After a break for the holidays, the PGA Tour continues the 2022-23 season with the 71st Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort and Spa on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
Cameron Smith of Australia won the tournament last year but will not be playing because he has jumped the PGA Tour fir LIC Golf, and top-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland also has decided to skip the first tournament of the new year, along with Shane Lowry of Ireland.
That probably makes the favorite eighth-ranked Justin Thomas (pictured), who won at Kapalua in a playoff over Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed in 2020, and also won by three strokes over Hideki Matsuyama of Japan in 2017.
“I always love starting off my year on the Plantation Course at Kapalua,” Thomas said on Twitter. “The Troon team here has the course looking perfect as usual and the staff here (like at all Troon locales) go above and beyond. Looking forward to a great week at Kapalua.
“ … It’s just so much fun, it really is. The course is fun. You can make a lot of birdies on it. The limited field is nice. The rounds go by fast playing in twosomes. It’s just a laid-back vibe. People aren’t really grinding and practicing after their rounds. You just kind of finish up and go to the beach or go to the pool, and it’s great places to eat, which is always enjoyable. There’s really nothing negative about this tournament.
“It’s just a new year with new opportunities.”
Also in the field are most of the top 10 in the World Golf Rankings, including second-ranked Scottie Scheffler, fourth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA, fifth-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, seventh-ranked Will Zalatoris, ninth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England and 10th-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway.
Zalatoris will be playing for the first time since he withdrew from the BMW Championship during the 2022 FedEx Cup playoffs because of herniated discs in his back, one week after he claimed his first PGA Tour victory by beating Sepp Straka of Austria in a playoff at the FedEx St. Jude Championship.
The only other former winners of the Sentry TOC in the field this week are Schauffele in 2019 and Jordan Spieth in 2016.
The Sentry Tournament of Champions was first played in 1953, when Al Besselink claimed the title, and other winners over the years include Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Sam Snead, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Johnny Miller, Tiger Woods, Gene Littler, Lanny Wadkins, Phil Mickelson, Davis Love III, Ernie Els, David Duval, Vijay Singh, Dustin Johnson, Tom Kite and Zach Johnson.
In most years, only winners from the previous season are included in the field, but in 2023 there will be 10 non-winners who finished in the top 30 of the FedEx Cup standings, including Hovland, Scott Stallings, Cameron Young, Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal, Corey Conners of Canada, Sahith Theegala of Chino Hills and Pepperdine, Adam Scott of Australia, Aaron Wise of Lake Elsinore and Oregon, Brian Harman and Sungjae Im of South Korea.
As usual, the PGA Tour will start the new year with two events in Hawaii, with the Sony Open in Hawaii scheduled for next week at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
1. Justin Thomas, United States – JT claimed two of his 15 PGA Tour victories at Kapalua in 2017 and 2020, among five top-10 finishes in the tournament in the last six years, including third twice. Thomas won the PGA Championship for the second time last year, among 10 finishes in the top 10. He was eighth in the FedEx Cup standings, tying for fifth in the Tour Championship.
2. Jon Rahm, Spain – Ran his total of pro victories around the world to 15 last year by winning the Mexico Open at Vidanta and the Acciona Open de Espana, while recording 13 top 10s on the PGA Tour, but was a disappointing 16th in the FedEx Cup standings. Rahm has five straight top 10s at Kapalua, including second in 2018 and second again last year with a 61 in round three.
3. Scottie Scheffler, United States – Lost the No. 1 world ranking to Rory McIlroy late last year after claiming his first four victories on the PGA Tour, including the Masters, among 11 finishes in the top 10 to wind up second in the FedEx Cup Standings. Scheffler made his debut in the Sony Tournament of Champions last season and recorded a tie for 13th with a 66 in round two.
4. Xander Schauffele, United States – The 2021 Olympic Gold Medalist in Japan ran his victory total on the PGA Tour to seven last season by winning the Zurich, the Travelers and the Genesis Scottish Open among seven top-10 finishes that left him fourth in the FedEx Cup standings. Schauffele closed with 62 to win the 2019 Sentry TOC, was second in 2020 and fifth in 2021.
5. Viktor Hovland, Norway – Captured the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba last season for his third PGA Tour victory and repeated as winner of the unofficial Hero World Challenge in December. Hovland had 10 finishes in the top 10 and ranked 15th in the FedEx Cup standings. Only tied for 31st in the 2021 Sentry TOC and tied for 30th last year.
6. Patrick Cantlay, United States – Started the new season with a tie for second in the Shriners Children’s Open with a 60 in round three after winning the Zurich and the BMW Championship last season. Cantlay’s 12 results in the top 10 left him sixth in the final FedEx Cup point standings. He tied for fourth in the Sentry TOC both last year and in 2020 among four top 15s.
7. Sungjae Im, South Korea – Claimed his second PGA Tour victory in the Shriners Children’s Open last year and finished second three times among nine results in the top 10 to wind up second in the FedEx Cup standings after tying for second in the Tour Championship. Im has eight rounds in the 60s at Kapalua after tying for fifth in 2020 and tying for eighth last season.
8. Collin Morikawa, United States – Trying to climb back into the top 10 of the world rankings after slipping to No. 11, Morikawa failed to win on the PGA Tour for the first time in four years last season, but did have eight top-10 finishes including two seconds and was 21st in the FedEx Cup standings. Tied for fifth in the Sentry TOC last year after ties for seventh in 2020 and 2021.
9. Jordan Spieth, United States – Rebounded from a slump last year by claiming his 13th PGA Tour victory in the RBC Heritage and finishing second at Pebble Beach and in the Byron Nelson among six top 10s to finish 13th in the FedEx Cup standings. Spieth won the Sony Tournament of Champions in 2016 after finishing second two years earlier and has two other top 10s results.
10. Tom Kim, South Korea – The 20-year-old took the PGA Tour by storm last season and has claimed victories in the Wyndham Championship last season and the Shriners Children’s Open in the new campaign. Kim had six other top 25s in an abbreviated season and was 35th in the FedEx Cup standings, missing the playoffs by five spots. Making his debut in the Sentry TOC.
PLAYERS TO WATCH: Tony Finau, United States; Matt Fitzpatrick, England; Max Homa, United States; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Will Zalatoris, United States; Seamus Power, Ireland; Sahith Theegala, United States; Corey Conners, Canada; Cameron Young, United States; Sam Burns, United States.
1. K.H. Lee, South Korea – Won the AT&T Byron Nelson the last two years for his first two PGA Tour titles to give him six as a pro. T-33 in Sentry TOC debut last year, closing with 69-67.
2. Adam Svensson, Canada – Earned his first PGA Tour victory and fourth as a pro in the RSM Classic in November by finishing 64-62-64. Svensson is making his debut in the Sentry TOC.
3. Chad Ramey, United States – Claimed his first PGA Tour victory and second as a pro by finishing 65-69-67 last season in the Corales Punta Cana Open. Also makes Sentry TOC debut.
4. Luke List, United States – After two titles on the Korn Ferry Tour, List won on the PGA Tour for the first time in the 2022 Farmers Insurance Open. He is another first-timer in the Sony TOC.
5. Ryan Brehm, United States – Won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour and claimed his first PGA Tour victory last season in the Puerto Rico Open. Also will make his first start in the Sony TOC.
For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html