After taking nearly a month off for the holiday break, the PGA Tour returns this week with the first event on the 2023 calendar. Tournament winners from last season will gather in Hawaii for the annual Sentry Tournament of Champions at the Kapalua Plantation Course.
Now that the PGA Tour is back in full swing, let’s check in with our golf experts and roll through some picks and predictions for the Tournament of Champions.
2023 Sentry Tournament of Champions predictions
Luke Norris: Collin Morikawa
It’s been more than 13 months since Collin Morikawa notched a victory, his last coming in Dubai in November 2021, but that streak comes to an end this week. In three appearances at Kapalua, the two-time major champion has twice tied for seventh and tied for fifth a year ago after shooting a final-round 62.
Morikawa tinkered with his swing a bit last year and looked a lot more comfortable as 2022 came to a close. He tied for 15th at Mayakoba, finished in solo sixth at the Hero World Challenge, and seems primed to end this drought.
Jack Dougherty: Sungjae Im
If you want to win the Tournament of Champions, you need to go low. Like, really low. Seven of the last eight winners at Kapalua have finished at 21-under par or better, and Cameron Smith set the 72-hole scoring record in 2022 with a final score of 34 under.
If we’re looking for birdie machines to contend this week, Sungjae Im needs to be at the top of the list. The South Korean has made more birdies or better per round at Kapalua than anyone in the field since 2015, and he’s never shot worse than 69 in eight career rounds here. With two top-eight finishes at the TOC in two starts, Im is primed to start 2023 with a bang.
Luke Norris: Billy Horschel
In six appearances at the Tournament of Champions, Billy Horschel has never finished outside the top 25, his best finish being a tie for sixth. So he knows how to play this golf course well. Sure, he’s a bit of a longshot at 40-1, but don’t be surprised if he creeps into the top 10 as the week progresses.
Jack Dougherty: Tom Hoge
This will be Tom Hoge’s first appearance at the Tournament of Champions, and although he doesn’t have the advantage of familiarity many other players in this field have, his game should fit Kapalua quite well. Hoge started the 2022-23 season with finishes of T12, T4, T9, and T13 before winning the QBE Shootout alongside Sahith Theegala last month. The 33-year-old comes to Kapalua in good form and should contend for a top-20 finish.
Most likely bust
Luke Norris: Matt Fitzpatrick
Going off at 18-1, Matt Fitzpatrick is tied with several others with the sixth-best odds this week. But unlike most of the other favorites, the reigning U.S. Open champ has never played this tournament. So there will be a bit of a learning curve to start. And while Fitzpatrick ranked third on the PGA Tour in scoring last season, he ranked 109th in par breakers, making eagle or birdie on 265 of 1,260 holes (21.03%). And it certainly takes eagles and birdies to win this golf tournament. I just don’t think he’ll make enough of them to truly compete.
Jack Dougherty: Tony Finau
Kapalua should fit Tony Finau’s game seamlessly considering how well he drives the ball, but that hasn’t been the case in his first few appearances at the TOC. In three starts here, Finau has finished T9, T19, and T31. He has just as many rounds in the 70s as he does rounds in the 60s over that span. The 33-year-old is sixth on the odds board at 14-1 to win this week, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he finishes outside the top 30.
Luke Norris: No. 17
Easily one of the most stunning views in golf, the tee box on the 17th is the highest point on the entire golf course. While a long par 4 at 550 yards, the elevation change from tee to green is more than 150 feet, so it plays much shorter. One must be careful on the tee shot as the fairway, while very wide, slopes from right to left. And the green is one of the largest on the course, so it can sometimes be difficult to get close to the pin, especially with the prevailing winds at that altitude.
Jack Dougherty: No. 18
The 18th at Kapalua is inarguably one of the best finishing holes on the PGA Tour. A massive par 5 that measures nearly 670 yards down the hill, the 18th is a beast that can’t be taken lightly. The tee shot is about as easy as they come in professional golf, and eagle is always in play if players can maneuver the right-to-left slope leading to the green. There always seems to be drama on this hole on Sunday afternoon.