Sentry Tournament of Champions: DJ can hit the right notes in Hawaii

American Dustin Johnson can kick 2020 off with a win
American Dustin Johnson can kick 2020 off with a win

The first PGA Tour event of the calendar year takes us to Hawaii and Dave Tindall has three each-way selections...

"Johnson showed his desire to make another big impact by playing a practice round on Boxing Day morning. That made him the first player in the 34-man field to see the course changes."

Main Bet: Dustin Johnson each-way @ 10/1

While many of the big stars shone brightly in the final few months of 2019, Dustin Johnson was noticeably subdued.

Some modest play followed by knee surgery and rehab saw the former World No.1 slip to fifth in the world rankings and, normally, the American may have been happy enough to sign off for the year.

However, the Presidents Cup in Australia gave him a target and, despite losing his first two matches at Royal Melbourne, DJ hit back to score a key win alongside Gary Woodland in Saturday's foursomes before cruising to a 4&3 victory over Hao Tong Li in the Sunday singles.

"I played really well today. I hit the ball great," said Johnson after that latter victory, the USA's come-from-behind victory sending him home in good spirits.

It may be too much of an ask to immediately start winning on the PGA Tour but, then again, he's amassed 20 victories and achieved them on the back of a real mix of form.

Two of those wins have come at this week's track - The Plantation Course - and it's a venue he clearly loves.

Only once in his last six visits has Johnson finished outside the top six and that's an impressive body of work given that the field is always made of elite players who had to win to qualify.

As for this year's renewal, Johnson showed his desire to make another big impact by playing a practice round on Boxing Day morning.

That made him the first player in the 34-man field to see the changes implemented by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore.

His take? "I like it a lot. But it's definitely harder. It's a lot more difficult."

NBC and Golf Channel broadcaster Mark Rolfing has paid close attention to the revamp and told Golf Digest: "The course is even more of a second-shot golf course than it was before. There are more shelf areas.

"The PGA Tour wanted more hole locations. The greens were softened and you have some flatter areas, but those transitions are more severe. That puts a real premium on shot-making like it was more in the earlier days.

"There's more strategy than before. You can't just bomb it off every tee, either, because you want to set up that second shot."

Add in the windy forecast and this will certainly challenge the players although scoring won't be too low.

DJ can win with a range of scores and his 16-under total here which secured victory in 2013 is the highest since 2007.

He's excellent in the wind so nothing to fear there and, with a point to prove, I'm hoping he gets the bit between his teeth and gets it done at a double figure price.

Next Best: Paul Casey each-way @ 22/1

It's a very lively front end of the market and, in all likelihood, the trophy will be hoisted by one of the eight players quoted between 4/1 and 14/1.

They are: 4/1 Jon Rahm, 5/1 Justin Thomas, 8/1 defending champion Xander Schauffele, 10/1 DJ, 11/1 Patrick Cantlay, 12/1 Patrick Reed, Rickie Fowler, 14/1 Gary Woodland.

I've nailed my colours to Johnson but Thomas must have a huge chance. In fact, strong cases can be made for all of them, with the strong gusts helping Fowler's bid.

Woodland was runner-up last year and I'm close to putting him up although 14s is just a little tight.

It means, I'll jump down to the next cab off the rank which is Paul Casey at 22s.

Casey has played the course just twice, finishing T10 on debut in 2010 when shooting in the 60s in each of his final three rounds and T19 last year.

There's nothing outstanding about that but, if focus is put on this now being more of a second-shot course and the fact that it's gusty, Casey comes off the page a little more.

He's a back-to-back winner of the Valspar where the above two elements are to the fore and he also had the advantage of a recent outing having finished in the top five at the Australian Open (one back at halfway).

"This is business," he said at the Aussie Open, suggesting he wasn't just on a bit of a wind-down jolly and I'm hoping the extra competitive sharpness can fuel a good run at this.

A winner of the European Open in September, Casey could make a real mark and 22/1 is a little bigger than we might have got if he'd possessed a tad more course form.

Final Bet: Matt Kuchar each-way @ 40/1

A good performance here and Matt Kuchar is bound to be a fairly short price next week when he defends the Sony Open crown.

And, although plenty may be willing to wait and play those shorter odds on a course, Waialae, that seems far more suitable, Kuchar still has a decent record here and could run into a place.

Between 2010 and 2014, the American went 3-6-9-6 at this event and he closed with a 4-under 69 last year in his first start at the Plantation since 2015.

His form in the final months of 2019 was below what we've come to expect, the top ten machine coughing and spluttering and not doing what it says on the tin.

However, T14 at Mayakoba was only just outside the Kuchar norms and he fired a final-round 62.

The 'X' factor here is the Presidents Cup. Although he didn't win a match (halved three, lost one), it was Kuchar who got the United States over the line, coming from 3-down to tie with Louis Oosthuizen, his five-footer at 17 that meant he couldn't lose going into the history books as the moment that the won the cup.

"To make that putt and to have everybody there on 17 - I don't know how to explain the emotions," Kuchar said. "I was just leaping out of my skin with joy. To do that was such a thrill and something I'm hugely proud of."

Add in some feelgood factor to his course form and ability to play well in the wind and 40/1 could just turn out to be a decent each-way price.

Dave's 2019/20 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £334
Returned: £161.60
P/L: -£172.40

2018/2019 P/L: -£338.25
2017/2018 P/L: +£362.84
2016/2017 P/L: +£1179.89

Get a Free £/€20 Exchange Bet

  • Join Now - Open account using promo code VAL225
  • Bet - Place a £/€20 Bet on the Exchange
  • Earn We'll Refund You £/€20 If the Bet Loses

T&Cs apply.

Discover the latest articles

Read past articles