Picking winners in golf is tough—perhaps the toughest sport to cash outright wagers. Usually tournaments have 156 players, and there are so many variables each week. That’s why it’s imperative to trust the right information—and in addition to our anonymous tour caddie making picks from the range each week, we have three of the best data scientists in the industry, Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com; Pat Mayo of Mayo Media Network, DraftKings and Fantasy National, and Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel. Also, Lee Alldrick of the incredibly usefull FanShareSports.com helps us find the best value in the odds every week.
This week, it seems to be a consensus that the winner will come from one of the favorites. That’s how it’s happened the past few years—Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth (during peak Spieth years) are the last five winners. And other than Spieth, that great course form returns to Kapalua this year in an expanded field with 16 players who didn’t win last year but were invited because they made the 2020 Tour Championship in the tour’s new provisions.
So how do you make the tough decisions at the 2021 Sentry Tournament of Champions? Read to see who we like this week.
Sentry Tournament of Champions 2021 picks: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions (Odds from FanDuel)
Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Justin Thomas (+750, bet $10 to win $75) — DJ aside, nobody’s walking into 2020 with more confidence but determination than JT. A bunch of his close calls from 2020—particularly the playoff loss to Collin Morikawa at Workday—are really firing him up for a big year. With his wins here in 2017 and 2020, he’s walking around Kapalua like he owns it. And c’mon, if Stuart Appleby and Geoff Ogilvy were capable of winning here back to back, JT absolutely can.
Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Justin Thomas (+750) — This course is tailored to all of JT’s strengths. Over the past 100 rounds, no player in the field is better than JT in strokes gained/approach, Opportunities Gained (Fantasy National’s measurement of how many birdie chances from 15 feet or closer players give themselves) and par-4 scoring. Hence his two victories and tie for third the past four years at Kapalua. Plus, we know his game’s in a good place after trouncing the other families at the PNC with his dad.
Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Xander Schauffele (11-1) — Schauffele nearly repeated as champion here last year before losing in a playoff. I always put the data first, but Schauffele is always locked in when playing in Hawaii. Of course, though, the data is there. Xander ranks in the top 12 in both strokes gained/off the tee and in strokes gained/approach over the past 100 rounds, via FantasyNational.com. He’s worst when putting on Bermuda of all the surfaces, but is still positive there, and he is, frankly, the most well-rounded golfer in the field when adjusting for fields he’s played in.
Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Bryson DeChambeau (11-1) — It’s a little jarring to see the reigning U.S. Open champion saddled with odds this long in a short field. The distance advantage for DeChambeau will certainly come in handy, but that’s not the big selling point. His putter is actually the big edge at Kapalua. DeChambeau has improved his putting stats in each of the last three years, culminating in his gain of 0.66 strokes per round on the greens, the best mark of his career in 2020. With the large green complexes at Kapalua, three-putts are always lurking. DeChambeau should be able to control the damage on the greens and roll in plenty of birdies when given the opportunity.
Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest deputy managing editor: Bryson DeChambeau (11-1) — Sure, Bryson got his U.S. Open victory in 2020. But the Masters must’ve left a bad taste in his mouth. He must want to prove a point in 2021. I love him because of his distance, but even more because of his putting. He doesn’t get enough credit for his flat-stick prowess—he’s second in this field in strokes gained/putting over the past 100 rounds and ninth in three-putt avoidance. And c’mon, Bryson was 8-1 to win the Masters—and now he’s 11-1 to win a 42-man field? This number’s too attractive to pass on.
Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Patrick Reed (16-1) — Reed’s past record at Kapalua (runner-up last year, sixth in 2018, runner-up in 2016, win in 2015) and his strong run to end 2020 (13th at U.S. Open, 14th at Zozo, 10th at Masters) are enough for me to back him here. He loves this course, loves playing in the wind—and would love nothing more than to start off a Ryder Cup year with a win.
Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Jon Rahm (+850) — Due to his elite off-the-tee game and around-the-green prowess, Rahm ranks seventh in FanShare’s course-suitability metric this week. He also ranks first in the field for SG/tee to green over the last two months and second in Opportunities Gained, per FantasyNational.com.
Results from last season: Golf Digest’s betting panel predicted 14 winners correctly. On outright winners, top-10 bets and matchups won and lost, our panel went up 225.30 units (the equivalent of being up $2,253 if you wagered $10 on all of our bets) last season. Our anonymous tour caddie nailed Viktor Hovland (25-1) to finish 2020 strong. Last season, Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel correctly picked Patrick Cantlay at the Zozo Championship (30-1) and Christopher Powers predicted Bryson DeChambeau (28-1 at the U.S. Open)—picking up the momentum we had in the 2019-20 season. Be sure to check this column every week for picks from the hottest betting panel in golf!
