2018 Sentry Tournament of Champions picks: Small, loaded field kicks off big year

If you needed more proof of how ridiculously loaded golf is right now, look no further than the Sentry Tournament of Champions field this weekend in Kapalua, Hawaii. Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas and Jon Rahm will be in attendance. Good heavens, this is a fun way to start off 2018! 

Let's take a look at this week's contest.

Event information

What: Sentry Tournament of Champions | Where: Kapalua, Hawaii | When: Jan. 4-7

Field and odds

  • Jordan Spieth: 6-1
  • Justin Thomas: 6-1
  • Dustin Johnson: 15-2
  • Rickie Fowler: 15-2
  • Brooks Koepka: 11-1
  • Hideki Matsuyama: 12-1
  • Jon Rahm: 12-1
  • Marc Leishman: 20-1
  • Patrick Cantlay: 22-1
  • Xander Schauffele: 22-1

Field strength: A

I think it means something that Spieth and Thomas are co-favorites in a field like this. I think it also says something that Fowler and Johnson have the same odds and that Cantlay (!) is 20-1 with so many big dogs in one place at the same time.

Three stories to watch

1. Spieth's 2017-18 debut: The No. 2 player in the world hasn't played an official PGA Tour event since the Tour Championship last September. He did play in Australia and finished top five at the Hero World Challenge, but this is a tournament he owns. Including his win two years ago, Spieth has two other top-three finishes and is clearly enamored with the first tournament of the season.

Spieth is the surest bet in golf right now. That doesn't mean he's going to win, but I'm excited to watch him fire it back up for what should be another great year in what is quickly becoming an historic career.

2. History for Justin Thomas? The reigning PGA Tour Player of the Year is going for his third win in a row in Hawaii after sweeping the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open last year. That's never happened before, but now Thomas is the co-favorite to get it done. And it's not like he's cooled off since coming here last year. He had two top 20s including a win in the fall and could make a run at D.J. spot at No. 1 in the world with a couple more wins at the beginning of 2018.

3. Kapalua runways: The course at Kapalua has some absurd hills which almost always leads to at least a handful of the 20 longest drives in any given PGA Tour season. Last year it was seven of the top 20. The year before that it was 11 of the top 20. With the field we have -- Koepka, Johnson, Rahm and Thomas -- I'd be surprised if we didn't get at least 10 of the top 20 longest drives for the entire season this week.

Past winners

  • 2017: Justin Thomas
  • 2016: Jordan Spieth
  • 2015: Patrick Reed
  • 2014: Zach Johnson
  • 2013: Dustin Johnson

Despite the length of the course, Reed and Zach Johnson have proved in recent years that there's not just one way to win this golf tournament. I'm looking forward to seeing how different players attack it over the course of the four-day event.

Tournament of Champions picks

Winner -- John Rahm: has a level of talent that is honestly terrifying. He will obliterate some drives this week, and his game clearly travels all over the world (he won in California, Ireland and Dubai last year). He will be the No. 1 player in the world someday. I'm starting to wonder if "someday" means 2018. Odds: 12-1    

Top 10 -- Jordan Spieth: has played in three of these and finished in the top three each time. He lives the uneven lies that Kapalua provides and could putt well if he was playing on Mars. It would be shocking if he wasn't in one of the final three groups on Sunday. Odds: 6-1 

Sleeper -- Brian Harman: will make his second showing at this tournament. Three straight winners have been making their second appearances. That probably means nothing, but there are no sleepers this week with a field this good, and Harman leads a group of players that make you say "oh yeah, forgot he was here this week, damn, he's good" during an event. Odds: 28-1

So who wins the 2018 Sentry Tournament of Champions this year? And what long shots stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the full projected leaderboard from the model that has been red-hot so far this season, and find out. 

CBS Sports Writer

Kyle Porter began his sports writing career with CBS Sports in 2012. He covers golf, writes poetry about Rory McIlroy's swing, stays ready on Tiger watch and loves the Masters more than anyone you know.... Full Bio

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