Tournament of Champions 2021
Well, 2020 is finally done and dusted. Though it brought plenty of success from a golf punting perspective, it didn’t bring a whole lot else to the table. Hopefully everyone’s 2021 has a deal more to be positive about.
Firstly I would like to thank all my regular readers for embarking on another year with me, and also welcome all the new readers. As ever it is important to treat it as a long term project, and not get overly excited about early wins/losses. A few good weeks shouldn’t mean you start doubling your stakes, I am no more likely to put up a winner off a good run than a bad one. Also, the reverse is true. Try to keep your staking consistent, and keep the betting bank at levels where you can have the same stake per point next week, and the week after, no matter how this one goes. Thankfully, since I began writing these officially in 2017, there has been no prolonged dry spell.
I will try and aim for 4pm each Tuesday to send previews out. The reason it is later than some other tipsters is that a lot of my approach is based on the Alternative Markets. It is typically at least Noon, if not later, before these are all priced up sufficiently. We can miss the odd Monday outright price, but as was the case this week, I will endeavour to send out early/separately anything which I deem likely to shorten. I will as ever stay away from quoting top prices from firms such as Skybet/888/Unibet when they are stand alone at that price, or the only ones pricing up that market.
I typically aim to return approx 30pts off the win part of outright bets, and 20pts off the win part of Alternative market bets. This may increase slightly when I view one as very overpriced.
I have had a few ask me will I be recommending anything ante post for the Majors. It’s not something I typically get involved in to be honest. Generally firms bet to a very high percentage at this stage, and with no added carrot of extra places. If I do see anything of note standing out, I will add it in on the given week.
So, it’s the first event of the 2021 calendar year, which is as ever the Sentry Tournament of Champions from Kapalua. A rare Par 73 on Tour, it comes in just under 7600 yards. Unusually though for one of it’s length, shorter hitters have had more than their fair share of success. It features abnormally wide fairways, which again suggests the grip it and rip it merchants should prosper, but to my eye approach play, scrambling and a hot putter are just as important. As ever though, length is certainly no hindrance!! Last year saw trickier conditions than we have become accustomed to on the Plantation Course, with the winning total of 14 under par being the highest since Vijay Singh was successful in 2007. Consistent wind throughout the 4 days, allied to wet conditions during play, kept the world’s best honest. With a dry lead up this time around, and as things stand only Thursday and Sunday looking to offer any wind resistance, we should see the winning score more around the mid 20’s under par.
Players of Interest:
I put up Dustin Johnson at 10/1 for this event last year, when I felt he should have been at least a couple of points shorter. He didn’t reward support there, but does arrive here off far better recent form than 12 months ago. His Masters victory was sublime, pretty much unplayable over the 4 days at Augusta, and it was of no real surprise such was his standard the previous 3 months. But the market certainly hasn’t missed his chance here, and at a top price 6/1 in a deeper field in both quality and quantity than last year, I can let him go. It is hard to be dogmatic about the state of players’ games at this time of year, but with 2020 having been very busy with top end tournaments towards the latter part of it, it would be no shock if some of the games elite afforded themselves some extra respite over the festive season. It may very well prove that I am well wide of the mark, but with that thought in the back of my mind, I am steering clear of the very head of the market here.
In just a 42 man field, it is to be expected that we have a few players at or under the 10/1 mark. Any of the 5 could win this week, and an obvious case could be made for all, but none of them are shouting over priced to me. Defending champion Justin Thomas is second favourite at 7/1, and if pushed, I would prefer him of the top 3 in the market. Unlike DJ, he has been busy since The Masters, playing as recently as just over 2 weeks ago at the PNC Championship. He also took in the Mayakoba Classic in early December, so there is certainly less chance of rust with JT. The one area of worry here is that though he had hot spells at times, the putter was cold for much of the 2020 season, and that won’t get the job done here. He can go on birdie streaks with the best of them, but so often last term it was the flat stick that was his undoing. Length will help here, but accurate approach play and hot putting will be the winning of it. At just 7/1 it’s too much of a niggle in my mind.
