Sentry Tournament of Champions 2021 DFS picks: Can Bryson DeChambeau break Kapalua?
We are back! This is a great time of year for anyone playing some type of fantasy golf. Many yearlong leagues are starting, while DFS golf is back for the first of 29 consecutive weeks through the Olympics. To fill the void of regular-season football wrapping up are some great DraftKings and FanDuel contests for the 2021 Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Kapalua’s Plantation Course has hosted the TOC since 1999, which means we have more than two decades worth of data to study. In my regression model that I run every week at RickRunGood.com, it shows me that driving distance is as much of an indicator of success this week than any other on tour. Take that with a bit of a grain of salt: Though length off the tee goes a long way at Kapalua, many of the fairways are so severely canted that even shorter hitters can hit a speed slot and have their drives carry. Still, at this unique par-73 layout that measures 7,596 yards after changes were made last year, I’m weighing distance heavily.
Of course, usually this is a much smaller field with only tournament winners, but there are 42 golfers competing this week, including Dustin Johnson, who’s playing for the first time since his Masters title. And we’re seeing Jon Rahm play with new equipment—so there are some question marks among the highest-priced golfers in this field. As usual, birdie-or-better is a crucial stat to DraftKings and FanDuel scoring, so I’m weighing that and putting on these large greens (8,700 square feet on average) high this week.
Here are my favorite plays (and a couple golfers most likely to disappoint) in each price range for the 2021 Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Price range: $9,000 and higher
High Upside: Bryson DeChambeau ($10,200 DraftKings | $11,600 FanDuel)
DeChambeau enters the 2021 calendar year as the fifth-ranked player in the world and on a quest to get to No. 1. The Plantation Course at Kapalua rewards distance, but not in the way you might think. It’s not so much the par 5s that I think DeChambeau will ravage, but he will have short clubs into nearly all 11 par 4s. With some of the widest fairways in the world, DeChambeau will be able to chase distance without regard for accuracy. Prior to his U.S. Open victory, his short irons were a bit sporadic, but then he ran away from the field at Winged Foot. And don't forget: He's one of the best putters in the world, ranking 10th in the 2019-20 season in strokes gained/putting. After a month or so off to refine his game—and add some more distance—I'm so intrigued to see how Bryson looks, and I think he'll make a statement this week.
Safest Option: Justin Thomas ($10,700 DraftKings | $12,000 FanDuel)
It’s now six straight events where Thomas has finished inside the top 12, with two majors in that stretch. That’s insanely good. Now he goes to a course and a format that he has thrived in during his career. Let’s start with the no-cut format. Of his 13 PGA Tour victories, 10 of them have come in no-cut events. Now let’s consider how much Thomas loves this course. He’s won here twice in the past four years, including a playoff victory in 2020. It’s hard to imagine a scenario in which Thomas’ name is not near the top of the leader board.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Jon Rahm ($10,400 DraftKings | $11,800 FanDuel)
It’s difficult to fade the No. 2 player in the world, but there are a few things that generate concern based on his price tag. Rahm made the switch from TaylorMade to Callaway this offseason. While I’m sure he’s been practicing and getting dialed in with his new sticks, it’s always a bit different when you put them in play at a tournament for the first time. Additionally, Rahm’s best results in 2020 came on the most difficult golf courses (Olympia Fields and Muirfield Village), and this week is historically a birdie fest. So I’m going to save Rahm for some more advantageous situations in the future.
Pick To Win: Patrick Reed ($9,600 DraftKings | $11,200 FanDuel)
There is so much value in rostering Patrick Reed for DFS purposes. Per the RickRunGood.com golf tools, Patrick Reed was the most “valuable” fantasy golfer in 2020 of all golfers who averaged a salary over $9,000. He returned, on average, 8.2x his salary. For those new to that calculation, it means that if he was priced $10,000 he would (on average) score 82 DraftKings points. Not only does he provide value, but he has plenty of winning upside—including winning this event in 2015 and finishing runner-up in 2017 and 2020.
Price range: $8,000 to $9,000
High Upside: Scottie Scheffler ($8,500 DraftKings | $9,700 FanDuel)
Scheffler’s ability to make birdies means that he routinely outperforms his finishing position with his rank in fantasy scoring. The great news is that his finishes are continuing to improve, and the fantasy points are getting even better. Scheffler went back to back with T-4 finishes at the PGA Championship and the Northern Trust last season. He wrapped up the year with a top 20 at Augusta National and, with a weird quirk in the invitation process, can make the Sentry Tournament of Champions his first PGA Tour victory.
Safest Option: Tony Finau ($8,900 DraftKings | $10,200 FanDuel)
Victories have eluded Finau over the past five years. That’s not why you invest in Finau. You invest in him because of his ability to make birdies and rack up fantasy points, no matter how he finishes on Sundays. Per the RickRunGood.com golf tools, Finau scored 70+ DraftKings points in 11 of his 20 starts in the 2020 year, making him one of the most consistent (and accomplished) golfers for fantasy.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Adam Scott ($8,100 DraftKings |$9,000 FanDuel)
There’s just so much unknown from Scott coming off a very weird 2020. He won the Genesis Invitational in February but only played six times in the tour’s restart. He didn’t crack the top 20 in any of those events and will now travel to Kapalua, where he hasn’t played competitively since 2014 (T-6). This range is filled with golfers with more concrete reasons to be optimistic about, I don’t think we have to opt for Scott.
