The Sentry Preview: Scheffler and Hovland lead the market in year opener

By Bryan Nicholson

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3 January 2024

A new PGA Tour format this year sees some changes to the criteria and eligibility of players qualifying for events. One of the tournaments to evolve is the season opener: The Sentry - with its new name - which will see a field of 59 players including the usual winners from the previous season on the PGA Tour, with the rest of the lineup coming from the FedEx Cup Points list top 50 in 2023.

The Sentry is a nice warm-up for the golf year as the players hone their games while relaxing in Kapalua, Maui in Hawaii. The Sentry is the first of eight new ‘signature events’ on the PGA Tour in 2024. That means 700 FedEx Cup points for the winner and a $20 million purse.

Players with local ties like Collin Morikawa and Tony Finau will tee it up while world No.1 Scottie Scheffler leads the market at 6.4, with last year’s FedEx Cup Champ Viktor Hovland in close behind at 11.0. Morikawa himself has excellent progressive form here of 7-7-5-2 and is priced at 14.0 on SBK

The Course

The Plantation course at Kapalua boasts some of the widest fairways on tour. It’s unique in that it plays as a par 73, at just under 7,600 yards. Large undulating greens, elevation changes and blind approach shots are a theme. Scoring is usually low (3 x 61s have been shot), and the trade winds are a big factor in this. 

Big hitters have an edge around the Plantation while those with a good imagination and creativity in the shot making department will thrive. Very errant shots get severely punished while we can rule out overall putting ability as a key metric given subtle breaks on slow shorter putts. Key on the week is being aggressive with the flat stick on the Bermuda surfaces. Par 5s will play a key role. A benign day here versus trade winds gusting from 25-30mph has seen a 3 shot differential in the scoring average.

The Contenders

I usually tend to start the golf betting season off slowly until I get a handle on things but speaking of a big hitter with a good touch who rounded off last year nicely, Ludvig Aberg (18.0 or 5.4 top 5) might be debuting here - debutants don’t have a great record - at The Sentry but the big Swede can crack the top 10 in the world with a win. Aberg won the Omega European Masters on the DP World Tour. He then won the RSM Classic, shooting back-to-back 61s to close out his 2023 golf year. The youngster ranked second in strokes gained off the tee for the PGA Tour season.

Brian Harman (60.0 or 9.0 top 5) is the outsider I like this week. While he only has a few appearances at Plantation, Harman fits the profile and has just ended his best season yet in fine form. Now a major winner, and ninth in the official world golf rankings, Harman showed his prowess in the wind when blitzing the Open Championship field in 2023. He does have a third place to his name in Kapalua back in 2018. Harman was first in the scrambling stats on the PGA Tour in 2023 which is a real eye-opener for the Plantation course where short game skills will be required.

While the season and the players are still raw, a decent angle to play at the Sentry is to back some of the outsiders in the first-round leader markets. With an extended field we may be able to take advantage of a little draw bias this year with guys out in lighter winds.

Recommended Bets

Back Ludvig Aberg to win @ 18.0 or t5 @ 5.4
Back Brian Harman to win @ 60.0 or t5 @ 9.0

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