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BlogSony Open Preview and Picks

Sony Open in Hawaii

January 12th – 15th, 2017

Waialae C.C.

Honolulu, HI

Par: 70 / Yardage: 7,044

Purse: $6 million

with $1,044,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Fabian Gomez

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 38 of the top 100 and 17 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings: The top 50 players are #5 Jordan Spieth, #6 Hideki Matsuyama, #12 Justin Thomas, #15 Paul Casey, #16 Justin Rose, #18 Branden Grace, #19 Russell Knox, #20 Jimmy Walker, #27 Brandt Snedeker, #32 Daniel Berger, #36 Scott Piercy, #38 Zach Johnson, #41 Bill Haas, #42 William McGirt, #46 Kevin Na, #49 Soren Kjeldsen and #50 Gary Woodland.

Last year 14 of the top-50 played.

The field includes 17 of the Top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2017.  Those players are #1 Hideki Matsuyama, #2 Justin Thomas, #3 Pat Perez, #5 Mackenzie Hughes, #6 Rod Pampling, #7 Cody Gribble, #8 Russell Knox, #9 Scott Piercy, #10 Luke List, #11 Daniel Berger, #13 Gary Woodland, #15 Chris Kirk, #17 Keegan Bradley, #20 Anirban Lahiri, #21 Paul Casey, #22 Derek Fathauer and #23 Camilo Villegas.

The field includes 17 players in the top 25 on this year’s PGA Tour money list.  Those players are #1 Hideki Matsuyama, #2 Justin Thomas, #3 Pat Perez, #5 Mackenzie Hughes, #6 Rod Pampling, #7 Cody Gribble, #8 Daniel Berger, #9 Russell Knox, #10 Scott Piercy, #11 Gary Woodland, #14 Luke List, #15 Chris Kirk, #19 Keegan Bradley, #20 Anirban Lahiri, #22 Derek Fathauer, #24 Paul Casey, and #25 Camilo Villegas.

The field includes 10 past champions: Fabian Gomez (2016), Jimmy Walker (2015 & ’14), Russell Henley (2013), Johnson Wagner (2012), Ryan Palmer (2010), Zach Johnson (2009), K.J. Choi (2008), David Toms (2006), Vijay Singh (2005) and Jerry Kelly (2002).

A perfect way for fantasy golfers to check on the past performance of all the players in the Sony Open in Hawaii field is our performance chart listed by average finish.  Another way to check who is the best is through a special formula worked out in Golfstats that gives us the best average performances at the Sony Open in Hawaii in the last five years or check out our sortable 8-year glance at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

A good cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmakers in England.

Another cheat sheet is this list of odds from the top bookmaker in Las Vegas.

Time to look at our who’s hot and who isn’t:

