The first PGA event of 2017 gets under way at the par-73, 7,450-yard Plantation Course at Kapalua in Hawaii for what used to be the traditional curtain-raiser to the season. The limited-field tournament features those players who won on the PGA Tour in the previous calendar year and offers a great chance for low scoring as last year’s winner Jordan Spieth testified with a 30 under winning score.
Spieth is third favourite at 11/2 to win this 32-man event, with Japanese sensation Hideki Matsuyama and US Open champion Dustin Johnson jointly topping the billing at 5/1. Johnson won this event four years and has finished 10th and sixth since then in the two years when he qualified.
Matsuyama had an incredible finish to 2016, winning four of his last five tournaments (Japan Open, Taiheiyo Masters, WGC-HSBC Champions and Hero World Challenge) and finishing second in the other at the CIMB Classic. Matsuyama was third last year so he is rightly regarded as one of the players to beat. Of the top three in the betting, Matsuyama is one of four players we fancy to go well.
Although the course is long, the statistics from the last couple of years suggest that distance and driving accuracy are less important than scrambling and putting. Brandt Snedeker was 16th for scrambling last season and there aren’t many better with the flatstick than the American, who has finished third in two of his last four visits here. Sneds also ended the season well with a sixth-place finish at the Hero World Challenge, all of which makes him one of our selections at 20/1 to win.
Patrick Reed is another former winner who should go well at 12/1. The pumped-up Ryder Cup star was a distant eight shots behind Spieth in defending his title last year but still took the runner-up spot. Reed ticks the scrambling box but could do with a hot putter this week after a patchy start to the new season. Hopefully, a month off will have recharged his batteries and help him put in a third strong showing in a row.
Of the outsiders, one of our fancies is one of the most frustrating players on the PGA Tour but 100/1 on Aaron Baddeley looks too good to turn down. The Australian finished in the top five for scrambling stats last season and was in the top 25 in total putting too. Baddeley tied for fourth at the Australian Open in his final tournament of 2016, finishing just two shots behind Spieth, who won the tournament for the second time in three years in a three-man play-off.