By James Dalthorp III (JD3).


2021 starts out with a very interesting PGA Tour start and it’s a much different world than it was one year ago when this event was played. However, many of the top picks this week should look familiar – and the test that was 2020 proved that the top players of last year had the resiliency to carry over their skills and adjust to what was a challenging year.

What will not be a challenge: the Kapalua Plantation Course. Known for being a shootout and perched among the hills of Maui in Hawaii, the Tour remains in a state of vacation weather. That should also be encouraging for those who basked in the glory of success in the final events of the season in Florida and Cancun. For those watching, it’s obvious that the discoloration of the grass is a factor and the Hawaiian Islands are an acquired taste for golfers.

Let’s jump into my top five for the week.

Justin Thomas –

I have to back up JT as the winner for a few reasons. First, I’ve seen both of his victories here. He won last year in a playoff (without his best stuff) and in 2017. That 2020 win was one of those wins that reminded me of Tiger at Torrey Pines. He didn’t have his best stuff and it was obvious – yet other players couldn’t execute the shots Thomas did when it mattered. As a result, he only needed to be efficient and tidy to win. And in his short career, Thomas has a few repeat victories. I expect him to win this event at least 6 or 7 times, granted he has a long and healthy career.

Adam Scott –

When analyzing the stats of Scott over the past few years, I think this one is a dark horse that will be overlooked. Certainly, this is a player that is often underestimated because of the putter. But with a 6th in his last start here, not to mention the fact that these greens are not often had by typically good putters – the recipe is cooking for Scott. He has won a number of events at this time of year. The Aussie is coming off his native country’s summer – and that should mean he’s sharp. He makes his big money between December and April.

Harris English –

With conditions expected to be somewhat windy and a little cloudy, I would expect the conditions to suit the Englishman with a good iron game. Since English is such a steady iron player, I expect him to have a lot of chances to succeed at this event. The question mark, like Scott, will be the putter. But if the wind is a factor, that will make putting a bit more difficult for everybody. That favors both players.

Viktor Hovland –

Let’s keep this short and sweet: I’ve been covering Hovland’s success and recommending him as a play from his rookie starts. I think Kapalua is quite similar to other courses where Hovland has won and played well. He does well on courses in the tropics and with lots of undulations. Perfect recipe.

Jason Kokrak –

2020 was a breakout season for Jason. With his length at Kapalua, he could be a major threat. We don’t have a lot of data to show otherwise – but based on the types of courses Jason plays well at, I think this could be a good event for him. We’ll have to wait and see. He’s my only risky pick. But Kokrak has won and contended at some of the most tricked up layouts in the game: Southern Highlands, Colonial, Riviera. That suggests to me that he will be a great pick in these conditions.



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*PHOTO CREDIT*  – Joe West

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