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Horse For The Course: PGA DFS (DraftKings) - Sentry Tournament of Champions

Hello again friends and thanks for joining me here at RotoBaller as we slide into 2020! After a brief (but long feeling) break from golf, we're ready to gear up for the new season. As is tradition, the brand new golf year will get kicked off in Hawaii this week.

I'd like to take a second to explain what you can expect from Horse For The Course this year. Some of you might read it religiously and some of you might be stopping in for the first time - either way - I really appreciate you checking out this article! HFTC is a weekly piece, which means if there is a PGA DFS tournament on DraftKings there will be an article up (I always drop a link on Twitter when the article is posted if you want to follow me @JoeNicely and stay up to date).

This will be the third year that I've written this article - all of them here at RotoBaller - and it has evolved over the years, morphing from what was originally a strict course history article into more of a way for me to express my thoughts on the players that I really liked on any given week. Thankfully, the popularity and demand for PGA content here at RB has continued to grow, which will allow us to start offering Premium PGA Content in 2020! This a really exciting new chapter for both me and the site, and as a result, I'll have more avenues to write about different aspects of PGA DFS each week. For that reason, I'll be taking HFTC back to its roots this season and tightly focusing in on the players in the field with strong course history. Don't worry...HFTC will always be available for free (as will lots of our other great PGA articles), but those of you that want to dive deeper down the PGA rabbit hole with me each week, and that want to truly learn and improve as a PGA DFS player, should strongly consider becoming a Premium PGA Member here at RotoBaller. Ok, now that we have all that stuff out of the way, let's dig into the Sentry Tournament of Champions!

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Sentry Tournament of Champions Overview

The Sentry TOC is the traditional start to the new year on the PGA Tour. It's a small field of 34 players that's comprised of tournament winners from the previous season. There's no cut with guaranteed prize money and FedEx Cup points for every player in the field. The event is annually held at the beautiful Kapalua Resort in Hawaii. probably goes without saying that this isn't exactly a high-stress environment. These guys are winners and most of them already have successful, established careers, which is why we'll see the majority of this field looking at this tournament as an opportunity to knock the rust off after a winter layoff. That said, these guys all want to win and we'll see their intensity levels dial up as the week progresses. There are some big names that qualified for this event but elected not to play, with Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, and Brooks Koepka the most notable players that will sit this week out. Xander Schauffele will be back to defend his title and will be joined by some of the game's best players like Justin Thomas, Dustin Johnson, and Jon Rahm. It's great to be back! Let's tee it up!

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.


The Course: Plantation Course at Kapalua

Par 73 - 7,518 Yards, Greens: Bermuda
The Plantation Course is one of the most beautiful stops of the PGA Tour season. Designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, it was opened in 1991. The Plantation Course sits at the foot of the West Maui Mountains and incorporates drastic elevation changes into the layout. We will see some of the longest drives of the season this week, as players will have several downhill tee shots. We are dealing with a rare Par 73 course that features four Par-5s. Weather conditions, specifically the wind, can sometimes be a factor at Kapalua, but the conditions are usually mild to moderate enough to allow for very low scoring. Every winner of this tournament since 2014 has been at least 20-under par, so we definitely want to pay attention to players that can make birdies. This a true "resort course" layout: wide fairways, slow greens, and low scores.


The Horse

Justin Thomas (DK - $11,200)

Notable Course History: 3rd ('19), T22 ('18), Win ('17), T21 ('16)

I'll be honest, I'm chomping at the bit to roster Justin Thomas this season. If they were selling stock on JT's prospects for 2020, I would be an all-in buyer! Luckily, we don't have to wait to play Thomas, as he qualified for this TOC field via his win at the BMW Championship.

JT has exhibited huge upside in his previous appearances at the Plantation Course, winning the event in 2017 and recording a solo-third last year. A lot of these guys haven't played much golf over the past couple of months, but Thomas heads to Kapalua in excellent "recent form". He saw action at the President's Cup last month, logged a T5 at the Hero, and won at Nine Bridges back in October. These results came on the heels of a super-strong closing push during the FedEx Cup Playoffs. Stats are always a little skewed at this time of year, but if we look at this field's last 24 rounds, JT leads in Strokes Gained: Total, T2G, Ball Striking, and Approach, as well as DK Points scored.

Thomas is pricey, but with the small field and no-cut nature of this event, we can take on some risk at the bottom end of the salary scale in order to grab his tournament-winning upside.


