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Sentry TOC has stacked field, but there are a couple of very big names missing

December 30, 2022
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David Cannon

There are the usual predicted high temperatures of 80 or 81 each day for the next 10 days on Maui, as well as a purse of $15 million that’s nearly double what it was in 2022, thanks to the PGA Tour’s new “elevated” status for some tournaments. And you only need to beat 38 other guys in the field to earn the first-place check of $2.7 million.

It’s a sweet gig for the PGA Tour players at Kapalua next week as they start the 2023 calendar year with the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Not surprisingly, the sun and cash have coaxed nearly every big-draw golfer qualified for the event to compete, with 17 of the top 20 in the Official World Golf Ranking entered when the deadline arrived on Friday. Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Collin Morikawa, Tony Finau … they will all be there.

There are, however, a couple of sizeable absences from the proceedings—both my choice, but for far different reasons. Here's the field. Do the non-starters jump out below?

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy, the reigning FedEx Cup champion, and a three-time winner last season, will not be in Hawaii, and that’s not a surprise, considering he’s only played in the TOC once despite numerous chances in his career; he notched a T-4 in 2019. He's also scheduled to play in the DP World Tour's event in Dubai in late January, so limiting travel at the start of the year is a likely consideration.

The Irishman isn't the first star to bypass the TOC despite repeatedly being eligible to play. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson didn’t go to Kapalua much, choosing to start their years once the tour returned to the mainland. In McIlroy’s case, he’s bounced around for his first start on the West Coast Swing, beginning last year in Los Angeles and the two years before that in San Diego. However, now that McIlroy has skipped the TOC, he's required to play in all of the rest of the tour's 12 "elevated" events becauase he finished in the top 20 (at No. 2) in the tour's 2022 Player Impact Program. That means one of his starts has to come at the WM Phoenix Open, which will mark his first-ever appearance at TPC Scottsdale. It's likely where he makes his 2023 PGA Tour debut.

Mind you, McIlroy is doing just fine FedEx Cup points standing wise, having won his only start in the fall at the CJ Cup in October.

Australian Cam Smith, the World No 3, also won’t be in Maui, and he’s the reigning champion, having shot 34 under to beat Rahm by one shot last January. Smith is out because he chose in September to leave the PGA Tour for LIV Golf. He won last year’s TOC, Players Championship and Open Championship at St. Andrews, but is now banned from the PGA Tour and likely won’t compete against most of the world’s stars until April’s Masters.

The TOC is expected to feature the return of World No. 7 Will Zalatoris, whose stellar year included his maiden victory in the FedEx Cup’s St. Jude Classic, but then ended with a back injury the next week at the BMW. This could be considered something of a honeymoon for the 26-year-old, who married his college sweetheart, Caitlin Sellers, in mid-December.