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Fantasy Advice

The Sentry 2024 DFS picks: Why I trust Xander Schauffele

January 02, 2024
OLYMPIA FIELDS, ILLINOIS - AUGUST 19: Xander Schauffele of the United States walks across the fourth hole during the third round of the BMW Championship at Olympia Fields Country Club on August 19, 2023 in Olympia Fields, Illinois. (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The PGA Tour starts 2024 at Kapalua once again, though this event looks a little different this year. It’s no longer a tournament of just champions, as the field consists of every player who won an event last year, plus anyone who qualified for the second leg of the PGA Tour playoffs.

Rory McIlroy is the only qualified player who hasn’t made the trip to Maui, and the absence of defending champion and newest member of the LIV Tour, Jon Rahm, will also be felt. That being said, some of PGA Tour’s biggest stars such as Scottie Scheffler, Viktor Hovland, Jordan Spieth, Patrick Cantlay, Ludvig Aberg and Xander Schauffele will all be in attendance and looking to kick off their season with a bang.

Let’s dive into my favorite plays and fades from each range of the DraftKings slate.

$10,000 and above range

Play: Xander Schauffele ($10,000)

I know, I know, Xander Schauffele remains one of the most frustrating players to wager on. His talent far exceeds his trophy collection, and we are going nearly 18 months since his last PGA Tour victory. That’s all true, but Schauffele is a former champion at this event, and one of one only two players to rank top-five in this field in overall approach play and birdies or better gained. There’s good reason to be live he’ll be near the top of the leaderboard as he always seems to be in Maui.

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Fade: Viktor Hovland ($10,500)

Coming off a breakthrough major season, a FedEx Cup victory and an impressive Ryder Cup performance, Viktor Hovland’s stock is at an all-time high right now. While I am bullish that Hovland continues his ascent in 2024, the Sentry Tournament of Champions is a good spot to sell high. Hovland has never finished better than field average in three appearances at Kapalua, and Bermudagrass remains his weakest putting surface.

$9,000 and above range

Play: Collin Morikawa ($9,100)

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Mike Ehrmann

After a disappointing 2023 FedEx Cup season, Collin Morikawa logged his first PGA Tour victory in over two years at the Zozo Championship in October. Now the two-time major winner travels to a golf course where he has recorded a fifth and a runner-up in his past two appearances. Morikawa ranks in the 95th percentile in approaching the green from the fairway, which remains a crucial correlated factor to success at Kapalua.

Fade: Matt Fitzpatrick ($9,300)

While I love Matt Fitzpatrick when the going gets tough, I still have my concerns about the former U.S. Open champion keeping up in a track meet. Fitzpatrick is one of the biggest fallers when comparing his overall strokes gained baseline to his performance in easy scoring conditions. Players typically need to get to at least 25-under par to have a chance at victory here, a tall ask for Fitzpatrick.

$8,000 and above range

Play: Tom Kim ($8,900)

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Orlando Ramirez

I’m expecting a big season out of Tom Kim, and Kapalua is the perfect track for the two-time winner to capitalize. Kim finished fifth in his first appearance here last year, which makes loads of sense given his elite approach play and affinity for easy scoring conditions. Coming off a recent victory this fall at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, his formula in Vegas of elite wedge play and putting should serve him well in Maui, too.

Fade: Cameron Young ($8,300)

Just like Hovland, I’m a big fan of Cameron Young at a macro level, but I’m not in love with the spot here. Young’s iron play last season was spotty at best, and his putter left a lot to be desired. It’s paramount to be elite at one of those two skill-sets at Kapalua, and Young doesn’t checks either box.

$7,000 and above range

Play: Eric Cole ($7,400)

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Alex Slitz

Eric Cole was the hottest golfer on the planet this fall, and I see no reason why that shouldn’t carry into 2024. From a course fit perspective, Cole has a lot working in his favor. The weakest aspect of his game is off the tee, and Kapalua is the easiest driving course on the PGA Tour. On the other hand, Cole ranks in the top-10 in this field in birdies or better gained, easy scoring conditions, overall approach play, proximity from 200-plus yards, Bermuda-grass putting, lag putting and slow green putting. Sign me up.

$6,000 and above range

Play: Tom Hoge ($6,700)

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Mike Ehrmann

Despite a third-place finish at Kapalua last year, where he led the field in approach play, Tom Hoge can be found this week at an extremely palatable price tag of $6,700. When mining for gold down in the lower ranges, I am always looking for players that are elite at one specific skill-set. Hoge remains the No. 1 player in this field in proximity from 200-plus yards, and he is an excellent overall iron player in general. On a second-shot course as pronounced as Kapalua, there’s a ton of value on Hoge.

Kapalua: Plantation
Public
Kapalua: Plantation
Lahaina, HI

From Golf Digest Architecture Editor emeritus Ron Whitten:

 

Most golf fans are familiar with Kapalua Golf Club’s Plantation Course, home of the PGA Tour's opening event each year. Located on the north shore of the Hawaiian island of Maui, the Plantation was built from open, windswept pineapple fields on the pronounced slope of a volcano and is irrigated by sprinklers pressured solely by gravity.

 

As the first design collaboration by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, it unveiled their joint admiration for old-style courses. The blind drive on the fourth, the cut-the-corner drives on the fifth and sixth are all based on tee shots found at National Golf Links. So, too, are its punchbowl green and strings of diagonal bunkers.

 

It's also a massive course, built on a huge scale, Coore says, to accommodate the wind and the slope and the fact that it gets mostly resort play. But what sets it apart in my mind are the little things.

 

When I played the course years ago with Coore, it took only one hole for me to appreciate one of its subtleties. We were on the tee of the par-3 second, an OK hole but nothing riveting, nothing like the canyon-carry par-3 eighth or the ocean-backdropped par-3 11th. The second sits on a rare flat portion of the property. The green sits at a diagonal, angling left to right, and there's a string of bunkers staggering up the right side of the green. The first bunker appears to be directly in front of the green but is actually 40 yards short of it. When pointed out to me, I called it Gingerbread. Bill disagreed.

 

To read Whitten’s full review, click here.

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Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from New York City who now resides in Los Angeles. He hosts Inside Golf, a twice weekly podcast focused on the PGA Tour, betting, daily fantasy, golf course architecture, and interviews, as part of the BlueWire podcast network. As well as contributing to Golf Digest, Andy is also a data analyst and writer for RickRunGood.com, where he covers PGA Tour betting and daily fantasy. He came to Golf Digest’s betting panel after previously writing for Golf.com, the Score and GolfWRX. In his free time, Andy can likely be found on a golf course. Follow him on Twitter: @adplacksports