Following a long absence from writing anything even close to the topic of sports, your boy Hempdad is back and ready to talk about everything from playoff football, the remainder of the basketball season, awards and criticisms, to my absolute nerd-fest passion of golf and the PGA Tour. Coincidentally, this will be my first piece in quite some time, just as the PGA Tour’s season debut is upon us! I hope you guys enjoy the analytical parts of the week-to-week stop, but also the highlighted betting odds for the week provided by Vegas and Bovada. Whether you’re a geek or in the red, you’re in the right place.
This week, the PGA Tour opens up its main schedule after a long layoff of official tour events where the fields were not exactly star-studded; players who want to get a head start on the year long points race feast on these tournaments. These players know that once the guys named “Spieth” and “McIlroy”… and eventually “Woods”, finishing in good position on a weekly basis becomes much harder. Especially in tournaments they can’t even play in! The Sentry Tournament of Champions is exactly how it sounds: a tournament that plays host to all the tour winners from last year. “What if someone finishes dead last in every tournament, except one where they finish on top?” you may be asking. They’re invited to Kapalua, a resort in Hawaii that lets all champions from the year previous tee it up for the title.
The $100,000 Line-Up
This segment of the article will include my picks for the weekly Golf Channel entry competition where people choose players who are priced according to their world ranking and performance. Entrants are allowed a maximum of 6 players and a budget of $100,000. The top few players are normally priced around $33,000-$30,000 (of virtual dollars, phew), where the low men in the field can be under $1,000 at times. Players receive points for pars, birdies, eagles, aces, birdie streaks, and eventual finishes, while bogeys and doubles bring them back. The cumulative total of points is ranked alongside all other entrants, with a select number of top entrants receive prizes for the week. It’s quite simple, you’ll see what I mean. Let’s get to it:
1st Pick: Billy Horschel ($5,200, OWGR: 70th)
For my first pick I normally try and find the best value in the field. It’s usually someone who has won numerous times, or is low in the rankings but has had good finishes at whatever course is being played. Billy Horschel, the 2014 Fed-Ex Cup Champion won the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship last year, breaking 70 all four rounds (I didn’t mention that gets you points too!). Long-ballers and good putters strive at Kapalua, which is exactly what Horschel is. He has finished T22 and T6 at Kapalua in the past. In a 30-40 person field, getting inside the top 10 is not extremely difficult, especially at a par-73 course where birdies are no stranger. Horschel had a horrible putting year last year, finishing outside the top-100 in nearly every statistical category. I’m expecting him to have figured it out on his time off and to come in hot to start the season.
2nd Pick: Xander Schauffele ($16,400, OWGR: 25th)
Currently my favorite player on tour and last season’s Tour Championship winner and Rookie of the Year, Kapalua sets up for Schauffele better than almost anyone. He drives the ball incredibly straight, and finished clutch in the two tournaments he eventually won, birdieing the last holes in each to win by one. Not only does Xander hit it relatively far, but his putting is phenomenal. Last season, he ranked 2nd in putting from 10 feet and 3rd in putting from over 25 feet. Kapalua has some large greens, so lag-putting in windy conditions will be key in playing well. With a good finish here, Schauffele could crack the top-20 in the world golf ranking for the first time in his career.
3rd Pick: Brooks Koepka ($32,000, OWGR: 8th)
The 8th-ranked player in the world won the U.S. Open last year driving the ball past the entire field and holing some incredible putts in the final round, lapping the field by 4 shots. Each $100,000 line-up has to have one or two top-ranked players, and this my first of two. Kapalua gives up a lot of birdies to the long hitters; Koepka was 7th in driving distance and 5th in birdie average on tour last year, I expect those performances to carry over to this week. He finished tied for 3rd at Kapalua two years ago in his only appearance at 21-under par. Look for more of the same.