Who’s Hot in the field for the Sony Open in Hawaii

Player SBS T of C The RSM Classic OHL Classic at Mayakoba Shriners Hospitals Sanderson Farms WGC-HSBC Champions CIMB Classic Safeway Open
Justin Thomas
(201.67 pts)
Win
(132)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
Win
(44)
T8
(16.67)
Hideki Matsuyama
(177.33 pts)
2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
2
(33.33)
DNP
Pat Perez
(158 pts)
T3
(90)
DNP Win
(44)
T7
(18.33)
DNP DNP T33
(5.67)
DNP
Cody Gribble
(105 pts)
T14
(36)
CUT
(-3.33)
T15
(11.67)
T65
(0)
Win
(44)
DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
Russell Knox
(91.33 pts)
T17
(33)
DNP 3
(30)
DNP DNP T9
(15)
T10
(13.33)
DNP
Jordan Spieth
(90 pts)
T3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Mackenzie Hughes
(86 pts)
T25
(25)
Win
(44)
CUT
(-3.33)
T68
(0)
T26
(8)
DNP DNP T13
(12.33)
Luke List
(83.67 pts)
DNP T13
(12.33)
T7
(18.33)
T15
(11.67)
T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP T26
(8)
Scott Piercy
(78.67 pts)
DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
T24
(8.67)
DNP T63
(0)
T10
(13.33)
T3
(30)
Rod Pampling
(76.33 pts)
T17
(33)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
T42
(2.67)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Daniel Berger
(69.33 pts)
T14
(36)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T2
(33.33)
T51
(0)
DNP
Chris Kirk
(65 pts)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T7
(18.33)
T61
(0)
T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP T8
(16.67)
Keegan Bradley
(59.33 pts)
DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
T7
(18.33)
DNP DNP 6
(20)
T22
(9.33)
Tony Finau
(58.33 pts)
T9
(45)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T41
(3)
DNP DNP T33
(5.67)
T26
(8)
Paul Casey
(52.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T12
(12.67)
T21
(9.67)
T3
(30)
James Hahn
(51.33 pts)
T22
(28)
DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
DNP DNP 9
(15)
CUT
(-3.33)
Anirban Lahiri
(49.67 pts)
DNP T13
(12.33)
T28
(7.33)
DNP DNP DNP T3
(30)
DNP
William McGirt
(49.33 pts)
T9
(45)
T27
(7.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP
Jim Herman
(49.33 pts)
T12
(38)
T13
(12.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T33
(5.67)
DNP
Bill Haas
(49 pts)
DNP T13
(12.33)
DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP T20
(10)
Camilo Villegas
(48.67 pts)
DNP T2
(33.33)
T28
(7.33)
DNP T26
(8)
DNP DNP DNP
Chez Reavie
(44.67 pts)
DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
T24
(8.67)
DNP DNP T60
(0)
T22
(9.33)
Derek Fathauer
(43 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T36
(4.67)
DNP DNP T3
(30)
T15
(11.67)
Charles Howell III
(42.67 pts)
DNP T13
(12.33)
T7
(18.33)
T15
(11.67)
DNP DNP T39
(3.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
Jimmy Walker
(41.67 pts)
T9
(45)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T77
(0)
DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Who’s Not Hot in the field for the Sony Open in Hawaii

Player SBS T of C The RSM Classic OHL Classic at Mayakoba Shriners Hospitals Sanderson Farms WGC-HSBC Champions CIMB Classic Safeway Open
Boo Weekley
(-13.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T60
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Steven Bowditch
(-13.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Matt Every
(-13.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Mark Hubbard
(-10 pts)
DNP 79
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T71
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
Ricky Barnes
(-10 pts)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T56
(0)
T57
(0)
Bryce Molder
(-10 pts)
DNP T54
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
David Hearn
(-10 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T66
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
Bud Cauley
(-9.67 pts)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T50
(0.33)
Morgan Hoffmann
(-9.67 pts)
DNP T65
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T50
(0.33)
Jonas Blixt
(-9.33 pts)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T48
(0.67)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

Since 1999 when it was placed behind the SBS Tournament of Champions, the Sony got an added boost in that most of those at the SBS T of C made the short flight to Honolulu to play this event.  But that trend seems to be changing.  In 2007 32 of the 34 Hyundai participants stuck around for the Sony while in 2008, 22 of the 31 SBS T of C participants stayed.  In 2009 the trend of leaving, after the SBS T of C continued as only 26 of the 33 TofC players showed up at Waialae.  In 2010  only 20 of the 28 SBS T of C players made the trip and people started wondering.  In 2011 it was 23 of the 33 from Kapalua, while in 2012 only 20 of the 28 showed up.  In 2013 19 of 30 went, in 2014 only 18 of the 30 went, while in 2015, 24 of the original 34 players made the trip from Maui to Honolulu.  Last year only 21 of the 32 players played at the Sony.  But this year things are a bit different.  Yes Dustin Johnson went off to get ready to play in Abu Dhabi, Jason Day decided to spend some days with his family in Maui and Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Ryan Moore just wanted the week off. But 23 of the 32 players will be at Sony and they have a lot of marquee names with Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas are making the journey to Maui.

Now one of the important items for fantasy golfers to think about, since the SBS moved to Kapalua in 1999, eleven of the 18 Sony winners participated in Kapalua the week before.  So despite the trend going away from this, the odds and common sense say to look for the winner to be a player from Kapalua.  Oh, defending champion Fabian Gomez finished 20th at Maui on Sunday.

