The Sentry Tournament of Champions is the first PGA Tour event of 2021 so can Steve bag a long odds winner to kick the year off in style?
"This is Leishman’s fourth appearance at Kapalua, and he’s already shown quite a liking for the venue. Having finished down the field in 23rd on debut back in 2013, he contended in each of his next two starts."
The Sentry Tournament of Champions is a tough assignment to kick off 2021 for the Find Me a 100 Winner column. As many as three of the last five winners went off at a single-figure price and we have to go all the way back to 2011 for the last time an outsider took the title.
Jonathan Byrd was generally a 50/1 on the High Street but he was matched at a high of 80.079/1 on the exchange and prior to his win, the only other fairly big outsider to take the title was Daniel Chopra in 2008, but he was matched at no bigger than 90.089/1.
In 22 years, we're yet to see a triple-figure priced winner here and there'll be better weeks ahead for sure, when we'll have two or more tournaments to choose from, with events that throw up more than their fair share of monster-price winners, but I'm still happy to go to war with a couple of rags. Remember, they don't have to win, they only need to trade short.
Course form points to prolific Aussie
Although the last ten winners have been American, as Dave Tindall highlights when making a case for Cameron Smith in his each-way column, Australians have fared well here in the past. An Aussie won five of the seven editions between 2004 and 2010 and I'm happy to chance another here at a monster price.
Several players performed poorly after the initial lockdown last year, when we didn't have any golf played between the beginning of March and the middle of June, and one player to really struggle was Marc Leishman, who had to wait until the US Masters in November, where he finished an encouraging 13th, to record his first top-20 after the break.
Prior to the lockdown, Leishman had won the Farmers Insurance Open last January and he'd finished second in the Arnold Palmer Invitational - the final event before lockdown - but that was no surprise. He often plays well early in the year and he has a 50% top-ten strike rate in the month of January.
It's impossible to make a case for Leishman on his post lockdown and pre-Christmas form but he hasn't telegraphed any of his previous five PGA Tour titles and the break could easily have refreshed and refocused him.
This is Leishman's fourth appearance at Kapalua, and he's already shown a liking for the venue. Having finished down the field in 23rd on debut back in 2013, he contended in each of his next two starts.
Having led after rounds one and two in 2018 and having been matched at a low of 3.7511/4 in-running, a 76 in round three saw him tumble down to 12th with a round to go but he rallied to finish seventh and he was fourth two years ago on his only other outing here. He clearly likes the venue and he's shown form at another low scoring course by the same design team...
The Plantation Course at Kapalua was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw and they were also responsible for Trinity Forest in Texas where Leishman finished runner-up to Aaron Wise in 2018. Despite having no form coming into the event, Leishman led the Byron Nelson there after rounds one, two and three before getting collared in round four.
Leishman is no bigger than 80/1 on the High Street so the 140.0139/1 available on the exchange makes plenty of appeal.
Lively longshot Laird to enjoy Kapalua return
Martin Laird must have thought he'd seen the last of Kapalua given he hadn't won on the PGA Tour since 2013 but it wouldn't have been long after his surprise victory at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in October before thoughts of this week came to mind.
In three previous visits, following his three previous PGA Tour wins, Laird has finished fourth, second and 20th here so he'll be relishing a return and he can't be dismissed lightly.
As highlighted in the preview, a fast start is very important here so if the 38-year-old Arizona-based Scotsman can navigate the high winds on Thursday and post a decent first round score again (sat second after the opening round on each of his last two visits), he could be nicely poised.
I'll be back on Friday with the In-Play Blog.
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