PGA Tour: The Sony Open Preview

Golfer lines up shot

We take a look at the Sony Open set to take place between 11 January and 14 January at the Waialae Country Club. 

With news of Tiger Woods’ eminent return to full competitive golf still fairly fresh, there is even more excitement as the first full-field PGA Tour event of 2018 takes place this weekend. The Tour stays in Hawaii for the second leg of the all-too-brief aloha swing.

The Sony Open has existed in some incarnation since the depression era 20’s, and has been a regular tour event since 1965. Dustin Johnson won’t be in attendance to attempt a Hawaii double ala Justin Thomas, but nonetheless a highly competitive field has assembled for a crack at the unusually small and idiosyncratic Waialae Country Club.

Sony Open | 11 January- 14 January | Waialae Country Club, Hawaii

The 7,044 yard par 70 course is the complete antithesis to the length of Kapalua last week. It is a short, turning par 70 that only has water in play on three holes. The course is really at the mercy of the tempestuous Hawaiian trade winds and tends to favour those who hit many greens and putt accurately: the Bermuda greens will ideally suit those players from the south raised in such conditions. Driving distance is almost a non-factor when you look at the length here, while Justin Thomas ranked 60th in driving accuracy last year en route to victory. So players with impeccable iron-play and a solid short game should be considered contenders.

Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas understandably lead the markets this week, with Spieth’s price making him virtually unplayable at this stage of the season. 10/1 for Thomas could prove a bargain considering the fact he shot a 59 here last year en route to a 72-hole PGA Tour record. The likes of Brian Harman, Mark Leishmann and Kevin Kisner all have massive dark horse credentials in an event that is in some way democratized by length- or lack thereof.


Past Winners
2017: Justin Thomas (-27)
2016: Fabian Gomez (-20)*playoff
2015: Jimmy Walker (-23)
2014: Jimmy Walker (-17)
2013: Russell Henley (-24)

To Win Outright
Jordan Spieth 5/1, Justin Thomas 8/1, Mark Leishmann 14/1, Brian Harman 18/1, Kevin Kisner 20/1

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Value Bets

Webb Simpson- To Win 35/1, To Place 15/2
The 2012 US Open Champion has taken some time to shake the whole ‘one-hit wonder’ moniker that afflicted so many players from that exact period- see Rich Beem, Mike Weir and Shaun Micheel. But he has slowly rediscovered some form and boasts a bizarre sequence of positive results here. He has three consecutive T13 finishes here and has made the cut on all eight occasions he has participated. He has had two back to back top 20 finishes to start the season and he could be decent value this week.

Charles Howell III- To Win 40/1, To Place 17/2
The elegant Howell III just lacks that one essential component of an elite golfer: he doesn’t win. Yet his consistency over the years has been mind boggling. The beginning of the season for him has been mixed, with a T4 finish in Mexico coupled with a missed cut at Sea Island. But his form at this course is sensational. Notwithstanding the fact that he has made the cut here on all 16 appearances, he has 11 top 15 finishes in that span. If that isn’t bankable course form- particularly in the place markets- then I don’t know what is.

Luke Donald- To Win 140/1, To Place 30/1
There’s always a risk in backing former world number ones- namely that the word former is there for a reason. But the Englishman seems astounding value in what is after all a Ryder Cup year. He finished second here in 2007 and opened the event here two years ago with a pair of 65’s. One also has to look at his form at corollary courses such as Harbour Town and Copperhead. He has been runner up at Harbour Town and a winner at Copperhead, showing his aptitude for playing these idiosyncratic coastal courses. And it was only three starts ago that he had a top 10 finish. He looks an absolute bargain at 140/1.

The Man to Beat- Kevin Kisner- To Win 20/1, To Place 44/10
The ever reliable ball-striking of Kevin Kisner looks a fine tonic at 20/1, certainly in comparison to the zero-sum game that is Spieth at 5/1. Kisner has shown remarkable consistency since that playoff loss in the Heritage in 2015, including that brush with near major greatness at last year’s PGA Championship. He has won twice since then and has performed at courses akin to this one: Harbour Town, Sea Island and Colonial. He finished T5th and T4th in the last 2 events here respectively. He finished third at the season ending Tour Championship and clearly has the form to contend again this year.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets

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