Here is a look at the SBS T of C winners since 1999 and how they did at the Sony:

  • 2017 SBS T of C winner Justin Thomas will play at the Sony
  • 2016 SBS T of C winner Jordan Spieth did not play at the Sony
  • 2014 SBS T of C winner Zach Johnson finished T8th at the Sony
  • 2013 SBS T of C winner Dustin Johnson withdrew after the first round at the Sony
  • 2012 SBS T of C winner Steve Stricker finished T38th at the Sony
  • 2011 SBS T of C winner Jonathan Byrd finished T34th at the Sony
  • 2010 SBS T of C winner Geoff Ogilvy didn’t play at the Sony
  • 2009 SBS T of C winner Geoff Ogilvy finished T32nd at the Sony
  • 2008 SBS T of C winner Daniel Chopra finished T32nd at the Sony
  • 2007 SBS T of C winner Vijay Singh finished T34th at the Sony
  • 2006 SBS T of C winner Stuart Appleby finished T7th at the Sony
  • 2005 SBS T of C winner Stuart Appleby didn’t play at the Sony
  • 2004 SBS T of C winner Stuart Appleby missed the cut at the Sony
  • 2003 SBS T of C winner Ernie Els won the next week at the Sony
  • 2002 SBS T of C winner Sergio finished T40th at the Sony
  • 2001 SBS T of C winner Jim Furyk finished 4th at the Sony
  • 2000 SBS T of C winner Tiger Woods didn’t play at the Sony
  • 1999 SBS T of C winner David Duval finished 3rd at the Sony

Waialae Course information:

The course was designed by Seth Raynor and Charles Banks and was opened in 1925. It has gone through a series of changes, first by Bob Baldock in 1966, then Arthur Jack Snyder in 1969, then Robert Nelson and Rodney Wright in 1984, then by Arnold Palmer & Ed Seay in 1991 and finally by Desmond Muirhead in 1992.  To make things even tougher Waialae hired Rick Smith in the late ’90s to develop some more renovations for the future.  Smith came in to return the course to the original design that Seth Raynor came up with 78 years ago.

One of the big changes that were made, which didn’t affect the course but did affect the tournament, came in 1999.  That’s when tournament and PGA Tour officials moved up the tees on the 1st and 13th holes and changed them from par 5s to 4s. Though it doesn’t make the course easier or tougher, it was a perception that the course was harder and scores were going up, even though that wasn’t the case.

The average green size at Waialae is 7,500 square feet and the course has 79 bunkers.  Nine of the holes have water on them but for the touring pros only three of those holes are affected.  For tournament week the nines are reversed so that the par3 8th hole, which runs along the Pacific, becomes the 17th and is shown on television. One rarity that you don’t see on many courses, four of the closing five holes (14, 15, 16 & 18) are sharp dogleg left’s so those that hook the ball does have an advantage.

One other thing about Waialae: It’s been the only home of the Sony Open since 1965.  The only other courses with a better track record on the PGA Tour are Augusta National, which has been the home of the Masters since 1934, Pebble Beach, which has been the home of the AT&T since 1947, Colonial, which has been the home of the Crowne Plaza Invitational since 1948.

Let’s take a look at key stats that are important for those playing on the Waialae C.C.:

This is based on the most important stats for Waialae, based on data from last years Sony Open in Hawaii, and using data from all the players in the field for with stats from 2016 and 2017. What we do is take there rank for each stat and average that number between players rank in ’15 & ’16
The scoring average of the field at Waialae in 2016 was 68.50, so with par being 70 that means the average score was just over a shot and a half under per round, making Waialae the 6th easiest course to score on in 2016. It’s also important to see how the weather played a factor, it was perfect each day with winds at 5 to 10 mph. In looking at the long range forecast it’s going to be the same, perfect, dry days with winds between 4 – 9 mph. With that low score will happen again.

