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BlogSony Open Preview and Picks

Sony Open in Hawaii

January 15 – 18, 2015

Waialae C.C.

Honolulu, Ha.

Par: 70 / Yardage:

Purse: $5.6 million

with $1,008,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Jimmy Walker

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 13 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings, with only one player from the top-ten: #8 Jason Day.   The other top 50 players are #11 Matt Kuchar, #15 Hideki Matsuyama, #17 Jimmy Walker, #20 Zach Johnson, #22 Chris Kirk, #25 Kevin Na, #33 Luke Donald, #40 Ryan Palmer, #44 Webb Simpson, #46 Marc Leishman, #48 Gary Woodland and #50 John Senden.

Last year 8 of the top-50 played.

The field includes 17 of the Top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2015.  Those players are #1 Robert Streb, #2 Sang-Moon Bae, #3 Ben Martin, #8 Jimmy Walker, #9 Tim Clark, #10 Hideki Matsuyama, #11 Kevin Streelman, #12 Steven Bowditch, #13 Shawn Stefani, #14 Nick Taylor, #15 Brendon De Jonge, #17 Russell Henley, #18 Tony Finau, #20 Kevin Na, #21 Danny Lee, #23 Russell Knox and #25 Gary Woodland.

The field includes 14 players in the top 25 on this year’s PGA Tour money list.  Those players are #2 Sang-Moon Bae, #3 Robert Streb, #5 Ben Martin, #8 Jimmy Walker, #9 Tim Clark, #10 Hideki Matsuyama, #11 Kevin Streelman, #12 Nick Taylor, #13 Steven Bowditch, #14 Shawn Stefani, #15 Brendon De Jonge, #18 Russell Henley, #19 Tony Finau, #20 Kevin Na, #22 Gary Woodland, #23 Danny Lee and #24 Russell Knox.

The field includes 10 past champions: Jimmy Walker (2014), Russell Henley (2013), Johnson Wagner (2012), Mark Wilson (2011), Ryan Palmer (2010), Zach Johnson (2009), K.J. Choi (2008), Paul Goydos (2007), 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.

Be sure to join us on Saturday after play as we preview the final round with our Who Will Win the Sony Open.

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 Hyundai T of C Nedbank Challenge Mayakoba Classic WGC-HSBC Champions Sanderson Farms Championship CIMB Classic McGladrey Classic Shriners Hospitals Frys.com Open
Hideki Matsuyama
(146 pts)
T3
(90)
DNP DNP T41
(3)
DNP T21
(9.67)
DNP T10
(13.33)
T3
(30)
Robert Streb
(134.67 pts)
T8
(50)
DNP T37
(4.33)
DNP 8
(16.67)
DNP Win
(44)
T10
(13.33)
T31
(6.33)
Jimmy Walker
(131.67 pts)
2
(100)
DNP DNP T35
(5)
DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
63
(0)
Sang-Moon Bae
(124 pts)
6
(60)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Win
(44)
Russell Henley
(121.67 pts)
T3
(90)
DNP DNP T35
(5)
DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP
Tim Clark
(97.67 pts)
T25
(25)
T7
(36.67)
DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP T56
(0)
DNP T42
(2.67)
T57
(0)
Ben Martin
(94.33 pts)
T11
(39)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T29
(7)
DNP T17
(11)
Win
(44)
CUT
(-3.33)
Jason Day
(90 pts)
T3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Brendon Todd
(76 pts)
T8
(50)
T12
(25.33)
DNP T60
(0)
DNP DNP T48
(0.67)
DNP DNP
Chris Kirk
(74.67 pts)
T14
(36)
DNP DNP T14
(12)
DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP
Kevin Streelman
(66 pts)
T22
(28)
DNP DNP T56
(0)
DNP T26
(8)
DNP 2
(33.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Luke Donald
(63 pts)
DNP 3
(60)
DNP T41
(3)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Nick Taylor
(61.67 pts)
T29
(21)
DNP T56
(0)
DNP Win
(44)
DNP T86
(0)
T56
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
Steven Bowditch
(59.33 pts)
T22
(28)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T46
(1.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
2
(33.33)
John Senden
(59 pts)
T25
(25)
DNP DNP T35
(5)
DNP 7
(18.33)
DNP T18
(10.67)
DNP
Tony Finau
(58 pts)
DNP DNP T7
(18.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T14
(12)
T7
(18.33)
T12
(12.67)
Kevin Na
(57.67 pts)
DNP T26
(16)
DNP T20
(10)
DNP T2
(33.33)
DNP WD
(-1.67)
DNP
Brendon De Jonge
(54.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(12.33)
T2
(33.33)
T42
(2.67)
T31
(6.33)
Matt Kuchar
(52 pts)
T17
(33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T22
(9.33)
DNP T21
(9.67)
Zach Johnson
(51.67 pts)
7
(55)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Seung-Yul Noh
(42.67 pts)
T11
(39)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T39
(3.67)
DNP DNP DNP
David Hearn
(41.67 pts)
DNP DNP T16
(11.33)
DNP T14
(12)
DNP DNP T7
(18.33)
T68
(0)
Shawn Stefani
(41.33 pts)
DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP T25
(8.33)
DNP T41
(3)
CUT
(-3.33)
T53
(0)
Fabian Gomez
(37.67 pts)
DNP DNP T23
(9)
DNP T14
(12)
DNP T8
(16.67)
DNP DNP
Danny Lee
(37 pts)
DNP DNP T3
(30)
DNP T51
(0)
T13
(12.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T46
(1.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

