DraftKings PGA: SBS Tournament of Champions

Len Hochberg

Hochberg covers golf for RotoWire. A veteran sports journalist, he contributes to Sports on Earth and was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years.


Purse: $6M
Winner's Share: $1.22M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Lahaina, Maui, Hawaii
Course: Plantation Course, Kapalua
Yardage: 7,452
Par: 73
2016 champion: Jordan Spieth

Tournament Preview

Welcome to 2017, welcome to the resumption of the 2016-17 PGA Tour schedule and welcome to a PGA Tour now under the direction of a new commissioner, Jay Monahan. The Tournament of Champions, the traditional lid-lifter after New Year's, is the eighth of what will be 47 events this season, including the playoffs. (My goodness, the PGA calendar is so long, it will carry into next year's NFL season.) But enough about logistics and now on to ... paradise. The 25-year-old Plantation Course offers magnificent vistas of the Pacific Ocean, the perfect antidote for so many golf fans immersed in the throes of winter. The tournament, of course, is known for its eye-popping long drives and remarkably low scores. But don't be quick to connect those dots. We don't have to look any further back than last year to see that Jordan Spieth mastered Kapalua with his wedges and putter, not his driver -- more on that in the Champions Profile below. Spieth is among only 11 returnees from last year in the 32-man field, and there are only four who have even played the past two years (Jason Day, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Jimmy Walker, the latter two being the only golfers to play the past three years). Spieth, Reed and Dustin Johnson are the former champions in the no-cut field. While four of the top six golfers in the world rankings are on hand, the tournament takes a hit with the absence of No. 2 Rory McIlroy, No. 4 Henrik Stenson, No. 7 Adam Scott and Masters winner Danny Willett, plus Sergio Garcia and Charl Schwartzel. The course is unlike any other on the PGA Tour, and not only because it's a par-73; no Kapalua rookie has won here since Daniel Chopra in 2008. Despite tapping out at nearly 7,500 yards, the track plays much shorter, with massive elevation drops buoying the distances and super wide fairways allowing for extreme aggressiveness. In fact, it was the easiest of the 50 courses played on the PGA Tour last year. And like last year, the wind is forecast to be fairly benign, especially for an oceanside course, so scoring could approach Spieth's near-record of 30-under.

Key Stats to Winning at Kapalua

Driving distance
Proximity to the hole
One-putt percentage (putts per GIR)

Past Champions

2016 - Jordan Spieth
2015 - Patrick Reed
2014 - Zach Johnson
2013 - Dustin Johnson
2012 - Steve Stricker
2011 - Jonathan Byrd
2010 - Geoff Ogilvy
2009 - Geoff Ogilvy
2008 - Daniel Chopra
2007 - Vijay Singh

Champion's Profile

When we see 400-plus-yard drives, it's only natural to think this course favors the biggest hitters. But other than Dustin Johnson four years ago, the champions have been of standard length -- or in the case of Zach Johnson in 2014 and Steve Stricker in 2012, even sub-standard. Last year, Jordan Spieth rolled to an eight-stroke victory over Patrick Reed despite being only T17 in driving distance. He won by masterfully playing the angles of the course, not to mention leading the field in strokes gained putting and finishing third in both scrambling and proximity to the hole (the greens are enormous, and simply doing well at GIR won't cut it). Reed was not even in the top-15 in SGP, but he was second in scrambling. So while it rarely hurts to hit it far off the tee -- which is why we tab driving distance as a key stat this week -- you'll be best served by focusing on short-game skill and putting. To wit: Reed was fifth in putting average in his 2015 victory, Zach Johnson was ninth in 2014, Dustin Johnson was third in 2013, Stricker was second in 2012, Jonathan Byrd was eighth in 2011 and Geoff Ogilvy was first in 2010. And get this: All but Dustin Johnson were first or second in scrambling.

(Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)

Tier 1 Values

Jordan Spieth - $11,500 (Winning odds at 11-2)

With only 32 golfers in the field and everyone playing all four rounds, it will be difficult to find separation from your DraftKings counterparts. That said, Spieth likely will be a popular choice, even at the top price in the field. We're still not convinced that Spieth's troubles from last season are a thing of the past, even after his Australian Open win in November (pretty weak field), but he won at Kapalua last year and was runner-up in 2014. And don't forget he's among the finest putters going.