In looking at the stats for Waialae last year, driving accuracy hits you. Last year, Waialae had the 12th hardest fairways to hit on the PGA Tour, with the lack of rain the usual high rough was sparse so you can see how Fabian Gomez won even though he ranked T-60th in driving accuracy. But in strokes gained tee-to-green he was 7th along with being 2nd in strokes gained approach-the-green. Still even with the dryness of the fairways and the lack of wind, you have to hit it straight. Now Gomez was T-7th in greens hit. In looking at the winners at Waialae, greens hit seem to be something that all the winners have in common. Since 2002, 13 of the 15 were in the top-ten while six of the 13 were in the top-three.

Lastly because of the lack of wind making Waialae a layup, you better make a lot of birdies. Last year 1,770 were made more than any course on the PGA Tour.

So here is our four choices for the most important stats from players to do well at Waialae:

*Driving Accuracy: Important because the rough in the fairways are close to U.S. Open length and if you drive it into the rough, it’s tough. On the tour in 2015 Waialae was 12th hardest, if you hit it into the rough you will have problems.

*Strokes Gained tee-to-green: You need to hit it long and straight along with hitting lot’s of greens. So this is important to find a player that will do this

*Greens in Regulation: This is a stat that shows who it’s the most greens in regulation. Last year Waialae ranked T-31st in greens hit

*Birdies made: In 2016 1,770 birdies were made, the most of any course on the PGA Tour. So to keep pace with all you need to make a lot of birdies

Below is the average of positions on stats from 2016 & ’17 PGA Tour statistics

Click any column title in the table header to sort columns.

Here is a link to all the players stats that are in the Sony Open field.

Here are some of the secrets of what it takes to play well at the Sony Open in Hawaii

Key stat for the winner:

The PGA Tour is still in Hawaii for the Sony Open.  Played at Waialae C.C. it’s a fun course for the pros on pleasant day as it has only one defense, the wind.  If it blows scores are reasonable, but without winds scores go low, and someone shooting 59 comes into the equation.  The weather was great in Maui last week and according to the weatherman at Weather.com.  should be just as good.  The good news is the lack of wind again all week, so with the lack of wind, look for low scoring with a possibility of having a couple sub-60 rounds. The key defense for Waialae is the driving zone.  In normal conditions of dry, fast fairways it makes it hard to keep it in the fairway.  Throw in 10 to 25 mph winds and it’s really hard.  That’s why Waialae is consistently one of the hardest driving courses on tour. Last year it ranked 12th hardest in driving accuracy and 7th hardest in 2015. In 2014 it ranked 3rd hardest as only 49.35% of the drives hit the fairways. In 2013 & ’12 was 2nd.  In 2011 with rain and no wind it ranked 12th but in 2010 it ranked hardest of all courses.  So this course will be very vulnerable this week, one last thing, all this gives shorter hitters a better chance.  Also look at the field of players and pick guys that make lot’s of birdies and eagles.

Here are some more key stats to look to for this week:

