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Sentry Tournament of Champions Betting Tips: Four bets for first tournament of 2022

Sentry Tournament of Champions Tips: Abraham Ancer features.
Sentry Tournament of Champions Tips: Abraham Ancer features.

Sentry Tournament of Champions Tips

I hope everyone has had a good Christmas and I’d like to wish you all a Happy New Year. After a much needed breather, I’m excited to get back to action this week as the PGA Tour makes its return.

We kick off the new year, as ever, with the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort in Hawaii. Host of this event since 1999.

The event sees all winners on the PGA Tour during the previous season qualify, which gave us a field of 40. Though due to the absence of Rory Mcilroy, that is down 39, but an extremely high-class 39 nonetheless.

Golf tips

The Course

Kapalua’s Plantation Course is a quirky 7596 yard par 73, with Bermuda covering the fairways and greens. It was put together by the design partnership of Coore and Crenshaw in 1992, though was refined in 2019, in which they created new tees, resurfaced the putting surfaces and renovated all the bunkers.

The result is one of the favourite stops on the PGA Tour for many players, thanks to beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean and the general fun playability of the course. Being heavily sloped from tee-to-green and possessing dramatic elevation changes throughout, no two shots play the same and it implores players to be creative.

The fairways are wide, which is beneficial to those who like to unleash driver off-the-tee, though due to the severity of the slopes in the fairways and the firmness of them, shorter hitters get plenty of run out. This has levelled the playing field enough to enable us to see contrasting players like Steve Stricker and Dustin Johnson taste success around the course.

Despite the uneven lies and need for imagination, scoring here has predominantly been very low. Ernie Els holding the tournament record with a score of -31, which he shot in 2003 and we’ve seen an average winning score of -23 over the last six years. Justin Thomas’ victory in 2020, with a score of -14 the outlier and bringing that average down. 

There are many ways to get it done around here. From Harris English being dynamite on the greens to win last year, to Justin Thomas excelling in approach in 2020 and Dustin Johnson overpowering the course to win by 6 in 2018, where he hammered the field with driver in hand, gaining close to a shot a round on his nearest competitor off-the-tee. It doesn’t really matter how you do it, you simply must find a way to score well.

Being situated right on the Pacific Ocean means we are at the mercy of the weather around a pretty exposed golf course. Even though the forecast is predicting nothing more than a stiff breeze with some stronger gusts, that is far from set in stone and the weather may well play more of a part by the end of the week.

The Field

As mentioned, we have a typically excellent field, containing eight of the world’s top ten. Including the world #1, Jon Rahm, who tees it up for the first time since missing the cut at Valderrama back in October last year. With 2020 PGA Champion, the enigmatic Phil Mickelson, teeing it up at the Plantation Course for the first time in 21 years. Another notable absentee along with Mcilroy comes in the form of world #3 Dustin Johnson, who misses as a result of failing to win a PGA Tour sanctioned event for the first time since 2014.

Sungjae Im each-way (5 places)
Odds correct as of 2022-01-03 15:05 Odds subject to change.

Jon Rahm heads the field at 8/1, followed by Justin Thomas at 9/1 and Collin Morikawa at 10/1. With the uncertainty that a new year brings, as many players have been absent for varying lengths of time, I’ve decided to avoid the very top of the market. Instead I will start a little further down the betting and kick off the new year with Sungjae Im, who I’m hoping can build on an impressive 5th on debut here last year.

We haven’t seen Sungjae since his solid 19th place finish in the Houston Open back in November. This was the culmination of an incredibly strong finish to the year for the Korean, where he picked up his 2nd PGA Tour title in the Shriners Open, winning impressively by four shots and bagged a further two top 10 finishes amongst his last six events of 2021.

He finished last year in fine ball-striking form, gaining strokes in each of his last 10 events off-the-tee and in approach in 7 out of 10, with his play around-the-greens also looking strong. Though not consistently up to his best in terms of putting, he has still managed to produce performances of quality in that respect, such as when 9th on the greens in that victory in Vegas at the Shriners.

With most players there would be a slight concern over a two month absence but with Im, I see it as a positive. As he’s played just about as much golf as anyone over the last couple of years. I’m hoping the break will have freshened him up and I expect him to hit the ground running in 2022. Starting with a title challenge here in Hawaii.

