Primer: Sentry Tournament of Champions

It’s hard to believe, but the PGA Tour’s off-season is officially over as the not-for-profit money machine tees it up this week in Hawaii for the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Contested at picturesque Kapalua on the island of Maui, the Tournament of Champions features a small, but superbly-talented, field of 34 golfers, all of whom were victorious in at least one Tour event during the 2017 calendar year.

The star-studded field in Hawaii is headlined by defending champion Justin Thomas, along with two other former Kapalua winners in Dustin Johnson (2013) and Jordan Spieth (2016).


THE SKINNY

Tournament: Sentry Tournament of Champions
Dates: Jan. 4-7, 2018
TV Network: GOLF Channel
Course: Plantation Course
Where: Kapalua, Hawaii
Distance: 7452 yards, Par 73
Architect: Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore
Field/Format: 34 players; 72-hole stroke play with no cut
Purse: $6,000,000
Winning Share: $1,180,000
FedEx Cup Points: 500
Defending Champion: Justin Thomas


HISTORY

The Sentry Tournament of Champions is annually held during the first week of January and, since 1999, has been played at the Kapalua’s Plantation Course on the island of Maui.

For its first 16 editions, the limited-field tournament was contested in Las Vegas, Nevada – first at the Desert Inn Country Club from 1953-66, then for two years at the Stardust Country Club (1967-68).

In 1969 the tournament moved further west to Carlsbad, California, with La Costa Resort and Spa playing host until 1999 when it was moved to Maui.

There have been five title sponsors over the years with MONY (75-90) and Mercedes (94-09) holding the rights for 16 years each. Hyundai (11-16), Infiniti (91-93), and SBS (10, 17) were the other three main sponsors.

Past champions include Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Tom Watson, Phil Mickelson, Johnny Miller, and Tiger Woods.


RECENT WINNERS

2017: Justin Thomas*
2016: Jordan Spieth*
2015: Patrick Reed
2014: Zach Johnson
2013: Dustin Johnson*
2012: Steve Stricker
2011: Jonathan Byrd

*In the field


RECORDS

  • WINS: 5, Jack Nicklaus (1963-64, 71, 73, 75)
  • CONSECUTIVE WINS: 3, Stuart Appleby (2004-06)
  • 72-HOLE SCORE: 261, Ernie Els (2003)
  • 18-HOLE SCORE: 62, K.J. Choi (3rd round, 2003), Graeme McDowell (4th, 2011), Jason Day (4th, 2015), Chris Kirk (4th, 2015)

TV & ONLINE COVERAGE

Round 1: Thu. 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Round 2: Fri. 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
Round 3: Sat. 3:00 PM – 7:00 PM
Round 4: Sun. 6:00 PM – 10:00 PM
All times EST. Golf Channel.

Online: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


THE COURSE

The Plantation Course at Kapalua is located on the island of Maui, and measures 7,452 yards from the championship tees.

Designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, the Plantation track is a traditional links-style course offering dramatic elevation changes with panoramic views of the surrounding mountains and ocean.

In addition to being the Tour’s only par 73, it’s also the only course on the schedule with seven holes greater than 500 yards.


DEFENDING CHAMPION

Thomas won the tournament in 2017, firing a final-round 4-under-par 69 en route to a four-day score of 22-under-par.

It was the second of five titles on the 2016-17 season for the Kentucky native.

Through 13 holes, Thomas was five clear of Hideki Matsuyama, and appeared headed for an easy victory, but the Japanese star cut the lead to just one with two holes to play.

Thomas, however, rebounded nicely with clutch birdies on both 17 and 18, while Matsuyama finished bogey-birdie.

FINAL TOP 10

1 Justin Thomas -22
2 Hideki Matsuyama -19
3 Jordan Spieth -16
3 Pat Perez -16
3 Ryan Moore -16
6 Dustin Johnson -15
6 Patrick Reed -15
6 Brendan Steele -15
9 Tony Finau -14
9 William McGirt -14
9 Jimmy Walker -14


THE FIELD

The field in Maui this week features 34 winners of PGA Tour events in 2017, including three former champions in Thomas (2017), Spieth (2016) and Johnson (2013) – who also happen to be the top-3 ranked golfers in the world.

PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, Xander Schauffele, and Jon Rahm, winner of the European Tour’s top rookie award, lead a group of 14 players making their debut at Kapalua.

Other big names in the field include Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, and Marc Leishman.


STORYLINES

1. Fowler Shooting For Two Straight

Rickie Fowler hopes his impressive, albeit brief, wrap-around season performance extends into the new year.

The 28-year old star had just two starts following the season-ending Tour Championship, but made both of them count – finishing with runner-up at Mayakoba, followed by a win in the Bahamas.

2. Thomas Seeking Three Consecutive

Justin Thomas, the winner of both Hawaiian events in 2017, is seeking an unprecedented third-straight victory on the islands. The former Alabama star was last seen lifting the trophy at the inaugural CJ Cup in South Korea.

In 2003, Ernie Els won both legs of the island swing in, and then repeated as the Sony Open champion in 2004 to take three of four titles. The last repeat winner at Kapalua was Geoff Ogilvy (2009-10).

3. Rose Looking For Four

Justin Rose ended the year as one of the hottest golfers on the planet, capturing a win in each of the final three months of the calendar year: WGC-HSBC Champions in October; Turkish Airlines Open in November; and Indonesian Masters in December.

A win in January would be four-straight months with a victory for the 37-year old Englishman.

Update: Rose qualified for Kapalua by virtue winning the WGC-HSBC Champions but opted out.


Joel Cook contributed to this report.


Jeff Smith

Jeff is a Producer for Pro Golf Weekly. He is producing a digital documentary on the 2016-17 PGA Tour season.

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