Words: Paul Prendergast
Photo: Mark Wilson, Golfplus Media.
2024 is a matter of just a few hours’ old in most parts of the world but for two Australians, it’s only hours from being ‘back to work’ on the island of Maui at what has proven to be a happy hunting ground for Australians over the past two decades.
Indeed, it’s been 20 years since Stuart Appleby was in the midst of a run of three-consecutive ‘Tournament of Champions’ victories at Kapalua, with the tournament re-named as The Sentry from this year. Steve Elkington won this tournament twice in the 90s when staged in California but since relocating to Hawaii in 1999, the trophy has been lifted by an Australian on six separate occasions.
Appleby started the Aussie plunder from 2003-05 before Geoff Ogilvy won in consecutive years in 2009-10. A finger injury sustained in a pre-tournament encounter with a coral outcrop while swimming ahead of the 2011 event cruelled his chances of emulating Appleby’s three-peat, and it would be a dozen years before Cameron Smith’s remarkable win in 2022, setting the tournament record with a 34-under par total but winning by just a solitary stroke from Jon Rahm.
The Sentry is the first of eight Signature Events on the 2024 PGA TOUR schedule and in the second year where the qualifying criteria has been extended from tournament winners to also include those inside the Top 50 of the 2023 FedEx Cup standings.
Although last year’s champion Rahm will not be defending following his recent signing with LIV, the field is otherwise stacked with Top-10-ranked star power headed by Scottie Scheffler (1), Viktor Hovland (4), Patrick Cantlay (5), Xander Schauffele (6), Max Homa (7), Matt Fitzpatrick (8), Brian Harman (9) and Wyndham Clark (10).
The local flag will be be flown by just two players, 2023 AT&T Byron Nelson winner Jason Day and Cameron Davis (pictured), when the tournament kicks off at Kapalua’s famed Plantation Course from January 4-7.