WATCH: PIVOT PLAY – VAUGHN TAYLOR
The best golfers in the world are going to converge on the Planation Course at Kapalua on Maui, Hawaii for the SBS Tournament of Champions. Here are a few names to consider for every possible price range.
Jordan Spieth ($11,500) – It is really easy to see why he tops the price list: He’s played here twice and has a solo-second (2014) and a victory (2015). He’s back to defend his title, and coming off a win in Australia in his last appearance, so there is no reason to assume he’ll be off his game. This course normally favors big hitters, but he was hitting it long enough to put himself in a position to fire at the pin, which is all that matters, as he finished last year here first in both Strokes Gained (SG): Tee-to-Green as well as SG: Putting.
Dustin Johnson ($11,200) – I mentioned just now that Kapalua can tend to favor big hitters, right? Johnson certainly qualifies, and it showed back in 2013, when he claimed the win here to kick off his season. He was T6 here again in 2014 in his title defense, and is as good a choice as anyone to finish inside the top-10 and contend for a title coming off a Player of the Year season in 2016.
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,000) – Despite everything I wrote about Spieth and Johnson, Matsuyama is actually the hottest player in golf right now. And he has been around a while, so it is easy to forget that he is just 24 years old. But if he is in the process of taking his game to the next level, he has the skill-set to be in contention for top-player-in-the-world status for the next decade. Right now he is showing it, having won four of his last six starts worldwide, including a two-stroke victory over Henrik Stenson at the Hero World Challenge last month. He finished T3 here in his only other appearance, last season.
Patrick Reed ($9,500) – He finished as the runner-up to Spieth last season in a solid attempt at defending his title after winning in 2015. He has shot 69 or better here in every round over the past two years, which would make him as good a choice as you’ll find in either a cash-game or GPP format, especially at a $2,000 savings over the top option, as long as you are not concerned that he slipped off a little at the end of last season. He’ll be looking at a course where he feels comfortable to get 2017 off to a good start.
Justin Thomas ($8,900) – He really came on strong down the stretch last season, and is going to look to build on that momentum with a good showing this weekend. He finished the 2016 season with two top-10 performances in the FedEx Cup Playoffs, and then kicked off the ’16-’17 season with a successful title defense in Kuala Lumpur back in October.
Brandt Snedeker ($8,700) – He finished 33rd on Tour in SG: Putting last season, and 18th in SG: Around-the-Green, demonstrating that the strength of his game is in and around the greens. He doesn’t need to rely on his driver to find success, but when you combine that skill-set with the fact that he has finished T11 or better here in each of his four tries, it’s obvious that, at the very least, he is putting himself in a position to score here. And for a player like him, if he is consistently finding himself around the green in good positions, he is usually going to be able to compete.
Tony Finau ($8,000) – Another big bomber, I feel like his game too often gets diminished to a discussion as if his only talent is going long off the tee. He isn’t just long, but also accurate, and capable of holding back when it suits him. He, simply, has the ability off the tee to put himself in the best possible position to attack the greens, and when he is on his game, that’s exactly what he does, finishing 25th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green last season.
Jason Dufner ($7,400) – Another golfer with prior success here and a history of solid ball-striking and tee-to-green numbers, last time he was here, in 2014, he finished fifth. He has not played at all since his T8 at the Tour Championship in September, so he may be rusty. However, the upside is a player on the bottom half of the price range who has proven an ability to compete with the caliber of golfers at the top of the field this weekend.
Branden Grace ($7,200) – His last appearance at a US event was a T32 at the BMW Championship, not quite enough to advance on to East Lake. This is his first action in a month, but prior to that, he finished T3, T27 in Europe in November. If he brings his putter with him to Hawaii, he has the Tee-to-Green skills to compete for a top spot on the leaderboard this weekend.
James Hahn ($6,800) – Inside the top-25 in four of his last five appearances, and top-15 in both of his last two, Hahn is working on a run of eight straight rounds under par this fall. So far through just a small numbers of events this season, he is inside the top-25 in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, Tee-to-Green, and Approach-the-Green, giving you a good way to quantify the fact that you’re seeing him avoid big trouble and hit greens consistently. This should make him a relatively safe, inexpensive choice this weekend if he can maintain that level of play.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theasquad) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.