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BlogKeys to win the Sony on Sunday

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

Who will win at Waialae

For the second week in a row Jimmy Walker will have a chance of winning his fourth PGA Tour title.   Walker, which had a share of the lead going into the final round last week at Kapalua, is back on top thanks to a third round 62.  Walker took advantage of a perfect day of scoring with very little wind as his putter was blazing hot as he only took 22 putts for the day.  Hard to believe that Walkers round included two bogeys on the 2nd and 17th holes.  He shot 30 on the back with only two pars as he birdied four of his last five holes.  Walker one-putted his last 11 holes as he made a total of 143 feet for the day.

Walker is two ahead of Matt Kuchar who shot 68 and three ahead of Brian Harman and Troy Merritt.  Going into Sunday’s round there is only six players within five shots of Walker.

Walker was in great position last week but let nerves get the best of him, could that happen again?  Walker who turned 36 on Friday, has found most of his good fortune in golf at a late age.  It took Walker eight years and 187 tournaments before he claimed his first title at the 2013 Frys.com Open so after years of struggling it makes sense that he would be nervous on the back nine in his final rounds.  Last week after making five birdies in his first ten holes the birdie ended and was replaced with shaky putting in which he missed several putts inside of ten feet.  Now this wasn’t the first time that he had problems in the final round, at Pebble Beach and the AT&T in February of 2014 Walker had a tough back nine, but he had such a big lead that it didn’t matter as he held on to win.

You didn’t answer the question, could nerves get the best of Walker again?  Absolutely, just look at why.  This is only the third time Walker goes into the final round with the lead or share of.  In the previous events he led, Walker shot a back nine 37 at Kapalua and a final nine 39 at Pebble Beach last year.  The good news is that on Walker’s final nine in winning at Sony last year he shot 30.  But that was totally different circumstances because he was behind and fighting hard to play catchup.

So what does that mean for Walker on Sunday?  Really feel that if Walker is leading or close, those demons may return.  Now with the experience of last week fresh in his mind he could find the fortitude to win, but my gut tells me that it would probably be best for Walker to be behind instead of leading.  Another thing that could hamper Walker is the fact that he shot 62 on Saturday, and it’s always hard to post two great rounds in a row.

So if not Walker who will win?  I really like Matt Kuchar. Making his 12th start at the Sony Open; Kuchar’s name near the top of the leaderboard is not a big surprise. In his last three starts of 2011, 2013, and 2014, Kuchar finished T5, T5 and T8, respectively.  In his last 14 rounds, Kuchar has been under par 12 times and is 52 under par.  In his last 14 rounds at Waialae, he has shot 63 twice, 65 three times and 66 three times.  Kuchar shot 68 on Saturday that sets him up for a good round on Sunday.  In looking at Kuchar’s stats it’s easy to see why he has played well, good putting.  He had 24 putts on Thursday, 28 on Friday and 29 Saturday.  For the week he has made a total of just over 306 feet of putts, second best behind Walker.

So what happens if Walker and Kuchar stumble?  I know the last couple of years have seen many first timers that you would have never though winning, getting that victory.  Just in 2015 we saw Ben Martin win in Las Vegas, Robert Streb at McGladrey and Nick Taylor at Sanderson Farms.  So we shouldn’t be surprised to see either Brian Harman, Troy Merritt, or Justin Thomas do it.  Guess that Harman has been they’re winning at John Deere last summer.  Troy Merritt has won on the Web.Com tour and came close at FedEx St. Jude so I guess he can do it.  The same with Justin Thomas, he won the 2014 Nationwide Children’s Championship on the Web.Com Tour and finished T4th at the Sanderson Farms Championship in November, so anything is possible.

What about Tim Clark?  He is in the right position to pounce, after rounds of 65-65 he shot 68 on Saturday.  He wasn’t very consistent making three bogeys, but I have to think that he will be a favorite, despite being four back.  At the Tour Championship he was three back of Lee Westwood going into the final round, shot 67 to win for the first time.  I strongly feel that Clark is looking for a great season this year because with his disability of not being able to turn his hands, having to not stick the putter against his stomach will make the game too hard for him.  So he knows that he has to make his money now, and I can see him play very well.

Anybody else?  Sunday will be another great day with the lack of win so you never know whether someone has a 62, 61, 60, and even a 59 in him.  We saw Justin Thomas shot 61 on Friday.  We have also seen six, 62s shot.  Anyone who is eight shots back has a chance, to think it’s not out of the question if someone at 10 under or better shooting 61 to win.

