The Sentry Tournament of Champions kicks off the DFS Golf season for 2021 as many of the top players in the world and last year’s tournament champions gather in Maui at Kapalua Resort. The no-cut event will feature a 42-man field with 10 of the top 11 players on the planet looking to start the new year off right.
DraftKings has rolled out a $10 Season Tee Off GPP with $200,000 to first place if you can beat 70,587 other lineups. This article will focus mostly on that tournament as it relates to projected ownership and other details.
Game Theory and Key Stats
Anytime we have a no-cut event, especially one with just 42 players, we will need to be heavily focused on where the industry is going in order to gain leverage on the field. Simple details like leaving money on the table and making pivots from highly-owned players down to similarly projected lower-owned players will be a big key to success. It will be key to continue tracking ownership as we get closer to the first tee shot on Thursday. We also know that all players will be guaranteed four rounds, making the birdie makers the most coveted targets.
My key stats each week will almost always start with Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green, Strokes Gained Approach, and Strokes Gained Ball Striking or Off-the-Tee. Beyond that, I look to tailor my other stats towards the specific course fit as I will lay out below.
As I mentioned, I will be focusing strongly on Birdie or Better Percentage as a top stat, and that is certainly the case most weeks, but I will also factor in Bogey Avoidance. The scores at the Sentry Tournament of Champions have been solid for the champions from 14 under last year, and upwards of 23 or 24 below par in the two prior, but there are also plenty of holes that can give the players problems. I highlighted in my course preview some of those dangerous spots where players need to get par and get out, then focus their scoring opportunities on the short Par 4s and Par 5s. That brings me to my next key statistic, Par 5 Scoring as they are the four best opportunities for birdie or even eagle this week. Lastly, I found that the top of the leaderboard over the last five years was more successful in proximity on approaches from 200 yards out or more and it seemed to be a category that can help lead us to a winner.
We have seen many players that are a little less controlled off the tee have success here, as the fairways are so large that your traditional fairway finder players lose that edge. I see distance as more of an advantage than accuracy and as odd as it seems, I’ll be downgrading the guys that make their bacon by peppering fairways and greens, generally from further back.
Now that we have a base for our game theory and my favorite stats, let’s dive into some of my favorite plays for the week.
Dustin Johnson ($11,000 DK/$12,200 FD)
We are absolutely splitting hairs at the top of the field this week, and you can certainly make an argument for any of the players priced above $10,000 on DraftKings. As of right now it appears the Masters Champion will be the lowest owned of the top three. If it remains that way, I will jump at the opportunity to take ownership leverage with the best player in the world.
DJ ranked third in Birdie or Better Percentage last season, including second in the category for Par 4s, which sets up well with the eleven he will face in each round this week. He’s also made birdie or better more than 50% of the time on Par 5s last year.
There are a handful of players that you can toss up when it comes to course history at The Plantation Course, and DJ is certainly one of those with nothing worse than a 10th place finish in his last 5 events. He also had a dominant victory by 6 shots in 2018, which was reminiscent of what he did in torching the field at The Masters last fall. No one can question who the best player in the world is at this point, and Dustin will look to continue that dominance this week in Hawaii.
Bryson DeChambeau ($10,200 DK/$11,600 FD)
In my lineups where I am dropping down from the very top, it will mostly be towards starting lineups with Bryson DeChambeau. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but he put on some muscle and added a bit of distance over the past year, which should come in handy this week.
We know that Bryson will be looking for every line and angle he can use to take advantage of his unparalleled distance, and he has the added comfort of some of the widest fairways on TOUR. He should be able to dominate this track off the tee, putting all of the Par 5s in play in two shots and have multiple driveable Par 4s. The most underrated aspect of his game continues to be his putter where he is simply one of the best in the game today with the flat stick, which will all combine to have him in contention down the stretch this weekend.
It looks like ownership will be pooling more below Bryson with Xander Schauffele and just above him with the aforementioned Jon Rahm. I really like Bryson’s chances to contend this week, especially being that he has some good history here as well, and if players are going to go in other directions, I’ll see that as an added bonus.
