THE SENTRY: After a month-long break that was not without some off-course news and drama, the PGA Tour kicks off 2024 at a familiar spot– Kapalua Resort on the Hawaiian island of Maui, where a select field of 59 players has gathered for a “rich getting richer” spectacle. You won’t find any journeymen or young guys looking to make a name for themselves here, as this field is full of players who have already earned their stripes.

Formerly the Tournament of Champions, where only tournament winners during the previous 12 months would earn an invite, the field has now expanded to include those who finished in the top-50 of last year’s FedEx Cup standings, which is why we now have more players in the field than tournaments on the calendar. It’s a great break for guys like Eric Cole and Adam Schenk, who have yet to pick up their first victory but now get to hang out with the big boys in Hawaii anyway. And it gives the field a bit more juice, which is something that is needed more than ever now that the Tour is bleeding star players. The latest to leave for LIV was Jon Rahm, who just happens to be the defending champion of this event, meaning this will be the second year in a row that the defending champ here has left for the greener ($) pastures of LIV (Cam Smith, 2022).

The venue is a familiar one– the Plantation Course at Kapalua has hosted this event for the past 25 years and what it lacks in difficulty it more than makes up for in beauty, with stunning island vistas and tropical wildlife framing the Coore/Crenshaw design. The course was built with resort guests in mind and therefore doesn’t present much of a challenge for the pros, who won’t see fairways this wide combined with greens this big for the rest of the season. It’s the only par-73 on the schedule, and though it measures nearly 7,600 yards from all the way back, elevation changes make some holes play much different than their listed yardages. The wind coming off the ocean is really the course’s only defense, but it hasn’t blown often enough in recent years to stave off the birdies, as it’s taken 23-under or better to win this event in 7 of the past 8 years.

Lots of birdies and a fun leaderboard are hallmarks of this tournament, and that sounds like a pretty decent way to kick off 2024 to me. Let’s see if one of the below selections can make our week even better:

WIN MARKET

Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)

Collin Morikawa (15.0) While everyone in the field is coming off a multi-week holiday break, we did get glimpses of wintertime form in December’s Hero World Challenge and Morikawa looked very comfortable with his game, shooting 12-under over four rounds to finish 7th. That was his first tournament since October’s ZOZO Championship, which he won by six shots after firing a final round 63, so he’s got loads of momentum heading into 2024 after a disappointing 2023 that saw him fall out of the top-10 in the World Rankings. And he’s got the ideal venue to start this year’s campaign, as Morikawa always plays well at Kapalua, never placing worse than 7th in four career appearances at this tournament and finishing runner-up last year. So, he’s playing as well as anyone in the field, has great history on the course, and only has to beat 58 guys this week. Sounds like a pretty good deal to me, even at a shortish price.

Tom Kim (34.0)- Kim was last seen in competition at November’s DP World Tour Championship, where he posted 13-under to tie for 15th. His last PGA Tour event, October’s Shriners Childrens Open, was an even bigger success, as he closed with rounds of 62-66 to pick up his second career victory. Barring injury or global catastrophe, young Mr. Kim is sure to win many more tournaments in the coming years, and he should have a great chance this week at Kapalua. He finished 5th here on debut last year, breaking 70 in all four rounds and posting 22-under for the week, and he has a terrific record in birdie-fest type events where scores are super low. He’ll get it rolling this week and will have no fear come Sunday, making him a dangerous player and a nice value at better than 30/1.

Tom Hoge (260.0)- Like Tom Kim, Hoge is a player who feels very comfortable on easy courses where scores are super-low and he’s enjoyed some great results in such tournaments, shooting double-digit under par and posting good finishes in events like the Shriners, Sanderson Farms, and the 3M Open. He also had a great run in this tournament last year, shooting 23-under for the week to finish 3rd, his second-best result of the ’22-’23 campaign. With the exception of a team event in December we haven’t seen Hoge in competition since October, but he did make 5 of 6 cuts to close out the year and posted three top-25s in that stretch, so there’s little reason to question his form. While a win this week would be a huge breakthrough in his career, it doesn’t seem that farfetched in a 59-man field on a course where he shot 23-under 12 months ago. Hoge can currently be had at 260.0 on the BETDAQ exchange and he should be backed enthusiastically at a price like that.


THE STRIKER Tues: ARSENAL v CHELSEA
THE ULTRA Tues: LAZIO v JUVENTUS
THE EDGE IPL Tues: Chennai Super Kings v Lucknow Super Giants
DAQMAN Mon: Pontefract NAP
DAQSTATS Mon: Pontefract NAP
THE ULTRA Mon: Serie A Preview
THE EDGE IPL Mon: Rajasthan Royals v Mumbai Indians
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