Jon Rahm arrived here as a very short priced favourite 12 months, only to disappoint with a 10th place finish in a 34 man field. In his 3 visits here he has only had 5 of 12 rounds in the 60s, and this would compare pretty poorly to DJ, who has shot 14 of his last 20 rounds under 70. Rahm has also only once beaten 69 around here, and will need to improve on those stats to be successful this week. I can let him run here.
Next is the man I find it very hard to call, wherever he pitches up, Bryson DeChambeau. At first glance you could say that Kapalua is made for the game of his length. But on inspection, and looking through previous winners, there is much more to this layout than simply a long drive competition. Accurate approach play is key into these massive greens, and that had remained the one area of Bryson’s game that let him down the most. I say ‘had’ as he will be all too aware of that, and I imagine he will have been prioritizing that in his off season work. Until he shows more potency from 150 yards and in though, I can leave him out when faced with tasks such as this week.
Xander Schauffele was of more interest to me when I began studying this week. A player who absolutely thrives in these limited fields, no cut scenarios, he also has developed the art of repeating good showings at certain venues year on year. Winner here in 2019, he went on to lose out in a playoff last year, and deserves to be on anyone’s shortlist this time around. The drawbacks are I expected bigger than 10/1, and he has reported as feeling quite fatigued of late having not long recovered from Covid. As such, it will be a watching brief for me on the X Man this week.
At the halfway stage of the November Masters I was very confident that Patrick Cantlay would give me plenty of weekend interest. Disappointingly, and I have to say surprisingly, he backed out of it without so much as a whimper. He, like Xander, was of interest to me here, but I was hoping for 20/1 to play. It was a borderline decision to leave him out, and if readers wanted one more arrow I would suggest him, but I myself will let him run. He is yet to really trouble the Kapalua judge, but 2018 on debut was a learning experience which he put to good use ahead of finishing 4th last year. I do fancy he will be involved come Sunday evening.
Regular readers may be getting bored of it at this stage, but a quick glance back through the results will show that siding with PATRICK REED when circumstances suit, has proved more than profitable. And profit is never boring!! At 16/1 in a limited field here, paying 6 places on a course which I deem to be absolutely perfect for him to showcase his talents, I envisage him once again rewarding our faith. Only once in his last 5 visits has he not notched a top 6 finish, and they include a win and two runner up slots. When he has come undone in contention of late, principally his two European Tour forays it has been wayward drives at the wrong time that have been the catalyst in his demise. The Plantation Course is as wide as it gets off the tee, and will both offer forgiveness and give added comfort to the only area of his game which is any worry. From the fairways in, he has been a magician of late, and with the putter behaving far more often than not I can see him making birdies aplenty here again this week. Low scoring wins are part of Reeds CV, with him requiring -18 at last years WGC Mexico, -21 in winning this event in 2015, and -28 when successful in the previous years Humana Challenge.
We have all seen how the aggressive nature of Ryder Cup golf suits Reed, and that is what will be required here. Fourth on Tour so far this season for Par 5 scoring, I expect him to make hay on those 20 holes this week. Though he will probably have packed away more turkey than most over the festive season, such is his wildly competitive nature that I don’t expect him to arrive here half baked. This is an excellent opportunity for him to continue his recent run of landing a victory each season, and I expect him to give it a bloody good rattle. His form at the back end of 2020 was incredibly consistent in the best of events, and I see no reason why he won’t pick up where he left off here.
While Fat Pat was gobbling the turkey, WEBB SIMPSON was probably still thanking God for the offering in front of him, but he is another who I feel can reward our faith this week. In 4 visits here he has notched two third place finishes, and something even better may be in the offing this time. 6th in strokes gained on approach to green last term, 13th in putting, 6th in Par 5 scoring and in the top 30 in all the scoring range approach from the fairway stats, these all stack up very nicely for the task he faces this week. Not short, if not the longest off the tee, Webb
like Reed makes his money from the fairways in and he will be relishing another go at Kapalua. Slightly disappointing in the RSM on his latest start to finish 2020, that was forgivable after a very busy period. Prior to that he had not been outside the Top 20 in any of his previous 7 starts, those incorporating the 3 FedEx Cup events plus the US Open and Masters. Quite simply he had been operating at a very high level indeed.