Hideki Matsuyama ($9,000 DK/$10,800 FD)
Honestly, I really like everything about the high 8 and 9k range, and am hopeful ownership will help clear things up for me as the week progresses further. Hideki is someone I really liked as I saw pricing come out because I think his name value has decreased a bit in DFS. He hasn’t had a win in three years on TOUR, and despite some decent finishes here and there really hasn’t been in contention down the stretch as much, but the results were solid in the fall.
Matsuyama quietly finished in a tie for 13th at The Masters, and that was off of a runner up finish in Houston. I believe he is starting to find the form we became accustomed to in the past, and I’ll look to jump in on him at a course that clearly fits his game with two top four finishes in his last two trips.
Sungjae Im ($8,200 DK/$9,300 FD)
It looks like this tier is going to be fairly balanced for ownership, so I will look to go to the best scorers. Sungjae Im is my favorite player in that aspect this week and he has to be riding high after his second place finish at The Masters to close out the fall swing.
Sungjae has become known as a bermudagrass specialist in his young career as it is clearly his preferred surface and I am hopeful that will help offset the fact it will be his first appearance at this event. I am willing to overlook his debut as he rates out as the best stat play value versus his price, lead by strong birdie making and Par 5 performance. I’ll take some shares of Sungjae and likely a few of those around him as the $8k range looks to be one that may be a bit neglected this week as players look to jam in as many top priced players as they can fit.
Marc Leishman ($7,400 DK/$7,900 FD)
My close your eyes and click gut play of the week is Marc Leishman. He’d been nothing short of terrible since the TOUR returned from the COVID break back in June, until a quiet 13th place finish in Augusta. That finish was his only Top 25 finish of the entire stretch from June through November, but I am hopeful it’s the sign of a turn in the right direction.
The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort is the perfect get right spot for Leishman coming off of a break where we can hope he worked hard to find his game. This course will allow him to get away with his weakness, which is the tendency to spray it off the tee, while also being a place of comfort with his two top seven finishes at this event in 2018 and 2019. I’m willing to take a stance on Leishman this week, and if works out I know I’ll have a fair amount of leverage on the rest of the field.
Carlos Ortiz ($7,100 DK/$7,800 FD)
One of the best players from the fall that no one is talking too much about was Carlos Ortiz. He broke through for his first TOUR win at the Houston Open in November, where he out-dueled Dustin Johnson down the stretch on Sunday. I love the way his game is trending and that play has him simply under-priced this week. I’ll look to capture some cheap value in lineups with Ortiz, though I know it likely won’t come a low ownership.
MacKenzie Hughes ($6,800 DK/$7,400 FD)
I like to refer to MacKenzie Hughes as Canadian Spieth, which is more of a compliment than it may seem as this guy can go nuclear with his short game. He doesn’t always have the best ball striking, but he is a threat to make a chip or sink a putt from just about anywhere on and around the green.
Hughes doesn’t have the ideal length that I’m looking for this week (though there are some videos of him working with Bryson on the course Tuesday), but I like the fit with the large fairways and greens to allow him to get away with what can be a little bit of shaky ball striking. At this price, I am just hoping he can find anywhere on the green in regulation, then let the flatstick get hot as it often does for the Canadian.
Stewart Cink ($6,600 DK/$7,100 FD)
If you are going to jam in two or even three of the top players in the field, you’ll also have to get comfortable in the $6k range on DK. It’s been a build strategy that has worked each of the last three years at this event as the winner of the main DraftKings GPP each year has had one or two $6k priced players.
Stewart Cink is my next favorite of this range and it’s a similar theory for him, where his weakness of getting a little wild with the tee ball is minimized on this course. Cink will be able to find more fairways than normal, and has even said he gained about ten yards off the tee with a few changes prior to his win in Napa. He’s ranked 27th in Birdie or Better Percentage so far this season, and that provides some great upside at such a cheap price.