The Ponies

Jon Rahm (DK - $11,400)

Notable Course History: T8 ('19), 2nd ('18)

Not to wander too far down "narrative street", but isn't this a perfect "Jon Rahm tournament"? No pressure, bombs away with the driver, Par-5s galore, and tons of birdies. Yep, it's the perfect setup for the young Spaniard and his track record on the Plantation Course reflects just that, as Rahm has recorded a T8 and a solo-second in his two previous TOC appearances.

I mentioned earlier that Justin Thomas probably has the best current form in the field, but Rahmbo is neck and neck with him. He won in both Spain and Dubai during the fall season and scored a runner-up at the Hero last month. Those performances aren't going to track statistically because they were overseas, but we know what Rahm does well...he finished sixth on the PGA Tour in both Scoring & Birdie Average last season, as well as ranking fifth in SG: Off The Tee.

If you want to go ultra "Stars & Scrubs" this week it can be done fairly easily. You can roster both JT and Rahm if you are willing to take some chances on the low end of the salary scale.


Dustin Johnson (DK - $10,100)

Notable Course History: T4 ('19), Win ('18), T6 ('17), T10 ('16)

If you want to pivot away from the 1 and 1A options of Thomas and Rahm, Dustin Johnson is an intriguing candidate. DJ offers a bit of salary relief and should come in with lower ownership than either of his pricier counterparts. We are taking a bit more risk with Johnson though, as he didn't look at all like himself down the stretch last year and struggled in a way that we haven't seen from him in recent years. He underwent an offseason knee surgery and looked so-so in his return to action at the President's Cup which makes his current form a legitimate concern. That concern is somewhat offset by DJ's MONSTER track record on this Plantation layout. He's hasn't finished outside the top-10 in four appearances since 2016. We know that Johnson is one of the best drivers of the ball in the modern era and he ranked fourth on the PGA Tour in SG: Off The Tee last season while averaging 312 yards per drive. If - and it is still an if at this point - DJ is healthy, he has a great chance of playing well here once again.


Patrick Reed (DK - $9,000)

Notable Course History: T25 ('19), T6 ('17), 2nd ('16), Win ('15)

Look...I don't like Patrick Reed and you probably don't like Patrick Reed, so let's just get that out of the way. I guess I understand if you have some type of moral objection to playing Reed in a fantasy golf lineup, but I will have no such trouble rostering Justine's husband if I feel it's a money-making opportunity. That's what we're looking at this week with Reed at Kapalua, a track where he's been downright dominant in previous appearances. Last year's T25 was his worst-ever finish in the Sentry, having went: T6/2nd/Win in his three prior starts. So yeah, there's some baggage to unpack here with Reed - and he didn't play well at all in the President's Cup - but the guy is a gamer that loves this course and had played well throughout the Swing Season before the drama at the Hero.


Brendon Todd (DK - $8,100)

Notable Course History: T8 ('15)

BRENDON!!! (I've always wanted to do that, hopefully some of you get it!) I say this with true sincerity...Brendon Todd is one of the better comeback stories we will ever see in golf and I have an unbelievable amount of respect for what he's been able to get through. This is a guy that battled THE FULL SWING YIPS(!) which is a big problem to have when you are a professional golfer. However, instead of just fading away, Todd went about rebuilding his swing and game. After a truly dark period, he emerged from this year's Korn Ferry Tour finals with a PGA Tour card and wasted no time making the most of it, winning twice this fall at the Bermuda Championship and the Mayakoba Classic (he also came damn close to winning three straight before finishing in the top-five at the RSM). His history at the Plantation Course only consists of one appearance - a T8 back in 2015 - but it's enough for me to put him in consideration when we add in his reasonable DK price tag and scorching-hot form over the past couple of months.


Kevin Kisner (DK - $7,700)

Notable Course History: T17 ('18), 9th ('16)

The Kiz is the only player under $8k with any real track record on the Plantation Course, but I did want to include a player with a cheaper price tag in this week's article. Kisner had a solid, if unspectacular 2019. He did take down the WGC-Dell Match Play event which punched his ticket into this week's Tournament of Champions. Kiz was remarkably consistent throughout last year, making 22 of 25 cuts with 11 top-25 finishes. He's a quality iron player that has the ability to get red-hot with the putter. Kisner doesn't fit the traditional profile of the type of players that we target on this layout, but he's a solid lineup option and something of a proven commodity at this price point.

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