His first start of the calendar year in the last 7 years (the most recent first) have yielded finishes of 3/8/4/13/13/13/3. This leaves me with little worries on the score of him being undercooked here, and on a layout which he has thrived on bedore to attack, I expect another Sunday in contention for Simpson. I will say that though I do feel the 20/1 in shops to 6 places is worthy of support, he is quite a bit bigger currently on the exchanges. Being patient and getting on at 30 outright, and 5.0-5.2 in the Top 5 market there is a better approach.
It may be rude to let Cameron Smith go unbacked here, such was his strike rate for us in late 2020, but though I couldn’t crab his chances here he looks priced about right. In fact it is another Australian on this occasion that catches my eye.
MARC LEISHMAN had a pretty horrid post lockdown 2020. In truth that period of poor play came pretty much out of the blue. He had held off Jon Rahm to win the Farmers Insurance in January and finished runner up at the Arnold Palmer not much later. For whatever reason, his game from the tee went very negative after that, and the rest of it wasn’t much better. There were shoots of promise on a couple of occasions though prior to an excellent display at Augusta, and he has kept busy since, appearing at both the Mayakoba and QBE Shootout. His short game looked in good nick in the latter. In his last 11 January starts, he has notched a win and 6 other Top 20 finishes. That is quite impressive indeed, and suggests the big Ozzie isn’t found wanting for readiness when the curtain comes up. He also clearly thrives on this week’s layout, the experience gained on debut in 2013 being put to good use, finishing 7th in 2018 and 4th in 2019. There are only a couple with a better scoring average around here, and given how he upped his game at Augusta (where he also had previous) I wouldn’t find it at all surprising to see him contend here once again.
I had considered weighing in with him in the Top 20 market instead, but given many of his poor displays in the latter half of 2020, there has to be the slight chance he once again bombs out. But there is also massive upside to his outright price of 80/1, and it is here I feel we get the most value in having him onside.
That’s it in the outright market. In truth there isn’t a lot to go at in the Alternative Markets either, with many categories being matches or 3 runners.
Top 10 Finish:
Not much in the way of extra bets this week, but I am very keen on CAMERON CHAMP to notch a Top 10 Finish here. Kapalua is very much a specialist layout, and it takes a bit of knowing. JT was a lowly 21st on debut, Xander was 22nd on his. Bryson was 26th on his first look, and Pat Reed was 16th in his first year before like Xander and JT, winning the following year. Champ has now had two looks around the layout, and finishes of 11th and 14th aren’t to be sneezed at during that education. I feel our man is now a vastly improved golfer than this time last year. When he burst on the scene, he was pretty much a one trick pony who sent the ball miles off the tee, and contended on weeks where he got lucky on the greens. He is now much more the finished article. The Par 3s at Augusta on Sunday may have thwarted him, but other than those untimely two holes (took a 6 and a 7 at the short 4th and 12th) he was mighty impressive in how he picked his way around. In 2019 he was 161st on Tour in strokes gained on approach. There was only a mild improvement in 2020, when he moved to 131st. But 12 months on, in an admittedly young 2021 season he sits 58th. Given the prodigious distances he hits it off the tee, it is harder for him to gain strokes on approach, but if he is as dialled in as he was in the latter part of 2020 I think he will go very close here. This is an event which traditionally sees a bigger name, and shorter priced contenders lift the prize, so instead of another big priced contender and backing Champ outright, I feel the 3/1 on offer here is the way to go. 7th for Par 5 scoring this term, those 20 holes should be meat and drink to the Californian here. I’ll be disappointed if we don’t collect, or at least go very very close in this.
I had deliberated long and hard about putting up SERGIO GARCIA in the Top Continental Euro market at 4/1. Main problem there was it was only priced up with one firm, and the 4/1 on offer was as low as I would have wanted to go. I had been completely ignorant of the Top European market, which has only one other additional contender in Martin Laird. He is a 16/1 chance across the board, one which I don’t fancy, and whose reduction factor would make the 6/1 on Garcia in Coral/Lads and even the general 11/2 , for this section, much more appealing than that 4/1.
