Hauʻoli Makahiki Hou! It’s a happy New Year from Hawaii, indeed.
While the timing of the annual stop at the Plantation Course Kapalua on Maui always lays the foundation for the greeting, for the first time in 11 years, the course on the island’s western shore serves as the first building block of a new season.
Now known as The Sentry, the first of eight Signature Events in the 2024 calendar year hosts a record-high 59 golfers and there is no cut for the standard, 72-hole stroke-play competition.
With so many modifications to so many components of the PGA TOUR in 2024, it’s only right and fair that it launches with a soft open even though everything about it is official.
First and foremost, a record 700 FedExCup points is reserved for the champion. This will be the reward for winners of all eight Signature Events. The prize fund also has increased to $20 million – a bump of 25 percent from 2023 – with $3.6 million going to the winner.
The field is comprised of all PGA TOUR winners in the 2023 calendar year and the 50 golfers who qualified for the BMW Championship aka the top 50 in the FedExCup. The only eligible qualifier who did not commit is Rory McIlroy. Although he’s now qualified 13 times, he’s appeared only once (T4, 2019). (The mandatory obligation to compete in Signature Events, formerly known as Designated Events in 2023, no longer applies.)
The soft open extends metaphorically to the ease of the Plantation Course.
In part, because it’s a par 73 (with three par 3s and four par 5s) with giant targets, it always rolls over for one of the lowest scoring averages in relation to par, at least when the wind isn’t howling, which it could later during each of the first three rounds this week. As a result, last year’s clip of 68.922 probably won’t be threatened, but par will be broken as frequently as the waves within sight. Otherwise predictable weather is expected. Rain could be intermittent and daytime highs will touch 80 degrees.
Since debuting as a renovation prior to the 2020 edition, the Plantation Course has tipped at 7,596 yards. Bermudagrass greens remained governed to just 11 feet on the Stimpmeter to accommodate for brutish breezes. The only notable change this year is that the primary rough is up one-quarter of an inch to 2½ inches.
In addition to the usual spoils, the winner will earn exemptions into all remaining Signature Events if not already eligible. He’ll also be the first to qualify for the 2025 edition of The Sentry.