Sentry Tournament of Champions 2021 picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win
Caddie: Jason Kokrak (75-1) — Kokrak doesn’t get enough credit for how good his game is now overall. Yes, he bombs the ball—maybe just a tick behind the Brysons and DJs, but at that next level. And his irons are really good. It’s always the putter with him. He’s a better Bentgrass guy, but I still think he can strike it well enough here to contend.
Mayo: Adam Scott (45-1) — Approach play—especially wedges—are the key to Kapalua. Well, that and putting. Scott’s got a lock on the first part. The second? Just an average week should have him contention. But this is all about the price. For a player of Scott’s caliber, seeing his odds inflated like this are kind of shocking in a small field.
Gdula: Daniel Berger (32-1) — Berger hasn’t played Kapalua in two years, but he had two top-15 finishes prior. In the field, only four golfers rank in the 50th percentile or better in four key stats this week (strokes gained/off the tee, strokes gained/approach, driving distance gained, and strokes gained/putting on Bermuda over the past 100 rounds). Berger, of course, is one of those four. The others are Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Xander Schauffele. He’s in good company from a statistical fit.
Gehman: Jason Kokrak (75-1) — Kokrak finished 2020 in a flurry, notching top-20s in six of his final nine events. The caliber of tournaments in that stretch is even more impressive. He finished T-13 and T-6 at two playoff events, T-17 at each the U.S. Open and Zozo Championship, and he won the CJ Cup. Those are the world’s best players in those fields, and Kokrak routinely outperformed many of them. His distance off the tee and ability to get hot with the putter should be a recipe for success at the Plantation Course.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Daniel Berger (32-1) — These odds are just too high for the 13th-ranked golfer in the world. I don’t think it’s a week for longshots, so Berger and Joaquin Niemann (35-1) are as high as I’ll go.
Powers, Golf Digest: Cameron Champ (40-1) — While you do have to think your way around Kapalua a little bit, it’s still a bomber’s paradise. That should serve Champ well (14th here last year in his first appearance). I think he makes the proverbial leap in 2021, though he’ll have to be much more consistent with his approach play, which steadily improved late in the fall and led to an eighth at Zozo and a T-19 in his first career Masters. You can find this at 60-1 on DraftKings Sportsbook, and act quickly because the line is moving.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Sebastian Munoz (80-1) — Munoz is ninth in the field in SG/tee to green over the past two months and 12th in Opportunities Gained. The course also really suits his game—we have him ranked fourth in our course-suitability ranking this week.
Sentry Tournament of Champions 2021 picks: Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)
Caddie: Bryson DeChambeau (11-1) — Golf’s Incredible Bulk will probably drive the 12th green every day … with a fairway wood. But there’s more to Kapalua than just smashing it. There are places to get in trouble here. And prominently, it’s a wedge fest. Bryson’s inconsistencies last year came from mediocre approach play—I need to see proof that he’s figured that part out.
Mayo: Viktor Hovland (22-1) — I love Vik, but he’s being priced with the elites now, and first-timers basically never fare all that well in their first trip to Kapalua.
Gdula: Hideki Matsuyama (18-1) — It’s usually hard to nitpick fields like this at the top, but Hideki isn’t someone I’ll be getting behind this week. He’s just middling in driving distance relative to this field and is the worst Bermuda putter among the 42 in action. The current form is good, but it’s just too short a number for me.
Gehman: Jon Rahm (+850) — It’s difficult to fade the No. 2 player in the world, but these odds are too short for a golfer I have two small concerns about. Rahm will be debuting his new Callaway clubs in competition for the first time. While I’m certain Rahm has been getting dialed in with his new sticks, it’s always a bit different the first tournament. Additionally, I think Rahm thrives on more difficult golf courses. His two wins last year were at Muirfield Village and Olympia Fields, which are extremely tough tests. Historically, this event has been a birdie fest, which might blur the line between some of the more talented players in the field.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Dustin Johnson (6-1) — I’m surprised I’m alone on this island. But I’m convinced DJ’s game isn’t quite as sharp as it was before the Masters—he deservedly enjoyed some time off to celebrate the biggest win of his life. I’ll be ready to bet him at Torrey, Pebble or Riviera—but other guys will simply be more motivated here.
