Golf Bets

Sentry Tournament of Champions Each-Way Tips: Harman can hit the heights

American Brian Harman
Brian Harman is Dave's headline pick

In-form Brian Harman can make his mark in the opening PGA Tour event of the calendar year, says Dave Tindall...

  • 40/1 Brian Harman has course and current form

  • 40/1 Adam Scott can add to the list of Aussie winners

  • Past winner Jordan Spieth looks overpriced at 28/1


Main Bet: Brian Harman each-way @ 41.040/1

So where were we?

That won't be a question next year as the Sentry Tournament of Champions will return to its previous position - and far more natural slot - as the opening event of the schedule.

But in this final wraparound season, this is the 10th tournament with FedEx Cup points up for grabs: 550 here compared to the 500 of the previous nine.

To refresh memories, the current No.1 in the FedEx Cup standings is Seamus Power (no, really), with Keegan Bradley, Mackenzie Hughes, Tom Kim and Brian Harman rounding out the top five.

Regular viewers/readers will be familiar with the spiel for this event. It's played on a par 73, the Plantation Course on Maui, which has five par 5s and five par 3s. The vastly undulating 7,596-yard track has massively wide fairways, bermuda greens that run relatively slow (11 on the Stimp) and unless it really blows, scoring can get incredibly low.

Take last year. Jon Rahm shot 33-under but that wasn't enough to win! He was pipped by yet-to-be Open champion and LIV defector Cameron Smith.

Two years earlier after the course had been modified, Justin Thomas had prevailed with 14-under but the wind blew hard in 2020. The current forecast suggests the prevailing Trade winds are far less extreme so perhaps a winning score around Harris English's tally of 25-under from 2021 is a decent guess.

The other trademark of this event used to be that it was for winners only. But that's changed. It's also now open to anyone who qualified for the 30-man Tour Championship so that gives an entry to Cameron Young and Sahith Theegala, who are still to win at this level although the latter did land the QBE Shootout alongside Tom Hoge last month.

Right, let's get going with a first tip for 2023.

A quick look back to the last two years shows that both winners, Smith and English, had finished in the top five in their previous FedEx Cup event.

That seems a decent starting point and the one I like from the bunch that tick that box is Brian Harman.

The left-hander finished runner-up in the RSM Classic in late November and also occupied second place in the World Wide Technology Championship in Mexico two weeks earlier. It does no harm that both were played in coastal locations.

The 35-year-old shot 19-under and 17-under respectively, posting round scores of 66, 66, 67, 66, 67, 69, 64 and 65. Across the two events, he racked up 39 birdies and two eagles.

Harman also played the QBE Shootout with late call-up Sepp Straka, matching Hoge and Theegala's scores of 60 and 62 in rounds one and three but eventually settling for tied eighth.

This is the American's third appearance in the event and past course form adds to his appeal.

He made his debut in 2015 and closed with an eight-under 65 to finish 17th while Harman's last visit in 2018 saw him take the halfway lead with laps of 68-68 before eventually finishing third after scores of 69 and 72 on the weekend.

On the evidence of 2018, it's hard to say he can't win this due to lack of length off the tee.

Back Harman each-way (1/5 odds, 6 places) at 40s.

Next Best: Adam Scott each-way @ 41.040/1

Long-time followers of this event will be well aware of the fantastic record of Australians.

Cam Smith added another win last year but the foundations for that reputation were laid between 2004 and 2010 when Stuart Appleby won three times in-a-row (2004-2006) and Geoff Ogilvy went back-to-back (2009-2010).

The theory was that Aussies were tournament sharp having played their own Triple Crown events (Australian Masters, Open and PGA) in the previous weeks while others came in with Christmas rust.

There's also a feeling that the wild slopes and different visuals of the Plantation Course suit creative players. That applies to many Australians given the courses they grew up on and it's also backed up by the likes of Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth lifting the silverware here.

Reed and Spieth are Masters winners of course, as are other champions at this course: Sergio Garcia, Vijay Singh, Zach Johnson and Dustin Johnson. Several elements (wide fairways, sidehill lies, undulating greens) that helped them win at Augusta were in play when they triumphed here.

So join the dots and the face of Adam Scott starts to emerge.

The 2013 Masters champion returned home last month to contest two events. He started well (66) in the Aussie PGA before sliding but then hit his straps by finishing runner-up in December's Australian Open.

In truth, Scott had a golden opportunity to win his home Open for a second time (first in 2009) but couldn't keep pace with Adrian Meronk in round four. The positive spin is that it'll make him extra hungry here.

The second place means Scott now has four top sixes in his last seven worldwide starts. That also brings in sixth at October's Japan Open and back-to-back top fives at the St Jude Championship and the BMW Championship.

Scott didn't play this event between 2014 and 2021, and 21st two years ago can perhaps be viewed as a week of reacquaintance.

His previous visit resulted in a sixth place in 2014 while his first three cracks at this course produced finishes of 7-5-2.

There's certainly enough there to give him some each-way appeal at 40/1.

Final Bet: Jordan Spieth each-way @ 29.028/1

Anyone who slightly switched off from golf after the Presidents Cup will be more than curious to see Jordan Spieth at 28/1 in the betting this week.

The expression will become even more puzzled when recalling Spieth's record in this event. He's won here, hasn't he? And wasn't it by a distance?

Yes and yes. Spieth was runner-up on his course debut in 2014 and then blitzed the field by eight shots in 2016. He added a third place when defending in 2017.

So why is he 28/1? True, Spieth hasn't done much since being the standout star of September's Presidents Cup but he hasn't exactly played much either.

And do we take 52nd at the CJ Cup (69-72-69 final three rounds) and 20th and last at the Hero World Challenge as evidence that he's lost it?

More likely, he'd mentally tuned out for the season and didn't have the adrenaline to try and fight back from poor starts in both events.

The 2015 Masters winner, who was eighth in the final major of 2022 (Open at St Andrews), could very easily catch a spark here and, y'know, he's Jordan Spieth: a truely world-class golfer who always seems a better bet when creativity is a notable part of the examination paper, as it is here.

Take him at 28/1.

Jon Rahm is the hot 6/1 favourite, ahead of 8/1 Scottie Scheffler, who, let's not forget, was still a non-winner when he teed it up here last year.

Those two are likely to contend but if playing someone in the top 10 in the betting I'd perhaps lean towards Collin Morikawa, who looked set to win the Hero World Challenge last month before a Sunday slide.

Morikawa has course form of 7-7-5 and closed with an 11-under 62 last year.

Recommended bets

Dave's P/L for 2022/23

Staked: £360
Returned: £258.5
P/L: -£101.5

Previous:
2021/2022 P/L: -£315.35
2020/2021 P/L: +£1475.87
2019/2020 P/L: +£13.83
2018/2019 P/L: -£338.25
2017/2018 P/L: +£362.84
2016/2017 P/L: +£1179.89

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