Hyundai Tournament of Champions- Tournament Preview

Jeff Bergerson
By Jeff Bergerson January 8, 2015 17:43

The first PGA tour event of 2015 is upon us and the tour converges on the Plantation course at Kapalua in Maui Hawaii. The course is a par 73 course (the only Par 73 course all year on the PGA Tour) and checks in at 7,452 yard long. It features 34 PGA tour winners over the past year. Notable absences include Rory Mcilroy, Adam Scott, and Martin Kaymer. Despite those stars not showing up on the island, the field is stacked with talent. The odds on favorite to win is Bubba Watson followed by Jason Day and Matt Kuchar.
In the past this has been a tournament that top world ranked players have succeeded in more than any other. Of the 16 years the tour/nament has been hosted by the Plantation course at Kapalua, 14 of those years a player in the top 3/0 has won the tournament, 12 of those years a top 15 player in the world has won the tournament. This year only 4 players in the top 15. This year players in the field stretch from being ranked 4th to 207th.

 

Top Stud Picks:

 

Jimmy Walker- Despite leading the Fed Ex cup points race the majority of 2014, Walker still isn’t mentioned in the same breath with the elite players in the world by most people. Walker already has a Top 10 this wraparound season with a T4 at the Shriners. In 2014, Walker had 10 Top 10s including 3 wins with one of those at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Walker started the season blazing last year, and I look for the same thing this season.

Matt Kuchar– Of the elite players in the field, I like Matt Kuchar the best this weekend. Kuchar has had a lot of success at this tournament on this course in the past and it is a course where that is important. Kuchar has Top 10 finishes in his last four appearances in Kapalua. Kuchar had such a great 2014 making 22 cuts in 24 events with 11 Top 10s, and a runner-up, and a win I will continue to pick Kuchar and especially this weekend.

 

Top Value Picks:

 

Robert Streb– I was wavering whether to consider him a value pick or a sleeper, but I figured the current Fed Ex Cup point leader could not be a sleeper, at least in my mind. Before long I might be considering Streb as a Stud pick. Streb is one of my favorite golfers heading into the 2015 calendar year and I he was featured in our Crystal Ball for 2015 article. Although Streb might not be a household name yet, he will be soon. In his 5 events of the fall season, Streb was 5 for 5 in made cuts and had 3 top 10s. He proved that he can handle the pressure of closing out a tournament by winning the McGladrey Classic in October. Streb is currently on a roll and we are going to back him in the Hyunddai Tournament of Champions

Sang-Moon Bae -Bae is currently fighting the South Korean government over its rules of conscription into the military where he is required to serve for two years, but I think he is playing so well right now that he can overcome that distraction. Bae has two Top 5 finishes this season in 3 events, including a victory at The Frys.com Open. He ranked well in ‘Birdie or better conversion percentage’ where he ranked 16th last season, a key metric for Kapalua. His strokes gained tee-to-green of 2.143 this season currently ranks him 2nd among all players.

 

Top Sleeper Picks:

 

Russell Henley– Henley currently ranks 4th in strokes gained putting, and has played well so far this season placing T35 at the WGC HSBC and T4 at the Mcgladrey Classic in October. Last season he won the Honda Classic by outdueling Rory Mcilroy making him eligible for this tournament. In addition to his win, Henley had two other Top 10s. I look for Henley to play well in Maui and place in the Top 10 and maybe make a run at winning it.

Scott Stallings– So far this season Stallings had played really well making three cuts in three events with a T21 at the Frys.com and a T19 at the CIMB Classic. Stallings showed that he can close out a tournament by winning the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. He is currently ranked 16th in strokes gained putting, which is a crucial statistic on the Plantation course at Kapalua, because the greens are enormous. Lag putting will be extremely important and I think Stallings will out play the field in that area. I look for Stallings to place in the top 15% of the field this weekend, and have a shot at the Top 5, which would make for a successful selection for fantasy golf purposes for his price.

 

Top Fades:

 

Bubba Watson– There are several reasons we are fading Bubba Watson this week. First, he is the most recognizable player in the field and also the odds on favorite, which will make the one of the most, if not the most selected player this week. We don’t advocate to go against the popular plays just for that reason alone, but if we feel the golfer will not play up to expectations, it makes for a good time to pick against the majority. In daily games on Draftkings and Draftday Bubba is the highest priced player and gives us further reason to look further. Finally, I saw an interview with Bubba and the interviewer asked how much golf he had been playing lately, and his response was “honestly not much”. He has been taking time away from the game and working on the adoption of another child. All of those reasons together makes Bubba Watson an easy fade this week.

Hunter Mahan– This guy is on my guys to fade list more than he isn’t. His results rarely live up to his talent or expectations. Outside of his Barclays tournament win, Mahan underperformed expectations most of last year. In 25 events played he missed 5 cuts and a withdraw on top of that, with only 6 top 10s Because of his talent and history Mahan will always be a popular pick and will be priced with the upper echelon of players on daily sites. I know I referenced an interview for Bubba Watson, and I don’t make my selections based solely upon what golfer say, but this was another interview that stood out to me. The interviewer asked Mahan what his goals and expectations for the year were. I am paraphrasing, but he basically said he just wanted to appreciate how great his life was and enjoy every day since he is so lucky to be a professional golfer. Not exactly the words of a guy who wants to rip apart the PGA tour. If he wants to be happy placing middle of the pack in tournaments, good for him, but I will not be selecting him any time soon and for sure not in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

Matt Jones– Jones is suffering from hand-foot-and mouth disease. I have never experienced this illness, but from what I have read it is extremely uncomfortable and painful. Not sure how you could be on top of your game, while suffering from this so I am going to fade him.

Kevin Stadler– Stadler is ranked first in strokes gained tee-to-green, which is important to me, however he is still suffering from a wrist injury. He withdrew from the Pro-am event on Thursday. Apparantely, he is going to try and fight through the discomfort and play, but I am concerned that it might get too bad and he might withdraw like he did at the WGC HSBC in the fall. At the very least it will be bothersome enough for him not to be a factor.

Jeff Bergerson
By Jeff Bergerson January 8, 2015 17:43

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