By TOM LaMARRE
The PGA Tour will open the new season on Thursday with the 71st edition of what is now known as The Sentry on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort on the Hawaiian island of Maui.
The circuit will remain in the islands next week for the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waikoloa Country Club in Honolulu on Oahu, before returning to the mainland in week three for The American Express on the Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA West in La Quinta, Calif.
Fourth-ranked Viktor Hovland of Norway leads the field this week at Kapalua after winning the Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta to claim the FedEx Cup at the end of last year, along with top-ranked Scottie Scheffler (pictured), fifth-ranked Patrick Cantlay, sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele, seventh-ranked Max Homa and eight-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England.
Other top players in the field include Collin Morikawa, Jordan Spieth, Tony Finau, Tom Kim of South Korea, Cam Davis of Australia, Sungjae Im of South Korea, Tommy Fleetwood of England, Ludvig Aberg of Sweden and Eric Cole.
“You’re always going to look back and know what this tournament represented and what it meant to myself and hopefully other players in the field, and what it’s means to the community,” said Morikawa, whose grandparents lived on Maui and owned a restaurant in Lahaina. “This week, I’ll always have the community of Lahaina, the community of Maui, in my head. And that’s going to push me to hopefully do great things this week.”
Jon Rahm of Spain and Cam Smith of Australia, the last two winners of the Sentry, are not in the field because they have been suspended by the PGA Tour for signing lucrative contracts with LIV Golf.
This tournament was first played as the Tournament of Champions in 1953 at Desert Inn Country Club in Las Vegas, where Al Besselink claimed the title.
Jack Nicklaus won the tournament a record five times, with Arnold Palmer, Tom Watson, Gene Littler and Stuart Appleby of Australia all with three victories, while Tiger Woods, Gary Player, Phil Mickelson, Tom Kite, Lanny Wadkins, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas among 11 others who have finished first in the event twice.
The tournament was known as the Sentry Tournament of Champions until this year, but the last past of the title was dropped because it no longer includes only winners from the previous season, as other top players who played well but did not win are now included.
There are 53 players in the field this week at Kapalua, where the tournament has been played since 1999.
1. Scottie Scheffler, United States – The top-ranked player in the World Golf Rankings has won six tournaments in the last two years, including the 2022 Masters and the 2023 Players, and last season he posted 18 finishes in the top 10. Scheffler is making his third appearance in The Sentry, and he tied for seventh last year at Kapalua after tying for 13th the season before.
2. Viktor Hovland, Norway – The fourth-ranked Hovland has won 10 times as a pro, including the Memorial Tournament, the BMW Championship and the Tour Championship last season among nine top-25 results to capture the FedEx Cup. He is making his fourth start in The Sentry and tied for 18th last year after tying for 30th in 2022 and tying for 31st the year before that.
3. Collin Morikawa, United States – Althoughhe has slipped out of the top 10, Morikawa is a favorite at Kapalua, and not only because his grandparents lived there. He has played in The Sentry four times, finishing second last year, tying for fifth in 2021 and tying for seventh each of the two previous seasons. He has seven PGA Tour victories, including the Zozo last October.
4. Xander Schauffele, United States –The sixth-ranked Schauffele has won seven times on the PGA Tour, including the 2019 Sentry by one stroke over Gary Woodland, one of his three top-10 finishes in the tournament in six starts. Even though he did not win last season, he had 12 results in the top 10, including second in the Tour Championship and the Wells Fargo Championship.
5. Patrick Cantlay, United States –An eight-time winner on the PGA Tour, the fifth-ranked Cantlay did not add to that total last year after winning five times in the previous two seasons. However, he recorded nine top-10 finishes, including second in the Shriner’s and the FedEx St. Jude. He finished solo fourth in The Sentry in 2020 and 2022, and has five straight top 20s.
6. Max Homa, United States – The seventh-ranked Homa won the Fortinet Championship and the Farmers early last season to give him six PGA Tour victories, and had 19 other finishes in he top 25 to climb in the rankings. One of those results was a tie for third in the Sentry TOC, in which he has played on three occasions, also tying for 15th in 2022 and tied for 25th in 2020.
7. Matt Fitzpatrick, England – The 2022 U.S. Open championat the Country Club in Brookline, Mass., claimed his 10th and 11th pro victories in the RBC Heritage on the PGA Tour and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the DP World Tour among 16 finishes in the top 25 last season. The eighth-ranked Fitzpatrick tied for seventh in his Sentry TOC debut last year.
8. Tom Kim, South Korea – The 21-year-old Kim already has won 12 times as a pro, including his third victory on the PGA Tour when he repeated his victory in the Shriner’s last season among 15 finishes in the top 25. That included a tie for second in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England. He tied for fifth in his Sentry TOC debut last season.
9. Jordan Spieth, United States – Bouncing back from a four-year slump, Spieth won the 2021 Valero Texas Open and the 2022 RBC Heritage to give him 13 PGA Tour victories, including three majors. He had 13 results in the top 25 last season, including second in defense of his title I the RBC Heritage. One of his victories came in the 2016 Sentry, in which he has four top 10s.
10. Ludvig Aberg, Sweden – A three-time winner in Europe, Aberg claimed his first PGA Tour victory in the Sanderson Farms Championship last season by making a birdie on the first playoff hole. That was one of his 10 finishes in the top 25 during the year, and he also won the Omega European Masters on the DP World Tour. He is making his debut this week in the Sentry TOC.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Tony Finau, United States; Tyrrell Hatton, England; Rickie Fowler, United States; Tommy Fleetwood, England; Sungjae Im, South Korea; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Jason Day, Australia; Sam Burns, United States; Wyndham Clark, United States; Corey Conners, United States.
1. Eric Cole, United States – Has won 12 times as a pro but is seeking his first PGA Tour victory after losing in a playoff at the Honda last season as a rookie. Cole is making his Sentry debut.
2. Vincent Norrman, Sweden – Claimed first PGA Tour victory in the opposite field Barbasol Championship last year, and also won the Horizon Irish Open. Also is making his Sentry debut.
3. Akshay Bhatia, United States – Won for the first time on the PGA Tour last year in the opposite field Barracuda Championship and was second in Puerto Rico Open. Sentry debut.
4. Nico Echavarria, Colombia – Has won four times as a professional, all in Latin American, including the Puerto Rico Open last season by two strokes. Yet another making Sentry debut.
5. Adam Schenk, United States – Schenk’s only two pro victories came on lower tours, including the 2017 Lincoln Land title on the Web.com Tour. He’s making his Sentry debut.
For first-round tee times and results once the tournament starts, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard