Sports Betting Weekly

Hyundai Tournament of Champions

When: Friday, 09 January 2015 (FINISHED)
Where: Kapalua Resort, Hawaii
Traditionally the season curtain-raiser for the PGA tour, for the second consecutive year the Hyundai Tournament Of Champions will tee-off a quarter of the way through the 2014-2015 campaign as 33 of last year’s regular winners and defending champ, Zach Johnson, get action underway in Hawaii.

Taking place at the Plantation Course at Kapalua, Maui, the tournament is the only par 73 event on the current PGA rota and offers a long and easy course with sloping fairways, large greens and big elevation changes throughout. Kapalua can be affected by the wind, but with only light breezes forecast for Hawaii, it should be a low-scoring affair where solid putting will be most important.

Although a long track, it should be noted that Kapalua is not a course that favours the typical big hitters – indeed, five of the past six winners have ranked no better than 15th for driving distance – with a much bigger advantage handed to those who play a neat and tidy green game. As mentioned above, however, putting is the most crucial skill set for this event, with seven of the past eight winners sitting inside the top three for this particular category when they went on to claim victory.

With Kapalua being such a unique course, experience will also play a vital factor in deciding the tournament’s eventual champion. Sergio Garcia and Daniel Chopra are the only first-timers to ever win at Kapulua and reigning champ Johnson admitted last year that he was still getting to know the place despite appearing there for the seventh time. As such, punters would be well-advised to think carefully before backing any of this year’s debutants or anyone else with little course experience.

In short, then, Kapalua is a course where you can pretty much hit it wherever you want off the tee so long as you’re decent at finding the greens and capable of playing a superb putting game. Any golfer possessing these key attributes should be in with a great chance of victory, while those already familiar with the lay of the land in Maui will take on even greater significance in terms of our betting.


Currently leading the market for outright winner at Kapalua are Jason Day and Bubba Watson at a joint-best price of 7/1. The former has made only one previous appearance at the course – finishing 9th in 2009 – and this in itself should set alarm bells ringing. True, the young Australian finished the year in fine form and certainly has the putting game to flourish in Maui, but Kapalua is a course for proven winners and Day currently just doesn’t convert enough to justify such a short price here.

Watson, meanwhile, has the course know-how to mount a serious challenge in Kapalua, but the optimism surrounding his chances should be tempered by the fact that he’s never bettered 69 on the course. Couple that with the fact that he’s put in three unremarkable performances since winning the HSBC Champions in China and the combination of recent form and course history suggests that a top four finish at 7/4 is by far the more likely result for the American this time out.

Of perhaps more interest is third-favourite, Matt Kuchar, at 8/1. Kooch will be lining up at Kapalua for the sixth time and since coming 25th back in 2003 he’s finished inside the top ten in each of his subsequent five outings, with a third place finish in 2010 his best effort so far. Last year he sat second after round one – no previous winners at the venue other than Garcia and Stuart Appleby have been more than three strokes off the lead after the opening round – before crumbling with a third round 75, and if he can get among the early frontrunners again he looks less likely to let it slip.

Beyond him, Hideki Matsuyama is another player garnering a lot of interest and is currently available at 16/1. Although we warned earlier about the dangers of backing debutants in Kapalua, there can be no denying that Matsuyama has proven himself to be one of the world’s best golfers over the past 18 months and if you do want to go against the current trend of seasoned champions, the Japanese pro is among the pick of the first-timers and also great value for a top four finish at 10/3.


Given he ticks so many boxes when it comes to the list of attributes required to challenge for the trophy in Kapalua, it should come as no major surprise that defending champ Johnson is being tipped by many for a repeat success this year. At 18/1 he looks a little long and if he can replicate the outstanding putting he displayed in the first two rounds in 2014 while improving on his haphazard showing in round three, he’ll definitely be in with a chance of becoming the first back-to-back champion since Geoff Ogilvy in 2009/2010.

Speaking of Ogilvy, the Australian also looks to be a decent shout for a long-odds punt at 40/1 (winner) or 8/1 (top four finish). The two-time champion obviously knows his way around the course and along with Matsuyama and Day, he’ll be one of the key figures behind odds of 4/1 on an Australasian champion being crowned in Kapalua. That being said, Ogilvy’s form seems to have badly tailed off of late – he shot an 80 in his last competitive round at the Australian Open – and this should go some way to explaining why he has been priced at such unfavourable odds.

Also worthy of our consideration is the 2014 FedEx Cup champion, Billy Horschel, at 28/1. The American finished tied sixth in the Tournament Of Champions last year and goes into this year’s event on the back of a strong PGA showing in 2014 which saw him rise to 13th in the Official World Golf Rankings. As such, Horschel is another player who looks slightly over-priced in the winners’ market and may prove an attractive – albeit risky – punt for those looking beyond the favourites.

Finally, the biggest outsider for the tournament worth taking a look at is American Ben Crane. At massive odds of 125/1 the 2014 FedEx St Jude Classic winner is a considerable gamble, but with four appearances at Kapalua and two top 10 finishes, there is an undoubted discrepancy between his course experience and his price. Couple that with the facts that he’s also a highly capable putter when he’s on his game and the windless conditions will probably play into his hands and you certainly have a golfer more than capable of leaving several bookmakers with egg on their faces.