Powers, Golf Digest: Viktor Hovland (22-1) — The Mayakoba victory now has him priced shorter than guys like Tony Finau, Collin Morikawa and Daniel Berger. I’d rather have one of those guys, all of whom should be highly motivated, at a better price than a guy who will probably just be happy to be in Hawaii among the game’s elite.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Patrick Cantlay (20-1) — This isn’t a course that suits Cantlay’s game at all; he only just sneaks into the top 20 of a 42-man field for course suitability. He also has the seventh-worst ranking for Opportunities Gained over the past two months.
Sentry Tournament of Champions 2021 picks: Matchups
Caddie: Justin Thomas (-136) over Bryson DeChambeau (DraftKings) — You already read why I like JT this week as my pick to win. And fading Bryson makes perfect sense. This is a wedge fest, and I haven’t seen enough consistency from Bryson’s approach game to be confident backing him here.
Mayo: Hideki Matsuyama (+130) over Xander Schauffele (DraftKings) — Since Hideki hasn’t won an event since 2017, you may have forgotten this fact: In three starts from 2015 through 2018, Matsuyama never finished worse than T-4 at Kapalua, gaining at least 7.3 strokes/tee to green in each start. Guess what, Hideki doesn’t have to win here—he just needs to beat Xander Schauffele. A tough task, but we’re getting plus-money on it.
Gdula: Webb Simpson (-110) over Viktor Hovland (FanDuel) — Neither Simpson nor Hovland rate as particularly long drivers, but despite that, Simpson has four top-12 finishes at Kapalua in his career, including a T-8 in 2019. Simpson’s lack of length can be overcome if he’s striping his long irons and fairway woods. Hovland has a win and a third on his resume in December, but his win at El Camaleon was a very different setup than Kapalua. Simpson has an edge almost everywhere in this matchup.
Gehman: Cameron Smith (-120) over Adam Scott (DraftKings) — In this battle of Aussies, Smith gets the nod. There are just too many unknowns from Scott, who played only six times after the tour returned in June. He didn’t crack the top 20 in any of those events, while Smith took his game to a new level. He improved his finish in each of his final four events of 2020, posting four consecutive top-24s—culminating with a T-2 at the Masters.
Hennessey: Justin Thomas (+100) over Dustin Johnson (FanDuel) — I love Mayo’s matchup, too, as Schauffele has admitted that he’s playing fatigued this week after battling COVID-19 over the holidays. But I’m putting my money where my mouth is with my fade of DJ. It’s safe to say JT has spent A LOT more time on the range grinding over the past couple of weeks than DJ, who’s rightfully been enjoying the Masters celebration. This is probably a continuation of that vacation for DJ, whereas this is more of a business trip for JT.
Powers: Collin Morikawa (+105) over Viktor Hovland (DraftKings) — As you can see, Hovland is getting so much love off that Mayakoba win that he’s favored over arguably the best iron player in the world at a course where great iron players thrive. I’m happy to take Morikawa as the dog in this fight.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Hideki Matsuyama (-105) over Patrick Cantlay (FanDuel) — As you can see above, I don’t fancy Cantlay’s chances this week. Matsuyama on the other hand should go extremely well. He ranks second for strokes gained/total on similar courses to Kapalua and also comes in ranked 12th for strokes gained/tee to green over the past two months.
Matchup Results from Mayakoba: Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Harold Varner III (+100) over Alex Noren); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Corey Conners (-110) over Rickie Fowler); Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Joaquin Niemann (-110) over Will Zalatoris); Gehman: 1 for 1 (Russell Knox (-118) over Alex Noren); Caddie: 1 for 1 (Daniel Berger (-125) over Brooks Koepka); Mayo, Powers: 0 for 1.
Matchup Results this season: Alldrick: 10 for 12 (up 7.04 units); Hennessey: 7-1-3 (up 3.20 units); Gdula: 6 for 12 (down 0.38 units); Mayo: 5 for 12 (down 2.23 units); Powers: 3-3-6 (down 3.18 units); Caddie: 3-1-9 (down 3.56 units); Gehman: 4 for 12 (down 4.13 units).
Sentry Tournament of Champions 2021 picks: Top 10 (odds from DraftKings Sportsbook)
Caddie: Patrick Reed (+110) — There’s no such thing as a “hit and giggle” to Patrick Reed. He’s a bulldog who wants to win anytime there’s a trophy and money up for grabs. And Reed lost in a playoff last year—that’s even more motivation for him to contend this week. This is a sure-fire bet.
Mayo: Marc Leishman (+275) — Let’s hope we see the version of Leishman we saw at the Masters, where he said he was hitting it better than he had in months. Before that, Leishman struggled mightily after the restart, but he has recaptured his game, he returns to a course where he has top-10s in his past two appearances. So the odds are right.
