The Kapalua Resort, Hawaii hosts the first PGA Tour event of 2015 with the traditional Hyundai Tournament of Champions. The field is comprised of PGA tour winners from the previous season, and 34 of the 38 qualifiers are set to compete this week at the Plantation Course. This week sees the return of some familiar faces such as 3 time champion Geoff Ogilvy, Masters Champion Bubba Watson and 2014 Champion Zach Johnson- competing in his 7th straight year. There are also twelve first time winners are in the field this week, and in recent years the course has shown that experience counts. The Tournament of Champions hasn’t seen a first time winner since back in 2008, when Daniel Chopra triumphed. But will that be the case this week? We look at the week’s top picks.
Jimmy Walker is coming off the back of a career (FedEx Cup) year, he won his first PGA tour event and went on to win another two last year. He also managed to 10- top 10s for the season, and finished second on the final Fedex Cup standings. In the fall series, Walker managed one top 10 finish, with a T4 at the Shriners. In last year’s event he finished T21, and that experience will serve him well going into this week. In a small field he offers a decent price for a win at 16/1.
Russell Henley qualified for his second straight Hyundai Tournament of Champions via his win at The Honda Classic, where he fought of Russell Knox, Ryan Palmer and Rory Mcllroy in a playoff. Hawaii has been a happy hunting ground for Henley, who become the first rookie to win in his first start as an official member since Garrett Willis. His first visit to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions didn’t go to plan finishing 27, but as recent history has shown first time players struggle, and I expect Henley to be in serious contention this week. At 30/1 he offers fantastic value in a 34 man field.
Hideki Matsuyama first PGA tour career victory came at Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial Tournament, and what a tournament to get your first win! The win made him the youngest winner in history of the Memorial Tournament at the age of 22, surpassing Tiger Woods. Matsuyama ranks 16th on the World Golf rankings, and will be one of the highest ranked golfers in the field. Although this will be his first visit to the Plantation Course, I expect big things from him and potentially his 2nd PGA tour title! He is currently at 14/1 to take the title.
Patrick Reed had a stellar 2014, where he racked up 2 wins including a WGC Cadilliac Championship. He and Jordan Speith were one of only a few bright spots on a losing Team USA at last year’s Ryder Cup. In his first start to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Reed finished a respectable T16th. Reed is paying 18/1 this week, which is pretty good odds given his interesting comments in a press conference following his WGC victory. Reed was quoted as saying “It’s just one of those things, I believe in myself and – especially with how hard I’ve worked – I’m one of the top five players in the world”