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

Player Hyundai T of C Nedbank Challenge Mayakoba Classic WGC-HSBC Champions Sanderson Farms Championship CIMB Classic McGladrey Classic Shriners Hospitals Frys.com Open
Justin Hicks
(-13.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T61
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Martin Flores
(-10 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T69
(0)
T56
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
Brian Davis
(-10 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP 73
(0)
T73
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Jim Renner
(-10 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T61
(0)
DNP T81
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Jason Gore
(-8.33 pts)
DNP DNP T71
(0)
DNP T61
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
WD
(-1.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
Justin Leonard
(-6.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T66
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Roger Sloan
(-6.67 pts)
DNP DNP T56
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Troy Merritt
(-6.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T56
(0)
DNP T49
(0.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Steven Alker
(-4 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T32
(6)
T56
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
Heath Slocum
(-3.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T58
(0)
T21
(9.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

Since 1999 when it was placed behind the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the Sony got an added boost in that most of those at the Hyundai 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 Hyundai participants stayed.  In 2009 the trend of leaving, after the Hyundai continued as only 26 of the 33 TofC players showed up at Waialae.  In 2010  only 20 of the 28 Hyundai 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.  This year 24 of the original 34 players will make the trip from Maui to Honolulu.

There are many conspiracy thoughts on this, but the bottom line is that players are making so much money that there is no need to stay in Hawaii.  For many the Hyundai is very special with the players staying free of charge at the Ritz Carlton, families usually coming over for some R&R and with last place getting $55,000 there is really no need for many players to stick around.  Too bad.

Funny the reverse is happening with Hyundai champion Patrick Reed.  He isn’t playing at the Sony but will hang out with his wife and family in Kapalua to soak in some of the local color.  Says he will do a little practicing at the same time, gosh would you practice in paradise instead of going to the beach?

Now one of the important items for fantasy golfers to think about, since the Hyundai moved to Kapalua in 1999, ten of the 16 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 Jimmy Walker finished 2nd at Maui on Monday.

Here is a look at the Hyundai winners since 1999 and how they did at the Sony:

  • 2015 Hyundai winner Patrick Reed will not play at the Sony
  • 2014 Hyundai winner Zach Johnson finished T8th at the Sony
  • 2013 Hyundai winner Dustin Johnson withdrew after the first round at the Sony
  • 2012 Hyundai winner Steve Stricker finished T38th at the Sony
  • 2011 Hyundai winner Jonathan Byrd finished T34th at the Sony
  • 2010 Hyundai winner Geoff Ogilvy didn’t play at the Sony
  • 2009 Hyundai winner Geoff Ogilvy finished T32nd at the Sony
  • 2008 Hyundai winner Daniel Chopra finished T32nd at the Sony
  • 2007 Hyundai winner Vijay Singh finished T34th at the Sony
  • 2006 Hyundai winner Stuart Appleby finished T7th at the Sony
  • 2005 Hyundai winner Stuart Appleby didn’t play at the Sony
  • 2004 Hyundai winner Stuart Appleby missed the cut at the Sony
  • 2003 Hyundai winner Ernie Els won the next week at the Sony
  • 2002 Hyundai winner Sergio finished T40th at the Sony
  • 2001 Hyundai winner Jim Furyk finished 4th at the Sony
  • 2000 Hyundai winner Tiger Woods didn’t play at the Sony
  • 1999 Hyundai winner David Duval finished 3rd at the Sony

Injury report:

  • Kevin Stadler withdrew from Hyundai because of a broken bone in his left wrist that was still painful.  Injury was caused by of overuse at the end of the year, he withdrew from WGC-HSBC Champions in November and was told to rest it 6 to 8 weeks.  Injury doesn’t require surgery, but his plan starts at the Humana and defense of his Waste Management Phoenix Open is in jeopardy.
  • Stuart Appleby – Playing at Sony, first time out since November when force to withdraw from Australian Open resulting from nerve pain in lower back.
  • Graham DeLaet – Playing at Sony, spent most of 2014 in pain with a lingering neck injury that forced him to WD from WGC HSBC Champions.   Last complete tournament was Frys.Com Open.

