Schauffele has the mettle to win PGA Tournament of Champions

January 4, 2022 06:30 PM
USATSI_16953374

While the 2021-2022 wraparound season is well underway, the PGA Tour kicks off 2022 with its usual two tournaments in Hawaii. 

The first of those two events is the Tournament of Champions at Kapalua, with 38 PGA Tour winners plus Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele (12-1), who won the TOC in 2019. Rory McIlroy is skipping the 2022 opener. 

World No. 1 Jon Rahm and two-time Kapalua winner Justin Thomas (2017, 2020) are co-favorites at 8-1. 

Collin Morikawa (10-1) begins 2022 as arguably the hottest player in the game, with three wins in 2021 including the Open Championship, his second career major. Morikawa also became the first American to win the Race to Dubai on the European tour (now known as the DP World Tour) in November. 

Bryson DeChambeau, Viktor Hovland and Schauffele are next in the betting market at 12-1. 

Patrick Cantlay, the 2020-2021 PGA Tour Player of the Year and FedEx Cup champion, makes his 2022 debut at 16-1. Sam Burns (18-1) began 2021 ranked No. 154 in the world but begins 2022 ranked 10th, thanks to two PGA Tour victories, two runners-up, two third-place finishes and three other top 10s. Harris English is the defending champion at 35-1, and 2021 PGA Championship winner Phil Mickelson returns to Kapalua after a 21-year absence at 125-1. 

The Event

The Tournament of Champions has been played at Kapalua Resort in Maui since 1999. It is restricted to players who won on the PGA Tour in the previous calendar year. The list of winners is a who’s who of golfing legends including Jack Nicklaus (1963, 1964, 1971, 1973, 1977), Arnold Palmer (1962, 1965, 1966), Tom Watson (1979, 1980, 1984), Gary Player (1969, 1978), Phil Mickelson (1994, 1998) and Tiger Woods (1997, 2000). In all, 15 players have won the TOC multiple times. Four players have won multiple times at Kapalua: Stuart Appleby (2004, 2005, 2006), Geoff Ogilvy (2009, 2010), Dustin Johnson (2013, 2018) and Justin Thomas (2017, 2020). 

The field

PGA Tour winners (38)

Abraham Ancer: WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational

Daniel Berger: Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Sam Burns: Valspar Championship, Sanderson Farms Championship

Patrick Cantlay: Memorial Tournament, BMW Championship, Tour Championship

Cameron Champ: 3M Open

Stewart Cink: RBC Heritage

Joel Dahmen: Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship

Cam Davis: Rocket Mortgage Classic

Bryson DeChambeau: Arnold Palmer Invitational

Harris English: Tournament of Champions, Travelers Championship

Tony Finau: Northern Trust

Lucas Glover: John Deere Classic

Talor Gooch: RSM Classic

Branden Grace: Puerto Rico Open

Lucas Herbert: Bermuda Championship

Garrick Higgo: Palmetto Championship

Max Homa: Genesis Invitational, Fortinet Championship

Billy Horschel: WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play

Viktor Hovland: World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba

Sungjae Im: Shriners Children's Open

Matt Jones: Honda Classic

Si Woo Kim: The American Express

Kevin Kisner: Wyndham Championship

Brooks Koepka: Phoenix Open

Jason Kokrak: Charles Schwab Challenge, Houston Open

K.H. Lee: Byron Nelson

Marc Leishman: Zurich Classic

Hideki Matsuyama: Masters, Zozo Championship

Phil Mickelson: PGA Championship

Collin Morikawa: WGC-Workday Championship; Open Championship

Kevin Na: Sony Open

Seamus Power: Barbasol Championship

Jon Rahm: U.S. Open

Patrick Reed: Farmers Insurance Open

Cameron Smith: Zurich Classic

Jordan Spieth: Texas Open

Justin Thomas: Players Championship

Erik van Rooyen: Barracuda Championship

Also (1)

Xander Schauffele: Olympic champion 

The Course 

The Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort was designed in 1991 by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, who also designed and renovated Pinehurst No. 2 and Trinity Forest (home of the Byron Nelson). The course is a rare par-73 (only three par-3s) that measures 7,596 yards, which is the 12th-longest course on tour but played as the fourth-easiest in 2021. 

Of the 11 par-4s, six measure less than 425 yards. No course on the PGA Tour has more elevation changes than Kapalua, so players will be facing plenty of uneven lies and some blind shots, but the ball will carry more than usual. The Celebration Bermudagrass fairways are the widest on tour (averaging more than 50 yards), and the TifEagle Bermuda greens are the third-largest (8,700 square-feet average) and slow (10-10.5 stimpmeter). 

There are 93 bunkers, fifth-most on tour, but no water holes. Coastal winds, elevation changes and uneven lies are Kapalua’s main defense. 

