Jon Rahm set to boss the European contingent at Kapalua
Rory McIlroy making his course debut
Sky Sports Golf, 11pm Thursday
Five Europeans will tee off in the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course, Hawaii, and Jon Rahm looks by far the most likely title contender of the quintet.
Rahm, runaway winner of the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in his last outing, looks a solid wager at 6-4 to outscore European Ryder Cup teammates Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Paul Casey and Ian Poulter.
The Spaniard enjoyed a fresh injection of confidence by beating Tiger Woods in the Ryder Cup singles, then finished fourth in the DP World Tour Championship prior to his Hero heroics.
He made his debut on the Plantation Course last year and was runner-up, immediately taking a shine to the venue. If American trio Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Justin Thomas had not entered this week, Rahm would be strong tournament favourite.
McIlroy is being shown plenty of respect in the top European market, but the Northern Irishman is making his Sentry debut and will probably need time to adjust to this unusual track. Rahm has got superior course knowledge and is in better form.
The wide-open Plantation is not a layout which plays to the strengths of Molinari, while Poulter seems unlikely to enter the equation either. Casey may prove the biggest threat to Rahm top-Euro backers, but anything odds-against is a fair price.
Pick of the first-round twoball odds is the 8-11 about Charles Howell defeating Brice Garnett in the 8.40pm (UK and Ireland time) contest. Howell has not competed at Kapalua since 2008, but he has progressive form figures of 16-8 and is well suited to the assignment.
Howell's brisk, punchy swing stands up well to a breeze, which is set to be blowing hard throughout round one, and he can start 2019 strongly, having closed last year with victory in the RSM Classic. He has twice finished runner-up in the Sony Open, the other US Tour event staged in Hawaii.
Garnett won the extremely low grade Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship in March – his maiden US Tour title – to book a spot at Kapalua. The debutant seems likely to be closer to last than first over all four days of this no-cut competition.
J Rahm top European
3pts 6-4 Hills
C Howell to win twoball
3pts 8-11 general
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