The other 24 in the field will be ranked 16-39 in Tuesday’s Draws and Fades. (There are no Sleepers for the tournament.)
For the record, 40 golfers qualified for the Sentry Tournament of Champions. (Rory McIlroy is the only eligible entrant taking a pass, and that’s not unusual for the world’s top-ranked talent. He’s qualified now a dozen times and has appeared just once (T4, 2019).) However, this year’s competition is a tournament of champions and those who qualified for the TOUR Championship in 2022. Ten golfers gained entry through the secondary conduit, including Sahith Theegala and Cameron Young, neither of whom has prevailed in a PGA TOUR event.
As unconventional as it seems to invite non-winners to compete at Kapalua, it’s not unprecedented. It’s straight from the playbook of the 2021 field that was modified to accommodate 16 qualifiers from the TOUR Championship at the conclusion of the 2019-20 season that was interrupted for three months due to the pandemic.
All of that now is just a history lesson because the new opportunity to earn a spot no longer is unique or temporary. It is now a constant. And that’s because the Sentry TOC is the first of the designated events on the PGA TOUR schedule. With it is an 83-percent increase in the total prize fund to $15 million. In addition to $2.7 million, the winner will bank 550 FedExCup points. There is no cut in the traditional, four-round contest.
As a designated event, those who finished 2022 among the top performers in the Player Impact Program are required to compete if eligible. Of the 23 who qualified for bonus prize money, 17 are at Kapalua this week. (Each is allowed to sit out one of the designated events, so McIlroy, who finished second in the PIP, must appear in all remaining tournaments in the series for which he is eligible.)
Naturally, the winner of the Sentry TOC will automatically become the first qualifier for the 2024 edition of the event, which will return to its leadoff position on the schedule for the first time since 2013.
While all of these enhancements and modifications are occurring, Kapalua promises a familiar test to those who have given it a go before; well, at least to everyone who has shown since the course was renovated prior to the 2020 staging. Five returnees did not qualify in the interim. There are also 13 debutants in the field, including Adam Svensson, who was the last qualifier and first breakthrough champion of the 2022-23 season at The RSM Classic.
For the fourth consecutive edition, Kapalua can stretch to 7,596 yards, but in this land of extremes, there’s more bark to that than the bite. Last year’s scoring average (among 38 golfers) was 68.217. Not only was that a record low since the course assumed its role as host in 1999, but it beat the previous mark (in 2003) by almost a full stroke.
A standard set of four par 5s are sprinkled on the hilly track along the northwestern shore of Maui, but Kapalua boasts only three par 3s. No matter the par, the course’s only significant defense is wind, and that, of course, is variable.
Moderate trade winds (from the northeast) are forecast throughout the tournament, and the strongest pushes will be felt in the middle two rounds, but by no means will they taste infamously like they did last in 2020. With fair conditions otherwise welcoming the field, scoring overall should be only slightly higher than last year.
Because this is a shootout, the champion and bulk of the close calls will have lifted the averages of greens in regulation and converting those chances into par breakers. A target of 24-under 268 (or an average of 6-under 67 in each round) is reasonable. In respect of wind and due to Plantation’s full-time job as a resort course, bermuda greens are governed to max at just 11 feet on the Stimpmeter. The worst rough is trimmed to 2¼ inches, but the fairways are among the most forgiving and easiest to find all year, so the scorer’s mentality has the green light.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
MONDAY: Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Draws & Fades
SUNDAY: Payouts and Points, Medical Extensions, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Rookie Ranking
* – Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.