Hideki Matsuyama - $11,000 (5-1)

Recent form is a tricky thing after the longest break on the golf calendar, but the folks at made Matsuyama the betting favorite (DraftKings lists him as the No. 3 choice). Matsuyama won four times in his final five starts of 2016, finishing second the other time. It sure seems like something a lot more than "recent form" for the Japanese standout; to us, it seems as if he is about the take the next step in his career. Matsuyama finished T3 in 2015, his lone start at Kapalua.

Jason Day - $10,600 (7-1)

Remember him? We have not seen Day since he withdrew during the Tour Championship more than three months ago. Still No. 1 in the world, the Aussie took a similar break last year and wound up T10 at Kapalua. He also was T3 with Matsuyama the year before. And until we see otherwise, Day is still among the very best putters in the game.

Tier 2 Values

Patrick Reed - $9,500 (12-1)

We're not ready to elevate Reed into the top echelon -- we'd have to see a major win before doing so -- but there's no denying he devours the Plantation Course. Reed was runner-up to Spieth last year and was the victor the year before that. He was eighth on tour in scrambling last season.

Bubba Watson - $9,200 (15-1)

Watson certainly doesn't match the scrambling/putting criteria we are focusing on but, as always, there are multiple ways to do well on any golf course. Watson surely classifies as a bomber, and it's paid off at Kapalua, where he has tied for 10th the past two years after his best showing, a T4, in 2013.

Brandt Snedeker - $8,700 (15-1)

Snedeker has two T3s on his Kapalua resume, including last year, and it's no mystery why. He's one of the top putters in the game, and tied for 16th in scrambling on tour last season.

Tier 3 Values

Daniel Berger - $8,500 (20-1)

This may be our riskiest pick, but there's not a lot we like around this price point. Berger has never played Kapalua before, and history shows first-timers rarely win at a course unlike any other the golfers will see all year. But that doesn't mean Berger won't do well. In the early going on the 2016-17 season, he's shown improved scrambling,

Jimmy Walker - $7,800 (25-1)

Walker will be back for the fourth straight year, and only he and Reed can claim such consistency. He tied for 10th last year, and was runner-up to Reed the year before. Even with his win at the PGA Championship over the summer, Walker is not the same golfer he was a few years ago. And his putting and especially scrambling leave something to be desired. But, like Watson, he's still done well at Kapalua.

Jason Dufner - $7,400 (40-1)

Dufner's last visit to the TOC was in 2014, when he tied for fifth. Dufner is far from a good putter, but he excels at getting the ball on the green (sixth in GIR last season) and getting it close to the hole (19th in proximity). Plus, if there's anyone who looks like he can roll out of bed and play well -- Dufner hasn't teed it up since the Tour Championship in September -- it's this guy.

Long-Shot Values

Pat Perez - $7,100 (60-1)

Perez missed most of last season injured, but he certainly impressed after his autumn return. He commenced with a T33 at the CIMB Classic, followed by T7 at the Shriners and then a victory at the OHL Classic for his second career win. Remember, Perez has historically played well at the start of seasons, particularly on the West Coast. It's been seven years since Perez has played Kapalua, having tied for 10th in 2010.

Aaron Baddeley - $7,000 (80-1)

Baddeley returns to the TOC for the first time in five years, and the third time overall. He has a best of T12 in 2008. Of course, Baddeley has long been among the top putters -- eighth in SGP last season -- but he was also fifth on tour in scrambling in 2015-16.

Vaughn Taylor - $6,400 (150-1)

Taylor is a curious case. He won for the first time in more than a decade way back in February at Pebble Beach, and then he did virtually nothing the rest of the way. In two prior visits to Kapalua, in 2005 and 2006, Taylor tied for eighth and fourth, respectively, and that's pretty impressive. And, frankly, as good a reason as any to pick him over any of the other sub-$7,000 guys.
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