4th Pick: Bryson DeChambeau ($3,600, OWGR: 98th)
My fourth pick is usually almost a relatively low ranked player who I think has a lot of potential. It’s a strategic play for budget concerns as well; Your line-up will usually consist of 2 pretty expensive players, so setting up your last two picks is going to be very important. I’m going with a gut feeling in Bryson. He was a first-time winner last year at the John Deere Classic, finishing at 18-under at TPC Deere Run. That tournament, like the Sentry Tournament of Champions, is known to give up a lot of low scores. That is the main reason I’m going with DeChambeau. He is considered to be one of the biggest dickheads on tour, but he’s got a lot of game. He typically launches the ball fairly low as well, which will help out at windy Hawaii.
5th Pick: Jordan Spieth ($33,300, OWGR: 2nd)
One of two players priced at the most expensive price (the other being Dustin Johnson), Spieth has won here before, and nothing about him isn’t solid. He’s a proven winner, fantastic putter, and probably the smartest iron and wedge player on tour. Based on my budget up to this point, I could’ve gone with either Spieth or D.J. and given myself plenty of money left for an average player. I went with Spieth based entirely off previous results at Kapalua. D.J. has had more starts here, but has only cracked the top 5 once- This happened to be the one time that the tournament was shortened to 54 holes, where Johnson was leading the tournament. I don’t necessarily count that as a win; especially considering his 4th round scoring average is 70.333 over the last 4 years at Kapalua, which usually does not get the job done. Look for Spieth to have another good showing, per usual.
6th Pick: Si-Woo Kim ($9,500, OWGR: 42nd)
Last year’s Players Champion and one of the few bright spots on the President’s Cup’s international team, Si-Woo seems to be either hit or miss in most tournaments. He finished close to dead-last in last year’s tournament, his first time playing at Kapalua. I have confidence that Kim can bounce back and use his momentum from his last start on tour from a couple months ago, a 3rd place finish at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. There aren’t a lot of bright spots in Kim’s statistics from last year, so the main justification for picking him was that I didn’t feel there was anyone within my remaining budget that I thought had any better chance. It’s a gamble, we’ll see what happens!
That rounds off my $100,000 line-up, which leaves us with the closing portion of the weekly post: Winning Odds and 2-Ball bets!
This Week’s Betting Odds and 2-Balls
Best Value: Xander Schauffele: 25-1
As I mentioned in picking him for my line-up this week, after bursting onto the scene, and a course that suits his game, 25-to-1 is simply too good to pass up. His last tournament showing was a 2nd-place finish to Brooks Koepka in the Dunlop Phoenix in Japan in December. What’s not to like? I’m biased for my favorite player to say the least, but for good reason. This kid’s got ice in his veins, and he’s coming for his fellow 2011 high school graduate class pals of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Daniel Berger. Spieth and Thomas are both 6-1 this week, which makes sense for the past two winners at Kapalua who each captured a major championship last season. I think the best bang for your buck this week lies in the steady and explosive performance of Xander Schauffele, who burst onto the scene at last year’s U.S. Open where he finished inside the top-10 at a very similar golf course, beating out both Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth.
This Week’s 2-Balls:
These bets are normally 3-balls, but a tiny tournament field has reduced it two balls for this week. These favorites and underdogs are provided by Bovada. I’ll usually highlight a couple that are no-brainers, and will keep an ongoing record of 2-balls, much like Mando’s weekly NFL betting records.
Brooks Koepka -150 vs. Kevin Kisner +115
Take Koepka without blinking. Better finishes and last tournament he played was a win in Japan less than a month ago.
Patton Kizzire -180 vs. D.A. Points +140
Kizzire won early this wraparound season in Mayakoba for his first tour win. Points has only broken 70 twice in his 8 rounds at Kapalua and is a considerably short hitter and a very unreliable putter in every statistical category
NOTE: These are only first-wound wagers! I’ll have more next week about other wagers that went on over the course of the tournament.
And that’s a wrap for This Week on Tour, check back next week to see how the PGA Tour opening unfolded!