Sentry Tournament of Champions Each-Way Tips: Make it Matsuyama

Hideki Matsuyama is the man to beat, says Dave
Hideki Matsuyama is the man to beat, says Dave

The Plantation Course in Maui is once again the starting place for the first event of the calendar year and Dave Tindall has three-each way tips for the action in Hawaii...

"Picking a Masters champion for this event seems a legitimate strategy. Looking down the list of champions here shows a bunch of Green Jackets and even if we only start in 2013 that brings in Dustin Johnson (twice), Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth."

Main Bet: Hideki Matsuyama each-way @ 21.020/1

Although the current season is already nine tournaments old, there still seems something fresh and sparkly about the first event of a calendar year.

And the now very familiar Plantation Course in Hawaii always seems a suitably exotic way to start.

It's always packed full of star names and, although the rules were relaxed a little last year due to the pandemic, this is the event for winners only.

That means no place for Dustin Johnson whose lack of a victory in 2021 is likely to cause many to think, "really?". Yep, it's true.

For some, the lengthy trip to Hawaii doesn't work for them which explains the absence of Rory McIlroy.

But before we dwell on who isn't here, let's look at who is!

Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas top the betting at 8/1 ahead of 10/1 Collin Morikawa, 11/1 Bryson DeChambeau and Viktor Hovland, 12/1 Xander Schauffele and 14/1 Patrick Cantlay.

There's every chance the winner has now been mentioned but this is an each-way preview so I'll look further down the market for my three picks.

Well, perhaps not too much further down. First up is Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama.

The 29-year-old is coming off the golfing year of his life after he became the first male Japanese player to win a major. That Masters ticket punched his ticket to Hawaii although he also closed his campaign with victory on home soil in the Zozo Championship so had double qualification.

Between the two it wasn't always plain sailing although he did have some more notable finishes: tied fourth in the Olympics, tied second in the WGC FedEx St. Jude Invitational (both in August) and tied sixth in September's Fortinet Championship.

Picking a Masters champion for this event seems a legitimate strategy. Looking down the list of champions here shows a bunch of Green Jackets: Even if we only start in 2013 that brings in Dustin Johnson (twice), Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth.

The logic can be found in player comments that point out uneven lies and the need for creativity around the greens.

With its vast fairways and massive greens, the Plantation is a totally different animal on one level to Augusta National but sometimes we overlook the more subtle similarities.

Matsuyama's win at Augusta was certainly no one-off as he also has a fifth, a tied seventh and three other top 20s there as well as being Low Amateur on debut.

So has he translated the skills that serve him well at the Masters to here? The answer is a definite yes. He's had four previous cracks at this event and has racked up a second (2017), a third (2015) and a fourth (2018).

Matsuyama shot a round of 66 in each which equals 7-under on a course where, adding to its quirky nature, there are four par 5s but just three par 3s to make par 73.

He was the 54-hole leader in 2015 and, looking at his stats, the World No.18 ranked second for Strokes Gained: Tee To Green in his first three appearances here.

"I like the views and so I like the course," Matsuayama said on debut in 2015, adding that he didn't go to the ocean or get the surf board out because he couldn't swim! Three years on in 2018, he added: "I love it here."

So the vibes are positive and the 20/1 seems a decent price.

Next Best: Jordan Spieth each-way @ 21.020/1

This has been a good course for repeat winners, the limited field clearly helping that angle.

A previous winner has won again twice in the last four years (Johnson and Thomas) and there are five past champions in this week's limited 39-man field.

The one I really want to play is Jordan Spieth for the simple reason that when he likes a course, he tends to keep excelling on it.

The best example in his case is the Masters which obviously ties in with that Augusta link again. Spieth was runner-up on his Masters debut, won it in 2015 and finished second again when defending. He's since added two further top threes (2018 and 2021).

At the Plantation Course he has a similar profile: runner-up on debut, victor on his second try in 2016, third in 2016 and ninth in 2018.

That ninth was his most recent appearance so Spieth will be chomping at the bit to get back to the island of Maui.

On his last visit he said: "I look at four or five courses in a year where for whatever reason I seem to have success, whether I'm playing great or feel like I'm kind of just kind of getting through it and this is one of those places."

Pressed on where he'd rate it, Spieth added: "This is probably a top three of the year. Just to, you play so quick, it's such an easy event, there's 34 (39 this time) guys. And then the views that we have here, and I love this golf course and it seemed to fit me well the last few times I played it, so it's certainly up there because of that, yeah."

He qualified by winning April's Valero Texas Open, an obvious highlight in a comeback year which saw him rise back to the top 15 in the world having ended 2020 in 82nd.

As for his SG stats here, in the American's four past appearances, he's twice finished 1st for SG: Around The Green while he ranked in the top four for both Tee To Green and Putting on three occasions.

He's also been top six for Approach in three visits (that stat wasn't recorded in 2014) and the only reason he didn't continue his run of podium finishes in 2018 was an unusually poor week with the putter (lost 3.766 strokes).

But the 28-year-old remains an inspirational putter and if he gets on a roll, the flatstick can be a difference maker.

I'll happily play him at 20/1.

Main Bet: Talor Gooch each-way @ 41.040/1

The weather forecast seems reasonable enough with wind speeds struggling to make double digits mph on the weekend.

That may just help the newbies even though conventional wisdom says you don't pick a first-timer at this course.

Daniel Chopra bucked that trend in 2008 so I thought I'd revisit his profile.

The Swede was clearly in impressive form at the time having scored a PGA Tour win in Florida (Ginn sur Mer Classic) the previous October and followed that with two good displays in November: seventh at the Hong Kong Open and runner-up at the MasterCard Masters in Australia.

Harris English reminded us in 2021 that ending the year well can be a great pointer. He'd finished 2020 with a pair of top sixes on the main tour and signed off with a nine-shot win alongside Matt Kuchar in the QBE Shootout.

The one who comes into focus when taking all that into account is Talor Gooch.

Gooch ended 2021 with victory in the RSM Classic, deservedly banking his first PGA Tour win after a series of impressive performances over the previous few months.

All that put him top of the FedExCup standings which gives his billing as an in-form player a bit of extra status.

One of the added rewards of that first win was booking his place in this week's field. That was a talking point in his winner's press conference as he'd already planned a buddies' trip.

Gooch explained during that Q & A: "Well, I have my phone in my back pocket, my phone's buzzing away. I'm sure a few of those buzzes are coming from my buddies. We were chatting last night and they had all basically said, hey, we're hoping to move this buddies' trip to a different time. They will be one of the first people I respond to and tell them, all right, we've got to figure out a plan B now.

One journalist suggested the compromise of getting his mates to come out to this event with him. "Get them out to Maui, let's make it happen," Gooch joked.

Perhaps more on that story will come out this week although, even if they don't and he's playing well, it's the kind of feelgood, light-hearted storyline that Gooch can surf on as the week goes on.

It's hard to know just how good he is but getting 40/1 on the FedEx Cup leader seems reasonable and he was second at halfway on his debut in the other Hawaii event - the Sony Open - so perhaps that bodes well for a big week here.

The each-way terms this week are 1/5 odds, 6 places.

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Dave's P/L for 2021/22

Staked: £330
Returned: £285.75
P/L: -£44.25

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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