  • The first thing to realize is that Waialae is the complete opposite of the Plantation Course which held the SBS T of C last week.  Driving accuracy meant nothing as the Plantation course has the easiest fairways to hit on the PGA Tour.  But this week is a different story; each year Waialae is one of the hardest driving courses on tour.  So it helps to drive the ball straight so look at the driving accuracy charts and in the top-20 you may find your winner.  Looking at driving accuracy list’s the last couple of years funny how past champions like Russell Henley, Mark Wilson, Zach Johnson, Paul Goydos, David Toms and Jerry Kelly have ranked high in this stat in the last decade.
  • Another important stat to look at is total driving which combines distance with accuracy, look for the leaders in this stat that is playing at the Sony to do well.
  • Hitting greens is important, on a scale of 1 to 10, with ten being the most important give hitting greens a 7.  Still you can’t dismiss this stat since 1997, 15 of the 20 champions have been in the top-ten in this stat and only two have been worst than 15th.  Last year Fabian Gomez was T-7th, in 2015 Jimmy Walker led the stat, the year before in 2014 Walker was T7th, in 2013 Russell Henley was 2nd.
  • Putting is another important stat, but like hitting greens I give it a 6 on a scale of 1 to 10.  What I found interesting in this stat was making putts over ten feet, look for those types to do well.  In diving into Shotlink stats on PGA Tour.Com in 2017 Cody Gribble, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano and David Hearn are all in the top-ten and are playing the Sony.  Last year’s champion Fabian Gomez was T-32nd, in 2015 Jimmy Walker was T-6th in putts made from 10 to 15 feet while 2013 champion Russell Henley was 2nd in putts made between 10 and 15 feet and was 6th in putts made between 15 and 20 feet.
  • More stats that is important is picking a person who has a high birdie average and is high on the par breaker list. Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas and Anirban Lahiri are ranked in the top-ten in both.
  • Last but not least the par 4s at Waialae is U.S. Open caliber, they are tough and rank on top of the tour as the toughest in golf.  Again in looking at the winners going back to 2000 when changes were made to reduce par from 72 to 70, every champion was between 2 under and 10 under. Last year Fabian Gomez was 12 under, in 2015 Jimmy Walker was 16 under, the previous year he was 10 under.  In 2013 Russell Henley had the tournament best in this stat playing the par 4s in an incredible 17 under.  In looking at who is playing the par 4s the best on tour in 2017  those in the top-six playing Sony include Justin Thomas, Cody Gribble, Hideki Matsuyama, Chris Kirk, Mackenzie Hughes and Stewart Cink

 

 

Who to watch for at the Sony Open in Hawaii

Best Bets:

Jordan Spieth

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
CUT

He showed us last week at Kapalua all of the traits that it will take to win this week. He makes a lot of birdies and lot’s of putts, can’t picture him not winning.

Pat Perez

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T81 T17 T8 T9 T46 T68 T46 CUT T4 T10 CUT T20

Showed a lot at Kapalua and Waialae is better suited for his style of play. I think he will give you another top-ten this week.

Paul Casey

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T30 CUT

I am going out on a limb with him right off the bat because I think that he can do very well on this course. He is a great ball striker which is important and can make a lot of birdies

Best of the rest:

Brandt Snedeker

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
2 T69 CUT

He is another of those type of guys that find success at Waialae, he almost won last year and I see him have another great start this week.

Justin Thomas

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
CUT T6

Will be on a high after his Kapalua win, but see no reason why he can’t keep it going.

Jimmy Walker

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T13 Win Win T26 CUT 4 CUT T32 T61 CUT

Had one good round and three average rounds at Kapalua. His game is well suited for Waialae and I see him having a terrific week.

Branden Grace

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
First time playing in this event

This is more suited for him than Kapalua, he will be playing for the first time.

Solid contenders

Justin Rose

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T13 T12 CUT T20

A bit of a surprise to see him playing at Waialae this week, but it’s a course that should suit his game.

Hideki Matsuyama

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T78 CUT CUT CUT

I say the hottest man in golf cools down this week. He has always been stymied by this course, in nine rounds played, has only broke par twice. I would be very careful in making him your top choice, there are better suited than him.

Ryan Palmer

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T13 T17 T8 66 CUT 52 Win CUT CUT T28

Another that does well at Waialae and he could be a good pick for a top-five finish.

Scott Piercy

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T13 2 CUT T15 T23 CUT T12 CUT

Very good from tee to green, he finished T-13th last year but was runner-up in 2015.

Charles Howell III

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T13 T26 T8 T3 T2 T68 T5 4 T69 T2 T53 T3

Has this love affair of always sticking around for all four rounds. Is 15 for 15 in making the cut and been in the top-ten, eight times so can’t forget about him.

Long shots that could come through:

Zac Blair

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
3 T6

Has been a big surprise the way he has played the course in his first two tries, maybe this is right up his alley and he will be a great sleeper pick.

Jerry Kelly

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T9 T6 3 CUT T29 T9 WD T23 3 T13 T13 CUT

He loves playing on this course, is 40 under par in his last 12 trips around Waialae.

Harold Varner III

2017 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05
T13

Making his first start since winning the Australian PGA. Look for him to do very well.

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