The holiday season is now complete, and the 2021 portion of the PGA TOUR season is set to begin in its traditional tropical locale.
The Sentry Tournament of Champions will kick off the new year once again, but with a unique field. Because of the reduced number of events in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, all qualifiers for last year’s TOUR Championship also are eligible to tee it up in Maui. Dustin Johnson, the reigning FedExCup champion, highlights the field in his first appearance since winning the Masters.
FIELD NOTES: Johnson, a two-time winner of the Sentry Tournament of Champions, looks to keep his momentum going in the new year. Johnson ended 2020 by finishing no worse than T6 in his final seven events, including three wins and three runners-up. … Sergio Garcia returns to the Sentry Tournament of Champions after his first TOUR victory since the 2017 Masters. Garcia, an 11-time TOUR winner, won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in 2002 but hasn’t teed it up at Kapalua since 2006… Justin Thomas looks to defend his Tournament of Champions title after winning in a three-man playoff a year ago… Twenty-eight golfers qualified for the 2021 event via their TOUR victories last season. An additional 17 golfers earned a spot in Hawaii via their appearance at the TOUR Championship… One of those golfers who earned a spot via the TOUR Championship was Xander Schauffele, winner of the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions. Schauffele fell just short in his title defense last year, losing in that playoff that also included former Sentry winner Patrick Reed… There are five first-timers playing in the Sentry Tournament of Champions this year… Forty-two of the 45 eligible golfers are making the trip to the Tournament of Champions, with just Rory McIlroy, Tyrrell Hatton, and Jim Herman not teeing it up.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points
COURSE: Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort, 7,596 yards, par 73 (yardage subject to change). Opened in 1991, the Plantation Course at Kapalua has long been ranked as the top course in Hawaii. It was the first Ben Crenshaw/Bill Coore design to open. The duo has now, of course, gone on to become one of golf’s most sought-after design teams, and the pair did an expansive renovation in 2019. The course features dramatic ocean views, wide fairways, and big-time elevation changes.
STORYLINES: The last four winners of the Sentry Tournament of Champions went on to finish in the top five of the FedExCup standings at season’s end, proving that a hot start at the beginning of the calendar year is paramount to season-end success. Justin Thomas finished second in the FedExCup standings in 2017. Dustin Johnson finished fourth in 2018 after winning in Kapalua. Xander Schauffele finished second in 2019, while Justin Thomas finished second again in 2020… No golfer since Geoff Ogilvy (2009-10) has won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in back-to-back years, although Schauffele came close in 2020… Thomas is looking to build off the momentum from his year-end victory alongside his father Mike at the PNC Championship in mid-December… Golfers who did not find the winner’s circle in 2019-20 but are in the field include Rookie of the Year Scottie Scheffler, the highest finisher in last season’s FedExCup (fifth) without a win… Eight of the top 10 golfers in the world will be in the field.
72-HOLE RECORD: 261, Ernie Els (2003)
18-HOLE RECORD: 62, K.J. Choi (3rd round, 2003), Graeme McDowell (4th round, 2011), Jason Day (4th round, 2015), Chris Kirk (4th round, 2015), Xander Schauffele (4th round, 2019).
LAST TIME: On the hunt for his second straight Sentry victory, Xander Schauffele eventually fell just short in a playoff to Justin Thomas, who won for the second time at Kapalua. Thomas had a one-shot lead going into the 72nd hole but made a bogey on the par five to drop into a three-way tie. Patrick Reed, who zipped up the leaderboard in the final round thanks to a sizzling 7-under 66 (the round of the day) made it through two holes of the playoff with Thomas but eventually lost to the former FedExCup champion, who birdied the par-5 18th on the third extra hole to Reed’s par. Patrick Cantlay, Rickie Fowler, and Joaquin Niemann rounded out the top five.
HOW TO FOLLOW
Television: Thursday-Friday, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 6 p.m.-8 p.m. (Golf Channel). Sunday, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. (Golf Channel).
Source: PGA tour