Updated throughout each tournament week, 'The Starter' will provide key news, notes, and other nuggets prior to the first tee time on Thursday morning. Think of it as an all-in-one resource to help guide you in the days leading up to the start of the tournament, as you prepare your fantasy golf lineups and entries. As soon as we receive valuable news updates on things such as tee times, featured groups, withdrawals and other course reports we’ll be sure to post them all here.
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Viktor Hovland moved into the OWGR top 10 after winning the Hero World Challenge for the second consecutive year. It was the third successful title defense of the Fall.
The PGA Tour and DP World Tour jointly announced a new pathway--starting with the 2024 season--that will allow the top 10 golfers in the Race to Dubai rankings to earn PGA Tour cards.
Another new pathway will allow the top three players on the Japan Golf Tour (JGTO) Order of Merit to earn membership onto the DP World Tour.
Justin Thomas and Jordan Spieth defeated Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods in the seventh edition of 'The Match'.
Tiger Woods played through plantar fasciitis both at 'The Match' and the PNC Championship in December. Tiger hopes to play in all of the majors and maybe one or two other tournaments in 2023.
Sahith Theegala and Tom Hoge won the QBE Shootout.
Starting in 2024, the QBE Shootout will be a fully mixed PGA/LPGA event. Nelly Korda and Lexi Thompson played in the most recent edition of the event.
Augusta National announced that qualified LIV golfers will be allowed to play in the 2023 Masters Tournament. (The other majors have not yet made an official announcement on whether their qualification criteria will change.)
LIV Golf COO Atul Khosla resigned in mid-December.
LIV Golf is expected to announce its 2023 roster soon; the first LIV event of the new year will take place at Mayakoba at the end of February.
Rory McIlroy ended the year as World No. 1 for the third time in his career (2012, 2014, 2022).
Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort - Maui, Hawaii
Event #10 of the 2022-23 FedExCup Regular Season
Elevated Event #1
Limited field (39 golfers) with no cut
The Tournament of Champions invites winners from the previous calendar year to compete against each other and kick off the new year with a bang.
While in previous seasons the TOC has been a somewhat relaxed entryway into the new year, the 2023 edition dives head first into the PGA Tour's new elevated event series and offers a $15,000,000 prize purse. The Tournament of Champions' $15 million matches the prize purse of both the 2022 Masters Tournament and 2022 PGA Championship. This obviously adds to the monetary motivation for golfers to show up in Hawaii ready to compete.
Also somewhat unique to the 2023 TOC is that the tournament extended invites to golfers that finished in the top 30 of the 2022 FedExCup Standings/Points List, if not already eligible.
The same thing was done following the COVID-shortened 2020 season in order to fill out the field. So this week's field will include a handful of golfers who played well but did not win an event last year.
The Tournament of Champions has been played at the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort on the island of Maui since 1999. The course is known for its big, wide fairways and large greens. The course is likely remembered also for its elevation changes and incredibly scenic views of the Pacific Ocean.
Per DataGolf, 80.9% of fairways and 84.4% of greens were hit at Kapalua in 2022, which was 14.9% and 16.1% higher than TOUR average last season respectively.
When the wind is down the Plantation Course at Kapalua is extremely scoreable. In fact, Kapalua proved to be the easiest course last season on the PGA Tour.
Winning Score: -34
Scoring Average: 68.219 (Par 73)
Average to Par: -4.783
Numerous PGA Tour scoring records were broken at the 2022 Tournament of Champions, including Cam Smith's winning score of 34-under-par which is the most strokes under-par in a 72-hole event. Jon Rahm (-33) and Matt Jones (-32) also surpassed the previous record.
Rahm, Jones, and Justin Thomas all shot 61 (-12) at last year's tournament to set a new 18-hole tournament record.
Matt Jones recorded the lowest 36-hole score to par (23-under) in consecutive rounds in TOUR history.
Jon Rahm made 32 birdies which set a new PGA Tour record for most birdies in a 72-hole event.
Clearly, the Tournament of Champions tends to be a birdie fest. The winning score has gotten to at least 20-under par in seven of the last eight years.
That said Justin Thomas won at just -14 in 2020, proving that wind and dry conditions have the ability to make Kapalua play more difficult.
SG Total: +14.88
SG T2G: +8.40 (3rd)
SG OTT: +4.00 (1st)
SG APP: +2.72 (7th)
SG ARG: +1.68 (7th)
SG PUTT: +6.48 (1st)
Unsurprisingly, shooting 34 strokes under-par for an event and shattering scoring records requires success in all areas of the game.
