For me, today officially begins the 2021 PGA Tour golf season with the playing of the Sentry Tournament of Champions on the Plantation Course at the Kapalua Resort in Hawaii.
Sure, the PGA Tour’s wrap-around season technically began with the Safeway Open at the Silverado Resort in Napa last September, but until the last few years, the TOC always kicked off the season.
For me as a fan, it still does.
The event, which has always featured winners from the previous year battling it out on the bombers paradise that is the Plantation course, will be a little different this year.
Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic that shortened the PGA season last year, this years’ tournament will feature tournament winners as well as 17 additional golfers that qualified for the Tour Championship.
In all there was 45 golfers eligible, with 42 that will be in the field. The lone big name not playing of the qualifiers is Rory McIlroy. There is a $6.7 million purse, with $1.34 million going to the winner of the no-cut event.
Justin Thomas is the defending champion after beat Patrick Reed and Xander Schauffele in a playoff after the three tied at 14-under last year.
This is always one of my favorite tournaments to watch for a couple of reasons.
One, taking place in Hawaii, the tournament is televised in the late afternoon, early evening on the west coast and it makes for a wonderful way to wind down from the day.
Nothing like watching a golf tournament from Hawaii when it is dark and cold in California.
Second, if you like to watch golfers hit bombs off the tee, there is no better tournament. At Kapalua, you get huge fairways, with the golfers having the Tradewinds at their backs at times, resulting in monster tee shots.
Of the 10 longest drives on the PGA Tour since the use of the ShotLink tracking system, four have come on the Plantation Course – all on the 18th hole.
The longest drive of all time on the PGA Tour is believed to by Tiger Woods, and his 498-yard shot did indeed come on No. 18 at the Plantation Course.
This will be the first time for the new, and bulked-up Bryson DeChambeau, a player that has taken driving distance, to tackle the course.
Look at what DeChambeau he did last year after the 13-week COVID break the PGA Tour took during the pandemic.
He came back after adding 40 pounds of muscle and was intent to launch every drive. He ended up leading the Tour with a 322.1 yard average. During Masters week, he reached a 200 mph ball speed on the practice range.
He over-powered the U.S. Open course at Winged Foot, winning by six shots and was the only golfer under par.
In October at the Shriners stop in Las Vegas, he had nine drives over 300 yards in the first round, including driving the 365-yard, par 4 No. 7.
If someone told me I could only watch four tee shots over the course of the season, I would probably choose all four DeChambeau tee shots on No. 18 this week!
As usual, it is a good field with other bombers in the lineup as well as DeChambeau. One of the great parts about the course and the tournament is that while it sets up for some launched tee shots, the players still must hit some golf shots to contend for the title.
This was evidenced by the 14-under winning score from last year. It is not just length off the tee, but the rest of your game as well.
Cameron Champ, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Patrick Reed are just a few of the golfer that will tee it up and let it fly! With the backdrop of the Pacific Ocean on most of the holes, it is easily one of the most scenic events of the year.
Here are some of the Thursday tee times I am looking forward to watching. All times are PDT.
12:40 p.m. Cameron Champ/Ryan Palmer
1 p.m. Brendon Todd/Bryson DeChambeau
2 p.m. Patrick Reed/Sebastian Munoz
2:10 p.m. Scottie Scheffler/Collin Morikawa
2:20 p.m. Xander Schauffele/Jon Rahm
2:30 p.m. Justin Thomas/Dustin Johnson
The tournament will be on the Golf Channel from 3-7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday, with NBC showing the event 1-3 p.m. on Sunday, with Golf Channel closing it out from 3-5 p.m.
By Dennis Miller