It’s only 3 months, and 3 events, since Sergio was sublime in victory at the Sanderson’s Farms. His two completed events since then also showed much promise before he fell ill during the Houston Open, which saw him withdraw from the Masters on Covid grounds. I view this as a slight positive. One, he won’t be getting it again which is a worry however slight, for most in the field. Also he had his break then, and I imagine he will have been building up towards this, more so than many who may have downed tools for December. I have alluded to the fact that this place takes knowing, and that it’s rare to conquer it on one’s first go. That is exactly what Garcia managed in 2002 when he beat David Toms in a playoff. He hasn’t bothered with it much since, but that’s more to do with nice purses on the European Tour at the same time, and simply not qualifying for here, than anything else. The market pretty much has him as making up the numbers here in this 4 man heat, and that is far to dismissive in my opinion. Like Webb and Leishman, he too has some excellent January form to his name, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if he is hovering around the leaderboard come Sunday.
Will that be enough? It might well be, and at 6/1 I am more than willing to invest my hard earned to find out. Jon Rahm was an excellent 2nd here on debut, but as said earlier his scoring overall hasn’t been great on this layout. Given that and the unknowns involved at this time of year, 4/6 to land this section looks mighty short. Viktor Hovland is definitely my favourite young golfer, and the one I feel will ultimately prove the best. He is very close to having it all, and showed guts aplenty to grind out a win in the Mayakoba Classic. He is also young, and certainly very fit, but he did have a tough enough late schedule in 2020, and one wouldn’t blame him for over celebrating that win when play was done for the year. He also has the not so insignificant disadvantage of making his debut here. All told I view Garcia as a very good bet here, and one which I feel we will go very close with.
2pts ew Patrick Reed 16/1 (⅕ 6 places, WH) *Boyles also when sent yesterday – *16/1 5 places general also fine
1.5pts ew Webb Simpson 20/1 (⅕ 6 places, WH/Sky/PP/BFSB/Boyles/Betfred) *I would advise playing on Betfair’s Win and Top 5 market instead at current prices. 30 outright and 5.0-5.2 in the Top 5 Market. Boyles are also 4/1 (5.0) for a Top 5 Finish for those who don’t want to wait for liquidity on the machine.
.4pt ew Marc Leishman 80/1 (⅕ 5 places, 365/Unibet/888/VBet/Spreadex) *100 currently available on Betfair Exchange EW 5 Places market
Top 10 Finish:
5pts Cameron Champ 3/1 (365/Coral/Lads/Sky/BV/Betfred) *11/4 and upwards acceptable **10/3 with Unibet/888 + 4.6 currently available on exchange
3pts Sergio Garcia 6/1 (Coral/Lads) *11/2 General also acceptable
Thanks for reading. I will be back with the Sony Open the same time next week. Again, golf betting isn’t a get rich quick scheme, but as ever I am more than confident of turning a profit for the year. Play the long game, keep the stakes consistent, and hopefully enjoy the year ahead.
Below is the (nearly!) full schedule for 2021, incorporating 35 events in total.
07/01/21 – Sentry Tournament of Champions
14/01/21 – Sony Open
21/01/21 – The American Express
28/01/21 – The Farmers Insurance Open
04/02/21 – Phoenix Open
11/02/21 – AT&T Pebble Beach
18/02/21 – The Genesis Invitational
25/02/21 – WGC Mexico
04/03/21 – Arnold Palmer Invitational
11/03/18 – The Players Championship
18/03/21 – The Honda Classic
01/04/21 – Valero Texas Open
08/04/21 – The Masters
15/04/21 – RBC Heritage
29/04/21 – Valspar Championship
06/05/21 – Wells Fargo Championship
13/05/21 – AT&T Byron Nelson
20/03/21 – PGA Championship
03/06/21 – The Memorial
10/06/21 – RBC Canadian Open
17/06/21 – US Open
24/06/21 – Travelers Championship
15/07/21 – Open Championship
22/07/21 – 3M Open
05/07/21 – Fedex St. Jude
12/07/21 – Wyndham Championship
19/07/21 – Northern Trust Open
26/07/21 – BMW Championship
02/08/21 – Tour Championship
24/09/21 – Ryder Cup
The 2021-22 calendar has yet to be announced. When it is, I will add the 5 late year events to bring the total to 35, and hopefully keep us interested until the end of 2020.