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Odds and Ends: Backing course horses at Sentry Tournament of Champions

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After a profitable and eventful 2022 golf season, it's time to refocus and gear up for 2023. It's crazy to think that we are handicapping our first golf tournament of 2023. This week we are keying in on the Sentry Tournament of Champions. The limited-field event is comprised of just 39 golfers. Don't let the small number of golfers fool you. This week's tournament is loaded with talent. Jon Rahm headlines the field out at the Kapalua Resort in Hawaii. The Spaniard hopes to continue his recent dominance and pick up his first win at Kapalua. Because there are only 39 golfers and the prices are short, I will be betting on only a few golfers.

Here are the golfers I am betting on this week:

Justin Thomas: +1100

If most golfers on Tour put themselves in Justin Thomas' shoes, they are probably ecstatic about the success they would've had last year. For him, it would likely be seen as a letdown.  He played such great golf week in and week out yet was only able to win once. His biggest issue throughout the season was the inconsistencies he faced with the flat stick. A prime example is the difference between his putting performance at the PGA Championship (SG: P +6.3), where he won and his missed cut the following week at the Charles Schwab (SG: P -0.1).

With how skilled Thomas is at driving the ball and how masterful his iron play is, all it takes is a decent putting display, and he's a threat to win any tournament. He's such a great ball striker, and he's had great success here. In his five trips to Kapalua, he's won twice. At Kapalua, you want to bet on golfers who can pipe the ball deep, are crafty with their irons, and can get hot with the putter. The fairways and greens are massive. I like what Thomas has in his bag in the limited field.

Culp's Corner: Previewing the Sentry TOC

Here's a look ahead as the 2023 PGA Tour schedule gets going with the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Patrick Cantlay: +1000 | To finish Top 5 +190

Every part of me wants to bet on Xander Schauffele this week. With him withdrawing from the Pro-Am for undisclosed reasons, I get a little worried that he might not complete the tournament. He's such a great all-around golfer and a guy who dominates no-cut events. Well, you don't have to look too much further down the odds board to see another great all-around golfer who dominates no-cut events as well. That is Patrick Cantlay.

Cantlay is second on my primary model, only behind Tony Finau. When this course becomes a birdie fest, I don't mind being on a guy like Cantlay. He's third in Birdies or Better gained, he does well to avoid bogeys, and he has the composure to hold the lead if a few hot golfers are chasing him on Sunday. He also has a pair of fourth-place finishes here and finished the season well.

I am also backing Cantlay to finish inside the top 5 at +190. He's the most consistent golfer in the field and has had great success at this course. He finished last season with six top 5 finishes and a win at the BMW Championship. He's picked up right where he left off last season with a T2 at the Shriners.

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Viktor Hovland: +2000

Is there a more likable golfer on Tour than Viktor Hovland? I can't think of one. Maybe Tom Kim? Both are just as talented as golfers as they are likable. Hovland, much like Thomas, is long and accurate off the tee and is one of the best iron players on the course. The struggles around the greens, and his putter is wildly inconsistent. He's struggled here. He has yet to card a big score on this course. I do think that will start to change with maturity. Carding big scores virtually take you out of a tournament unless you're Kim.

With the greens being so large here, Hovland can basically get away with losing strokes around the green. His putting has also drastically improved. Over his last 10 events, he's gained +1.4 strokes putting, and that number increases to +1.9 over his previous five. We've seen him work back to the great ball striker he is. He plays well at resort courses and should be considered at this price.

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