Tournament information:

  • Played at Waialae C.C., which has held the event every year
  • Event was first officially played in 1965

Even though this event was credited with officially starting in 1965, it was played for the first time in 1928 when Waialae Country Club was first opened. Bill Mehlhorn won that first event and the following year Craig Wood won. The event was played again in 1947 and ’48 before starting it’s regular run in 1965. Between ’65 and ’69 it was a fall event, before moving to it’s January/February dates in 1971.
The event has had a consistent run only being played at one course, Waialae Country Club. It also has only seen two sponsors, United Airlines between 1991 and ’98, followed by Sony from 1999. Showing it’s commitment to the event, Sony Corporation is signed up to sponsor the event through 2018, the 20th anniversary of its sponsorship.

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 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 and Doral, which have had a PGA Tour event every year since 1962.

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. it should be ok with a 30% chance of rain on Thursday.  The good news is the lack of wind again all week, so with the lack of wind and a little rain making things soft, 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 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.

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 Hyundai 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, 13 of the 18 champions have been in the top-ten in this stat and only two have been worst that 15th.  Last year Jimmy Walker was T7th, the year before Russell Henley was 2nd.
  • Putting is another important stat, but like hitting greens I give it a seven 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 2015 John Daly, Carlos Ortiz, Chris Kirk, Jason Day, Russell Henley and Nick Taylor are all in the top-ten and are playing the Sony.  Last year’s champion Jimmy Walker was 11th 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. Jason Day ranks tops in both lists some that are high on both lists are Tony Finau and Russell Henley.
  • 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 Jimmy Walker was 10 under while the year before Russell Henley was first 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 2015  those in the top-12 playing Sony include Robert Streb, Russell Henley, Russell Knox, Sang-Moon Bae, Hideki Matsuyama, Brendon de Jonge, Kevin Streelman, Tony Finau, Daniel Summerhays, Fabian Gomez and Jason Day.

 

Who to watch for at the Sony Open in Hawaii

Best Bets:

Jason Day

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T20 T64 CUT

Still like him carrying over from last week. Has too many elements that are important to win on this course.

Chris Kirk

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
2 T5 T38 T30

Just like with Day shot a final round 62 at Kapalua, he is perfect for Waialae.

Charles Howell III

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T8 T3 T2 T68 T5 4 T69 T2 T53 T3 T27 T15

In my estimate he could be the biggest underachiever on the PGA Tour. He has lot’s of runner-up finishes (14 in his career) including two at the Sony but nobody has more top-tens (8) at the Sony than Howell. You would have to think that once he would back into a tournament, has been in position to win a lot.

Best of the rest:

Russell Henley

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T51 Win

Has a lot of good features that makes him stand out at Waialae.

Matt Kuchar

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T8 T5 T5 CUT CUT 65 CUT CUT CUT

Has done well in his last three starts at Waialae, just needs to shave a shot here and there to win.

Tim Clark

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
WD 2 T2 T25 T12

This is his type of course to shine on, has shown a liking for Waialae with two runner-up finishes.

Luke Donald

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
CUT T23 T2 T13 T20 CUT

He has been missing in action the last three years, him playing this week shows that he wants to make a comeback. Did finish runner-up in 2007 so he could be a great darkhorse pick.

Marc Leishman

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
5 T9 T27 T20 T12

Has the traits to play well on this course, was 5th last year and T9th the year before.

Solid contenders

Harris English

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
4 T9 T67

Looking to get his game back into shape, good course for him to do it at.

Zach Johnson

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T8 CUT T54 T57 T12 Win T32 T47 CUT

Past champion who can do well, played well at Kapalua but for one bad day.

Jimmy Walker

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
Win T26 CUT 4 CUT T32 T61 CUT

Tough to bounce back after he didn’t perform well down the stretch last week at Kapalua.

Hideki Matsuyama

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
CUT CUT CUT

Another player looking to bounce back from a poor Monday at Kapalua, has the game to play well here.

Long shots that could come through:

Tony Finau

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
CUT

I think one of the best new players on tour, look for good things out of him.

Hudson Swafford

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T8

His T-8th last year at Sony is tied for career best event, look for good things out of him as it looks like he plays well on tourist type of courses.

Carlos Ortiz

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
First time playing in this event

Never played at the Sony but has the kind of stats that are good for course.

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