It is rare that the Sentry Tournament of Champions can top what it has done in the past, but when this year’s field of 39 PGA Tour winners became official Friday at noon HST, it happened.
The 39 players who will play in the event next week at the Kapalua Plantation Course are out of a possible 40 who are eligible. The 97.5 percent of eligible players who are coming is a record, at least for the 24 times the event has been played at Kapalua.
Twice before 30 of 31 eligible players competed here — in 2000 and 2004 — for the previous highest percentage (96.8 percent)
“We’re so excited about the quality of the field,” Sentry TOC executive director Alex Urban said Friday. “This field is always a special field with it being winners only and the only PGA Tour event that can say that, but I think the support from all of our winners is hard to ignore: just the growing stature and the importance of this event on the schedule for our best players.
“And we’re really, really excited to host those guys.”
Urban pointed to several storylines for the 2022 event that will host its pro-am on Wednesday, with the tournament proper running Thursday through Sunday.
“Obviously Phil (Mickelson) playing for the first time in 21 years, Jordan (Spieth) coming back for the first time in a few years, it’s been a couple years since he won,” Urban said. “You’ve got Hideki (Matsuyama), you’ve got Collin Morikawa, you’ve got the major champions coming, which is pretty cool. You’ve got The Players champion, you’ve got Justin Thomas, obviously our multiple winner here.
“I mean, it’s just an unbelievable field.”
Last year, due to COVID-19 shutdowns costing the event 11 possible winners because of canceled PGA tournaments, the field was opened to non-winners who finished in the top 30 of the FedEx Cup points list and 42 of 45 eligible players showed up — the 42-player field was the largest ever here.
This year’s field includes four FedEx Cup champions, 23 of the top 30 from the final 2020-21 FedEx Cup standings, eight of the top 10 in the Official World Golf Ranking, and eight of the top 10 in the current 2021-22 FedEx Cup standings, including leader Talor Gooch.
The field also includes 10 first-time winners.
“You’ve got the new players as well that we love having out here,” Urban said. “Even Talor Gooch, that last week of the season, winning, and then talking about he had to cancel a golf trip with his buddies to make room for us on the schedule, which I thought was pretty funny.
“But, you know, just so many great players in this field I’m just really excited to see them tee off on Thursday and see how the competition goes down.”
The one eligible player who will not be here is Rory McIlroy, but another notable name missing is Dustin Johnson, the 2013 and 2018 champion who has been here 11 times.
Johnson, currently the No. 3-ranked player in the world, lamented the fact that he was not yet qualified for the Sentry in a conversation with McIlroy in October.
Johnson did not win in 2021 and will miss the event for just the third time since first coming here in 2009.
“I think it’s that groundswell of support over the last five to eight years — especially since Sentry signed on as title sponsor in that 2018 event — it’s just the younger guys, the guys that are winning a lot and they are bright personalities for the game and I’m talking D.J. and Justin in that category,” Urban said. “It’s never a question (if they are coming when eligible). … I always connect with them the very next day and they are already locking in their plans and their accommodations. … When (Johnson) qualifies, it is agenda item No. 1, just making sure he’s all set for Sentry Tournament of Champions.”
Urban says it is a natural progression with the beauty and challenge of the Plantation Course — the only par-73 on the Tour schedule — the spot on the calendar and the prestige that the event has earned, especially recently.
Spieth has also notably asked the press corps to scold him if he is eligible to play here and does not show.
“It’s just a centerpiece of the schedule,” Urban said. “After a little bit of a break, you’ve got this awesome venue and great, perfect place to spend some time with the family. … It’s just got this really nice momentum.”
* Robert Collias is at email@example.com
SENTRY TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS 2022 FIELD
Jan. 6-9 at Kapalua Plantation Course
Si Woo Kim
Erik Van Rooyen