Our golf scribe takes a look at the betting for the Sony Open which gets underway at the Waialae Country Club on Thursday the 12th of January.
It’s the return of the PGA Tour proper as a full 156 man field lines up for this year’s instalment of the Sony Open at Waialae. Players fresh from the Tournament of Champions will need to dispel the notion that Waialae is going to play similarly to Kapalua. The players regularly struck the ball beyond 400 yards last week. This week they will be unlikely to pull the driver out of the bag as much. This fact alone leads me to automatically discount last week’s champion: Justin Thomas. Brash and booming speculation will need to be replaced by surgical precision as the tour heads towards the small coastal course of Waialae.
Designed by Seth Raynor, Waialae is a short, tree-lined course with small Bermuda greens. They are expecting a fairly benign week weather-wise, meaning that the scores should line up slightly lower than average. Driving distance should not play a factor, with only two players in the top 12 last year ranking inside the top ten for driving distance. And despite the tight fairways, driving accuracy doesn’t seem too important either. However, greens in regulation seem pivotal as the last 15 winners have all ranked inside the top 12 for GIR.
Jordan Spieth rather surprisingly leads Hideki Matsuyama in most betting forecasts. Matsuyama is currently the world’s hottest player, with four wins in his last six starts. I wonder if there’s a jingoistic element at play here, but either way, Spieth and Matsuyama were impressive at Kapalua and will look to build on solid starts to the season.
The Sony Open | Thursday 12 January - Sunday 15 January | Waialae Country Club
2016: Fabian Gomez (-20)*playoff | 2015: Jimmy Walker (-23) | 2014: Jimmy Walker (-17) | 2013: Russell Henley (-24) | 2012: Johnson Wagner (-13)
To Win Outright
Jordan Spieth 13/2 | Hideki Matsuyama 15/2 | Justin Thomas 14/1 | Jimmy Walker 22/1 | Brandt Snedeker 25/1
Russell Knox - To Win 40/1 & To Place 17/2
Knox’s price is extremely high considering the fact that he is on the select list of players that won two tournaments last season. His game seems perfectly suited to this course, with his ability to hit it straight off the tee and find a huge amount of greens. He has finished in 2nd and 3rd at the OHL Classic in Mayakoba over the last two seasons, on a course which is seen as an excellent companion piece to Waialae. He also finished second behind Branden Grace at Harbor Town, on yet another coastal course that demands pinpoint accuracy.
Chris Kirk - To Win 50/1 & To Place 11/1
The fact that Kirk is at 50/1 astounds me. He took some time to adapt to an equipment change last season but truly found his form in the autumn, with four top 10 finishes in five events. An interview at the 2014 Sony Open saw him state that Colonial and Waialae are perhaps his two favourite courses, suiting his right to left leanings. Well, the last tournament he won was at Colonial, and he showed great consistency there before finally winning. He has won two of his four PGA Tour titles coming off the back of a break and usually starts the season well, whether it’s here or at the Tournament of Champions. He was also the runner-up to Jimmy Walker here in 2014. The unassuming Kirk is just about due another prance in the winner’s paddock.
Harris English - To Win 66/1 & To Place 14/1
The choice for Harris English has very similar fundamental drives as the one for Knox. Last season died off a bit towards the end of the campaign after such a consistent start. He had 3 top 10 finishes in his arsenal of 6 top 25 finishes. But it’s his course history here as well as general abilities on small, coastal courses that really interests me. Firstly, he has an excellent record here after finishing third in 2015 and fourth in 2014. He also won the 2014 OHL Classic at Mayakoba. Seems an absolute bargain at 66/1.
The Man to Beat
Jimmy Walker - To Win 22/1 & To Place 48/10
Of the upper echelon players, perhaps Jimmy Walker is the most lucrative option. Let’s not forget, he is the current US PGA Championship winner and thus the last major recipient. He started in exhilarating form last week till ring-rust seemed to take effect. He should be more attuned this week and Walker hits a lot of greens. He won this tournament in both 2014 and 2015, shooting 63 in both final rounds. He went on to win in 2015 by a mammoth nine strokes. He finished a little off the pace last season but I expect him to come back with a vengeance on a course he clearly can dominate.