Recent history/winners

2021: Harris English (-25/267); 33-1*

2020: Justin Thomas (-14/278); 11-2**

2019: Xander Schauffele (-23/269); 22-1

2018: Dustin Johnson (-24/268); 15-2

2017: Justin Thomas (-22/270); 22-1

2016: Jordan Spieth (-30/262); 5-1

2015: Patrick Reed (-21/271); 22-1***

2014: Zach Johnson (-19/273); 14-1

2013: Dustin Johnson (-16/203); 14-1****

2012: Steve Stricker (-23/269); 17-2

2011: Jonathan Byrd (-24/268); 50-1

* Playoff win over Joaquin Niemann

**Playoff win over Patrick Reed & Xander Schauffele

***Playoff win over Jimmy Walker

****Weather-shortened event to 54 holes

Trends, stats and angles

Trends

— 10 of the last 12 winners were 33 or younger.

— 11 of the last 12 winners were ranked 29th or better in the OWGR.

— 11 of the last 12 winners had at least 3 career PGA Tour victories.

— 14 of the last 15 winners had previously won on the PGA Tour with a 19-under or lower score.

— 12 of the last 12 winners had played in at least one previous Tournament of Champions event.

— 9 of the last 12 winners had finished 11th or better in a previous Tournament of Champions event. 

— 12 of the last 13 winners had played in a competitive tournament in December prior to their victories.

— 11 of the last 11 winners were born in the United States.

The eight players that meet all of the above trends: DeChambeau, Morikawa, Thomas, Spieth, Schauffele, Koepka, Reed and English.

— 9 of the last 10 winners finished 7th or better in the previous year's event (this year: English, Niemann, Thomas, Im, Schauffele, DeChambeau, Morikawa, Rahm).

— 5 of the last 6 winners finished 4th or better in the previous year's event (this year: English, Niemann, Thomas).

Source: @PGASplits101 on Twitter

Driving distance, yards gained (last 36 rounds)

At a smidge under 7,600 yards, the Plantation Course at Kapalua is one of the longer courses on tour. While the ball does carry more due to the elevation changes, distance matters way more than accuracy on these wider fairways.

  1. Bryson DeChambeau, 965.3
  2. Cameron Champ, 659.4
  3. Jon Rahm, 554.7
  4. Brooks Koepka, 464.3
  5. Lucas Herbert, 436.2
  6. Justin Thomas, 329.1
  7. Jason Kokrak, 321.3
  8. Xander Schauffele, 305.8
  9. Tony Finau, 244.4
  10. Cam Davis, 233.3

Birdie or better gained (last 36 rounds)

While high winds kept scoring down in 2020, low numbers were back in play in 2021. You must make a lot of birdies to win at Kapalua.

  1. Cameron Smith, 41.4
  2. Bryson DeChambeau, 40
  3. Sam Burns, 28.1
  4. Jon Rahm, 23.4
  5. Jordan Spieth, 23.4
  6. Jason Kokrak, 21.5
  7. Viktor Hovland, 20.9
  8. Seamus Power, 20.1
  9. Patrick Cantlay, 18.9
  10. Joel Dahmen, 18.1

Strokes-gained putting on Bermuda (last 36 rounds)

The greens at Kapalua are 100% Bermuda. 

  1. Cameron Smith, 26.1
  2. Patrick Reed, 25.7
  3. Xander Schauffele, 21.7
  4. Billy Horschel, 21.1
  5. Jason Kokrak, 17.9
  6. Marc Leishman, 17.7
  7. Kevin Kisner, 17.2
  8. Sam Burns, 15.6
  9. Abraham Ancer, 14
  10. Bryson DeChambeau, 13.3

Selections

Xander Schauffele, 12-1

Schauffele's last official PGA Tour victory came at Kapalua three years ago. Since then, he finished runner-up in 2020 and fifth last year. The Olympic gold medalist has to be motivated to finally get back in the winner's circle, and three of his four career PGA Tour wins are in smaller fields (2017 Tour Championship, 2018 WGC-HSBC, 2019 TOC).

Jordan Spieth, 22-1

The new father might have taken some time off after son Sammy was born in November, but Spieth hasn’t played at Kapalua since 2018 and this is a place where he has flourished, including a 2016 victory when he shot 30-under par. Spieth has twice led the field in strokes-gained around the green at Kapalua, and he has ranked in the top four in both strokes-gained tee to green and strokes-gained putting on three occasions. He has also been in the top six in strokes-gained approach three times.

Cameron Smith, 22-1

Like Spieth, Smith can be a bit wayward off the tee. However, also like Spieth, he can be deadly with his irons and putts the lights out, especially on Bermuda greens. The Aussie concluded 2021 with a ninth-place finish at the CJ Cup, 15th at Houston and fourth in the 2021 finale at the RSM. Smith is also a previous winner in Hawaii as he took down the Sony Open in Honolulu two years ago. 

Sungjae Im, 25-1

2021 was a down year by Im's standards as he posted only four top 10s in 27 starts, though he did finish fifth at Kapalua. After the FedEx Cup playoffs, he picked up a victory at the Shriners Children's Open and followed that up with a ninth-place finish at the CJ Cup. The winter break may have done the highly active Im a bit of good.

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