Pick To Win: Hideki Matsuyama ($9,000 DraftKings | $10,800 FanDuel)
With the Olympics being held in his native Japan, 2021 is going to be an incredibly important year for Matsuyama. And that starts here in Maui. Matsuyama has played this event three times and has never finished worse than T-4. It’s the best average finish of anyone in the field. He’s been on a roll in terms of fantasy points, scoring at least 77.5 DraftKings points in each of his last four events to close 2020.
Price range: $7,000 to $8,000
High Upside: Brendon Todd ($7,200 DraftKings | $7,600 FanDuel)
Todd had an awkward finish to the 2020 year, dealing with a broken toe that certainly impacted his results. He closed the year on a high note, finishing T-8 at Mayakoba. Todd is an interesting case study on the types of golfers who should succeed at Kapalua. Obviously distance helps, but if you play the correct side of the fairway, you’ll be able to take advantage of the slopes and rely on your iron play and putting. The massive green complexes are a big challenge, and we see them lead to plenty of three-putts each year. For those, we need strong putters to navigate, and Todd is one of the better putters on tour. I think we’ve seen that he can find a way to contend in most PGA Tour events, and Kapalua might be a sneaky good setup for him.
Safest Option: Ryan Palmer ($7,000 DraftKings | $7,700 FanDuel)
When I create the fantasy golf tools for RickRunGood.com, I like to look at median results instead of average results. Since golf is so volatile and missing a cut is a big hit to fantasy scoring, median can be a better indicator of overall success. When you look at median results, Ryan Palmer is a star. His median fantasy scoring was 73.5 DraftKings points which was 13th on tour! He was actually better than Patrick Reed in that category. While he might not win the golf tournament, he rarely hurts you as an owner, which means Palmer was one of the safer options in 2020.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Marc Leishman ($7,400 DraftKings |$7,900 FanDuel)
Leishman had a strange 2020 year: He won the Farmers Insurance Open at the end of January, but he was pretty terrible after the tour resumed in June. He only had one top-20 finish in his final 14 PGA Tour events. He missed the cut in six of those events and finished T-70 the ZOZO Championship and T-52 at the CJ Cup, both no-cut events. He finished second-to-last at both the BMW Championship and the TOUR Championship. I’m going to need to see some more signs of life from Leishman before we consider buying back in.
Pick To Win: Jason Kokrak ($7,300 DraftKings | $8,000 FanDuel)
Kokrak is one of the longer hitters on the PGA Tour, which should come in handy at Kapalua, a course where he will play competitively for the first time. Kokrak punched his ticket by defeating the star-studded field at the CJ Cup at Shadow Creek. He wrapped up 2020 by earning a top 20 in six of his final nine events, an impressive feat even before you realize the caliber of tournaments he played in that stretch. It included two playoff events, the U.S. Open and two invitationals.
Price range: $6,900 and below
High Upside: Mackenzie Hughes ($6,800 DraftKings | $7,400 FanDuel)
Hughes has the ability to “pop” up the leaderboard. In his final 17 events in 2020, he finished inside the top 15 on eight occasions. That’s nearly a 50 percent top-15 rate for someone who is almost always priced under $7,500. The concern with Hughes is that he is too reliant on his putter, but that’s the club that might be important here at Kapalua with how large the greens are.
Safest Option: Stewart Cink ($6,600 DraftKings | $7,100 FanDuel)
I’m not thrilled with any of the sub-$7,000 options in terms of safety, but Cink does offer some appeal. He won the opening event of the 2021 season, the Safeway Open, and notched a T-4 in Bermuda a few weeks later. Cink is a seasoned veteran who will grind for four rounds, no matter how the scores start rolling in, which is more than I can expect from some other golfers in this range.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Andrew Landry ($6,300 DraftKings | $7,000 FanDuel)
Landry punched his ticket to Maui via a victory at the American Express, all the way back in January 2020. Landry has only one top-25 finish in the 18 events since. Landry was a below-average PGA Tour player in 2020, losing 0.54 shots to the field on average every single round. He doesn’t have one facet of his game that he can rely on if things go sideways.
Pick To Win: Lanto Griffin ($6,900 DraftKings | $7,200 FanDuel)
He’s almost an auto-click when he’s priced below $7,000! Griffin flashed to value at both the Zozo Championship and CJ Cup, scoring 107 and 92 DraftKings points, respectively. His price tags were $7,000 and $6,300. He has the unique combination of skill sets that allow him the opportunity to get hot—he hits his irons well and putts well. When both of those things come together in a given week, it’s the recipe to fly up the leader board and return value.
Rick Gehman, founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.