Justin Thomas defends Sentry Tournament of Champions

The PGA Tour restarts this week with the winners only event at Kapalua in Hawaii

Justin Thomas defends Sentry Tournament of Champions
Justin Thomas defends Sentry Tournament of Champions
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The PGA Tour restarts this week with 34 of the circuit’s best doing battle over the Plantation Course at Kapalua in Hawaii. Justin Thomas defends the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

An impressive field has travelled to Hawaii to contest the first PGA Tour event of 2018. Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and Rickie Fowler are among those teeing it up in the Sentry Tournament of Champions. All the participants are tournament winners on the PGA Tour from last season.

Of the 37 players eligible to play in the event this year, only three won’t start – Europeans Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia and Henrik Stenson. With 34 on the start sheet, this will equal the highest participation ever in the year’s opening PGA event.

Stenson swing sequence:

Three of 2017’s Major winners will tee it up – Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas. World Number 1 Dustin Johnson will also start.

14 players will make their debuts at Kapalua this week, among them are: Tour Champion Xander Schauffele and Spain’s Jon Rahm.

The Plantation Course at Kapalua is a Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore design and it opened for play in 1991. It’s a relatively gentle layout although the wind can play a significant role here. If the breeze stays away, look for a winning total in the mid 20s under par. Last year, Justin Thomas took the title with a winning score of 22-under and the year before Jordan Spieth won at 30-under.

This event began life in 1953 as simply the “Tournament of Champions” and was won that year by Al Besselink. Since then the event, as you might expect, has produced some notable winners – Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Lee Trevino, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have all tasted victory in the tournament.

Last year, Justin Thomas held off Hideki Matsuyama to win his first PGA Tour event on U.S. soil. It sparked an incredible year for Thomas in which he won four further events on the PGA Tour, including the USPGA Championship. He also won the FedEx Cup.

There’s a new sponsor for the event this year. Sentry Insurance has taken on the role through 2022.

The weather looks standard for this event with moderate winds forecast to test the players. Having said that, it should be sunny and dry and a generally pleasant start to the 2018 professional golfing year.

Venue: Plantation Course at Kapalua, Kapalua, Maui, Hawaii Date: Jan 4-7 Course stats: par 73, 7,452 yards Purse: $6,300,000 Defending champion: Justin Thomas (-22)

TV Coverage: Thursday 7 – Sky Sports Golf from 11pm Friday 8 – Sky Sports Golf from 11pm Saturday 9 – Sky Sports Golf from 8pm Sunday 10 – Sky Sports Golf from 11pm

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Player Watch:

Rickie Fowler – He finished 2017 strongly with a win in the Hero Challenge. He has a good record in this event with tied 6th and tied 5th place finishes in his last two starts.

Jordan Spieth – He loves this course and his record is excellent. His last three results in the event are 2nd, 1st and tied 3rd. He also comes into the event with six straight top-10s on the PGA Tour.

Marc Leishman – The Australian has only played in this event once before and only managed a tie for 23rd. But he’s a great ball striker and a fine wind player – If it gusts, he could well contend.

Key hole: 18th. The closing hole at Kapalua is a striking downhill par-5 measuring 663 yards. Despite its length, it’s reachable in two because of the slope and the prevailing wind. There are often some enormous drives on this one, over 400 yards.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?