By James Dalthorp
Happy New Year!!

Got 2020 vision? We do. Nothing like a clean slate and a fresh look into the sun. We’ve all got a new year of events to look forward to and this week should be a real clean way to start your golf stunts. Let us jump straight in.
The Sentry Tournament of Champions (formerly the Mercedes Championship) kicks off the year in Hawaii and there’s a very young field here that should take full advantage of the layout. The big kicker here is that the course will be expecting heavy winds over the next few days.
With that information of note, we have a good feeling about a few picks. Kapalua’s Plantation Course is just an incredible venue so enjoy watching this one on the tube.

1. Rickie Fowler

As we’ve seen in the past, a guy who gets a last minute pick in a team format will be very dangerous afters some healthy rest and a solid performance in the event to validate his pick. Tiger gave Rickie the nod thanks to a Koepka WD down under – and just like his rookie appearance on the Ryder Cup team, he proved valuable in a team win. I think Rickie’s solid combination of top 3 finishes at this event, a healthy dose of wind game (being an Oklahoma State alum), and the results mentioned are a recipe for guaranteed positivity – and I think it will be a win. I know Rickie from our early days in junior golf and usually I have a good sense when he’s going to pull off a W. He’s never been outside the top 6 here, just in case you’re doubting.

2. Collin Morikawa

I’m going to push Full Send on the first timer this week. His statistics with his iron play and wedge game have been outstanding and usually this event brings the best out of newcomers who are well deserved champions that havent quite made a big splash. I think Morrikawa is still hungry after the offseason and this seems like the right venue to get him off to a great 2020.

3. Brendon Todd

Can’t ignore that this dude is on fire – the trifecta late last season surely won’t stall him at this event – which he probably has been dreaming of getting back to. His only appearance here was a T8 finish in 2015 and since the victories he’s already had in the FedEx season involved courses with windy conditions where scoring tends to be low, put your money him. This fire isn’t going out right away.

4. Ryan Palmer

Just adding Ryan to this mix because he has played well here and he’s a good wind player. When it gets windy anywhere, it’s nice to have a little extra control. This makes me leery of adding the bombers like Dustin Johnson, Woodland, or Rahm. Palmer is a safe pick based on his solid history here and the Texas wind bio. If the fan is on, he’ll pick up spots like a horse that closes out the race in a photo finish.

5. Justin Thomas

Just can’t deny he’s on point with his entire game. A lot of folks have given him the media curse that most players struggle with. His expectations are extremely high going into 2020 but I don’t think they will have a lot of impact on his attitude. Thomas is primed for major #2 and I think he’ll get one. I think his loss in the singles match at the Presidents Cup was a learning experience, however. So I would pay close attention to how he plays this week. I think besides Todd, he’s been the best US player over the past 3 months. Let’s see how he carries it over.

6. Patrick Cantlay

There’s no such thing as a wild card in this field. I think this is either going to be a huge week for PC or a dud. He played well down under despite some rookie mistakes and I think the relaxed mood at Kapalua will give him a lot of confidence. In fact, it might even be a bit too disinteresting for him. He plays well on courses that require good driving, so i think that will ultimately keep him in the middle of things this week.

Monkey Knife Fight:

Rapidfire 1.8x picks
JUSTIN THOMAS (+.5) birdie or better vs. PATRICK CANTLAY
This is crazy, when does Thomas get shots? Even the half stroke is a major nod. I think Thomas will have a ton of confidence in round one and since he’s really taken it low here – the birdies should be going strong. No brainer here in my book.
RICKE FOWLER (+0.5) less total strokes vs. PAUL CASEY
Casey’s a strong frontrunner in the early rounds but knowing that he’s one of the oldest guys in the field and tends to play better in the later half of the year, this one really nods to Rickie. Coming off the Presidents Cup, I think Rick will be energized. Wouldn’t be surprised if he goes ham on it.
DUSTIN JOHSON (0.5) over more par or better vs. KEVIN KISNER
Another crazy one on paper – how could the Presidents Cup selection get shots over Kisner? Kevin was in poor form over the last couple months or else he would’ve been on the team. Johnson famously drives the ball in such a way that this course can become a putt putt track at any point. As much as Kisner likes this place, DJ is due and I like his odds of coming in and putting up a good first round. When DJ’s not quite on, he puts together very low scores – when they even out, he wins. Right now, he’s a little inconsistent too. This is the dicey one of the three.


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