Cam Smith was far from a household name before outdueling Jon Rahm on Sunday at last year's Sentry Tournament of Champions. In a way, Smith's win last year was foreshadowing what was ahead for him in 2022--winning The Players and The Open Championship, finishing T3 at the Masters. Perhaps it gave Smith the confidence to accomplish all he did and ascend into the elite class of golfers at the top of the world ranks.
Of course, Cam Smith will not get the chance to defend his title as he is now a part of LIV Golf.
Eligible golfers include 2022 tournament winners on the PGA Tour, as well as golfers who finished in the top 30 of the 2022 FedExCup playoffs and eligibility points list.
Non-tournament winners who qualified by finishing in the top 30 of the FedExCup: Scott Stallings, Cameron Young, Collin Morikawa, Corey Conners, Brian Harman, Sahith Theegala, Adam Scott, Sungjae Im, and Viktor Hovland.
This week's field consists of 17 of the top 20 ranked golfers in the world.
World No. 1 Rory McIlroy will not play in the Sentry TOC. He is choosing to use his one-time opt-out of an elevated event.
Per Nosferatu (@VC606 on Twitter), Scottie Scheffler can move into the World No. 1 spot if he finishes in solo 3rd place or better this week.
Per reports from both AP Golf News and Golf Channel, Shane Lowry, despite not making the 2022 Tour Championship, still ended up in the top 30 of the **final** FedExCup Points List after LIV golfers Joaquin Niemann and Cameron Smith were removed. Lowry has evidently chosen not to play in the Tournament of Champions too.
McIlroy and Lowry are now expected to play in the remainder of the elevated events.
Will Zalatoris (OWGR 7th)
Zalatoris is slated to return for the first time since suffering two herniated discs in his back during the third round of the BMW Championship back in August. Shortly after the injury occurred, Zalatoris announced that he would not play in the TOUR Championship nor the Presidents Cup, both of which he had qualified for.
He was originally in the field for the Hero World Challenge, which took place in December, but pulled out in order to give himself another month to rest and recover. Zalatoris has already committed to playing The American Express (1/19-1/22) as well, suggesting that he feels ready to return to a normal schedule.
It's possible that Zalatoris will need to shake off some rust after being out of competitive golf for four months.
Hideki Matsuyama (OWGR 21st)
Matsuyama withdrew during the third round of the Houston Open (11/12) due to a neck injury and has yet to play in any event since. He was initially in the field for the Hero World Challenge but withdrew prior to the tournament in order to get back to 100% health for the new year.
Sahith Theegala (OWGR 43rd)
Theegala suffered a minor back injury during the final round of the QBE Shootout (12/11). He managed to play through the injury and win the tournament alongside Tom Hoge. In his post-win interview, Theegala said, “It feels much better now. I think it’s just something I need to take three or four days off and it’ll be good.” Shouldn't be an issue at all but worth mentioning.
Trey Mullinax (OWGR 100th)
Mullinax withdrew from the RSM Classic after the first round (11/17) citing an ankle injury. He returned at the QBE Shootout in December and finished in a tie for 5th.
Tee times and pairings will change after every round.
Sentry Tournament of Champions golfers with the highest "True Strokes Gained" (avg. adjusted strokes gained) at the Plantation Course at Kapalua:
Jon Rahm (+2.65)
Jordan Spieth (+2.36)
Xander Schauffele (+2.35)
Sungjae Im (+2.24)
Justin Thomas (+2.21)
Collin Morikawa (+2.21)
Jon Rahm has played this event each of the last five years and never finished outside of the top 10 (2nd, 7th, 10th, 8th, 2nd). Justin Thomas also has a very good track record at Kapalua in recent years (5th, 3rd, Win, 3rd).
As Justin Ray (@justinraygolf on Twitter) pointed out, Sungjae Im carries a scoring average of 67.77 in 22 career PGA Tour rounds in Hawaii (includes both the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open in Hawaii). That is the best of any player since TOC moved to Maui in 1999.
33% of the field is making their first appearance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions: Ryan Brehm, Matt Fitzpatrick, Tom Hoge, Luke List, Trey Mullinax, Chad Ramey, J.J. Spaun, Sepp Straka, Adam Svensson, Sahith Theegala, Cameron Young, and Will Zalatoris.
Another six golfers have played this event just once prior: K.H. Lee, Aaron Wise, Corey Conners, Seamus Power, Sam Burns, and Scottie Scheffler.