Abraham Ancer each-way (5 places)
Odds correct as of 2022-01-03 15:05 Odds subject to change.

Mexico’s Abraham Ancer enjoyed a breakthrough 2021, picking up by far the biggest win of his career, in the shape of the WGC – St Jude Invitational in Memphis at TPC Southwind. He can start the new year strong and improve on a solid 17th place finish here last year on debut.

The victory was the icing on not just a strong 2021 for Ancer, where he picked up a further 7 top 10 finishes but a strong couple of years. Which has seen him miss just 6 cuts in 50 starts and rise to a new high of 11 in the world rankings, directly after the win at Southwind.

He possesses a game that has very little in the way of weaknesses, with his play around-the-greens the only cause for concern. Though he counters that by being excellent off-the-tee, in approach and on the greens, all of this enabling him to rank amongst the best birdie makers on tour last season, where he ranked 20th.

Finishing 17th on debut here last year was perfectly solid but even more encouraging was the way he finished that event. Getting better as the week went on, he shot two rounds in the 70s to start the week but finished with a 69 on Saturday and shot the 2nd best round of the day on Sunday, with a 66. Which would suggest he’d figured out what the course was all about by the weekend. 

Ancer had been playing golf of the highest quality for a couple of years but without victory. I expect the win in Memphis to be the first of many PGA Tour titles and he’s more than capable of adding to that in the first event of the new year, if able to start here as he finished in last year’s renewal.

Jason Kokrak each-way (6 places)
Odds correct as of 2022-01-03 15:10 Odds subject to change.

Speaking of breakthrough years, Jason Kokrak stepped up on winning his first PGA title at the CJ Cup in 2020, by picking up two more titles in 2021. First by gaining victory in the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial. He then doubled up for the year with another victory in Texas at the Houston Open on his final start of 2021. Going from 0 PGA Tour wins to 3, in a little over 12 months.

Though he finished an uninspiring 35th here on debut last year, I do think he possesses the game to go well at the course. His quality comes on the greens and with his driver, ranking 6th in putting and 23rd off-the-tee last season. He can take advantage of the wide fairways here to unleash his driver and hole the putts to go well in a typically low scoring affair. Further promise is found with his ranking of 12th in birdie average and though he only finished 35th of 42 players last year, he shot one of the best rounds of the day in the 2nd round, with a 66, evidencing what he can do here if firing.

We haven’t seen him for just under two months since the win in Houston, but he has gone well fresh in the recent past. That very win in Houston coming after a four-week break and he also went well in the Charles Schwab Challenge in 2020, which was the first event back after they postponed play due to covid, finishing 3rd there after 14 weeks off. 

There shouldn’t be many more confident golfers on tour right now, with the way the wins have come for Kokrak in the last 15 months. I expect him to improve on the 35th place finish here last year and if he starts the year with the best parts of his game firing, he should be a danger in this first event of 2022.

Golf odds
Joel Dahmen each-way (6 places)
Odds correct as of 2022-01-03 15:10 Odds subject to change.

I’m going to finish the picks with Joel Dahmen at three-figures. He picked up his first PGA Tour title in the Dominican Republic in 2021 and signed off the year in good form. If able to carry that form over into the new year he has the game to go well on debut.

After that win at the Corales Puntacana, he played really solid golf for the rest of the year. Missing just two cuts in his final 16 events, with a 5th place finish on his 2nd last start in the Houston Open his best finish since the victory.

In the final five events of 2021 (the first five events of the 2021/22 season), Dahmen played some top quality golf, both with his long game and on the greens. Gaining strokes in three out of the four recorded events in each of putting, approach play and driving. Stats that should see anybody going well this week if able to replicate.

It’s a strong field but Dahmen hasn’t been scared to mix it on quality leaderboards over recent years; 2nd in the Wells Fargo, 5th in the Genesis Invitational, 5th in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and 10th in the PGA Championship shows a player who doesn’t shy away when surrounded by some of the world’s best.

He can call on his experience of winning in the Dominican, another event which takes place right on the ocean (the Atlantic in this regard) and kick off the new year in positive fashion at Kapalua.

US Masters odds
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