Gdula: Sebastian Munoz (+550) — No-cut and strong-field events allow the best of the best to rise to the top, so longshots appeal more to me as top-10 options than outrights. Munoz is a well-rounded golfer who has flashed big birdie potential in recent events. He’s near field average in both ball-striking stats (plus distance), and he putts well on Bermuda.
Gehman: Hideki Matsuyama (+125) — Matsuyama is gearing up for a huge 2021, motivated by the opportunity to compete in the Olympics in his home country. There’s no better place to kick off this campaign than the Tournament of Champions, an event where Matsuyama has played three times. He’s finished no worse than T-4 in any of those starts, the best average finish of anyone in this field. Matsuyama will look to carry his momentum from a T-2 at the Houston Open and T-13 at Augusta National, his final two events of 2020, into 2021.
Hennessey, Golf Digest: Patrick Reed (+110) — These aren’t great odds, but our anonymous tour caddie convinced me to build a hefty wager down on this. He’s getting some of my money outright, too.
Powers, Golf Digest: Brian Gay (14-1) — Admittedly throwing a dart here, but why not take the highest top-10 odds you can get in a 42-man field? And it’s not like he won last February and hasn’t done anything since. He just won for the first time in nearly eight years in November, he loves Bermuda, and he is an excellent wind player. It smells like a decent recipe for a backdoor top-10 that could wipe out all your NFL Wild Card weekend losses late Sunday evening.
Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Sergio Garcia (+400) — Just like his fellow countryman, Garcia is another player whose elite off-the-tee game gives him a huge advantage around this course. We have the Spaniard ranked second on FanShare’s course-suitability ranking, and he comes in ranked fourth for SG/tee to green over the past two months.
Top-10 results from Mayakoba: Gehman: 1 for 1 (Brendon Todd, +500)
Top 10 results from this season: Gehman: 4 for 12 (up 16 units); Powers: 1 for 12 (up 2 units); Hennessey: 1 for 12 (down 6 units); Tour caddie: 2 for 12 (down 6.95 units); Alldrick: 0 for 11 (down 11 units); Mayo, Gdula: 0 for 12 (down 12 units each).
Gehman: Patrick Reed — Reed has proven to be a “big game hunter.” Of his eight wins on the PGA Tour, two have been playoff events, two have been WGC events, one was the Masters and one has been this very event. After his victory in 2015, he has finished runner-up on two other occasions, including last year. This might be one of the more natural fits to deploy Reed for One and Done purposes.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Joel Dahmen; U.S. Open: Jon Rahm; Corales: Denny McCarthy. Sanderson: Sebastian Munoz. Shriners: Matthew Wolff. CJ Cup: Xander Schauffele. Zozo: Bubba Watson. Bermuda: Rasmus Hojgaard. Houston: Lanto Griffin. Masters: Rory McIlroy. RSM: Webb Simpson. Mayakoba: Viktor Hovland (pretty decent!).
Hennessey: Justin Thomas — I’m saving Bryson for Rocket Mortgage, so I’ll go with my second pick out of the favorites here. It’d frankly be shocking if he doesn’t finish in the top five.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Phil Mickelson; U.S. Open: Hideki Matsuyama; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Harris English. CJ Cup: Kevin Na. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Doc Redman. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Tyrrell Hatton. RSM: Brian Harman. Mayakoba: Abraham Ancer.
Powers: Harris English — Great wind player. Great Bermuda player. Playing lights out since the restart, with just two missed cuts in 15 starts and four finishes inside the top six.
Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Brendan Steele; U.S. Open: Louis Oosthuizen; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Jason Kokrak. CJ Cup: Daniel Berger. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Denny McCarthy. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Bubba Watson. RSM: Brian Harman. Mayakoba: Corey Conners.
Courtesy of Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com:
2.09 — The average strokes gained, per round, for Dustin Johnson in 2020. It was the most of any golfer on the PGA Tour, and he was the only golfer to eclipse +1.90 per round.
2 — The number of golfers who can win the Tournament of Champions as their first PGA Tour win. With the missed events from 2020, all participants of the Tour Championship were invited to Kapalua. Abraham Ancer and Scottie Scheffler could have the rare distinction of getting their first win in an event created for champions.
12 — The number of consecutive events that Xander Schauffele has finished inside the top-25. That streak goes back to the RBC Heritage in June.
22.6 — The average number of strokes under par by the winner of this event in the last five years. Justin Thomas won last year at 14 under, the worst score during that stretch.
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, owner of the Mayo Media Network and host of The Pat Mayo Experience. (Subscribe for video or audio. Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.
Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year *(congrats, Brandon!)*. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.
Rick Gehman is the founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.
Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.