Below is a list of the top-39 players on the leader board going to 7 under which is 9 shots back of Jimmy Walker

Of the top-39 on the leaderboard, who is playing the best: for the Sony Open in Hawaii

Player Hyundai T of C Nedbank Challenge Mayakoba Classic HSBC Champions Sanderson Farms Championship CIMB Classic McGladrey Classic Shriners Hospitals Frys.com Open
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)
Russell Henley
(121.67 pts)
T3
(90)
DNP DNP T35
(5)
DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP
Jason Day
(90 pts)
T3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Tim Clark
(79.33 pts)
T25
(25)
T7
(18.33)
DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP T56
(0)
DNP T42
(2.67)
T57
(0)
Matt Kuchar
(52 pts)
T17
(33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T22
(9.33)
DNP T21
(9.67)
Shawn Stefani
(41.33 pts)
DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP T25
(8.33)
DNP T41
(3)
CUT
(-3.33)
T53
(0)
Jerry Kelly
(36.33 pts)
DNP DNP 5
(23.33)
DNP T22
(9.33)
DNP T63
(0)
DNP T39
(3.67)
Russell Knox
(36 pts)
DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
DNP T35
(5)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
3
(30)
T68
(0)
Scott Piercy
(34 pts)
DNP DNP T16
(11.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T17
(11)
T7
(18.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Gary Woodland
(33.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T56
(0)
DNP T2
(33.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Brian Harman
(32.67 pts)
T17
(33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T41
(3)
DNP DNP
Nicholas Thompson
(32.33 pts)
DNP DNP T9
(15)
DNP T35
(5)
T21
(9.67)
T22
(9.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Webb Simpson
(29.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T41
(3)
T4
(26.67)
DNP
Justin Thomas
(29 pts)
DNP DNP T23
(9)
DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP 71
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
John Peterson
(26.67 pts)
DNP DNP T16
(11.33)
DNP T43
(2.33)
DNP T22
(9.33)
T75
(0)
T39
(3.67)
Zachary Blair
(24.33 pts)
DNP DNP T23
(9)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T32
(6)
T75
(0)
T12
(12.67)
Daniel Summerhays
(21.33 pts)
DNP DNP T29
(7)
DNP T29
(7)
DNP T32
(6)
T54
(0)
T46
(1.33)
Marc Leishman
(20 pts)
DNP DNP DNP 9
(15)
DNP T39
(3.67)
DNP DNP T46
(1.33)
Jason Kokrak
(19.33 pts)
DNP DNP T16
(11.33)
DNP T20
(10)
DNP T66
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
T46
(1.33)
Charles Howell III
(19.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T14
(12)
DNP T73
(0)
T18
(10.67)
T71
(0)
Andrew Svoboda
(17.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T8
(16.67)
T18
(10.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
Camilo Villegas
(14.67 pts)
32
(18)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP T54
(0)
T72
(0)
DNP
Stewart Cink
(11.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T56
(0)
T32
(6)
T33
(5.67)
DNP
Chad Collins
(10.67 pts)
DNP DNP T29
(7)
DNP T29
(7)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

Of the top-39 on the leaderboard, who isn’t playing well: for the Sony Open in Hawaii

Player Hyundai T of C Nedbank Challenge Mayakoba Classic HSBC Champions Sanderson Farms Championship CIMB Classic McGladrey Classic Shriners Hospitals Frys.com Open
Brian Davis
(-10 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP 73
(0)
T73
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Troy Merritt
(-6.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T56
(0)
DNP T49
(0.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Scott Pinckney
(-3.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T73
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
T31
(6.33)
Chez Reavie
(-3.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T53
(0)
J.J. Henry
(-2.33 pts)
DNP DNP T44
(2)
DNP T43
(2.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
71
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
K.J. Choi
(0 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T71
(0)
DNP DNP DNP
Hyung-Sung Kim
(0 pts)
DNP DNP DNP 63
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
James Hahn
(1 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T56
(0)
T17
(11)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Daniel Berger
(2.67 pts)
DNP DNP T51
(0)
DNP T51
(0)
DNP T22
(9.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
Paul Casey
(4.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
DNP DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

In Conclusion:

Look for a crazy day on Sunday.  I don’t think that Jimmy Walker holds on; I can see him get nervous again.  The key for Walker to win is playing sub-par on the front nine and being behind going to the back nine.  I think that if Matt Kuchar shots 66 on Sunday he will be hard to beat.  I also like Tim Clark, but he is not one to go low.  If Clark shots 65 that may not be enough.  I also think that we could see what happened at Greenbrier in 2010 when Stuart Appleby shot a final round 59 to win.  Brian Harman has shot a 61, so I like him.  Troy Merritt hasn’t done it so I can eliminate him from winning.  Max Homa had his career round with a 63 on Saturday, so I don’t think he will be a factor.  K.J. Choi, Gary Woodland and Scott Piercy all could do it.  As for Webb Simpson, what a disappointment it had to be for him shooting 72 on Saturday.  He would need a minimum of 61 for a chance, and I just don’t see it in the cards.

Who to watch to win the Sony Open:

Best Bets:

Matt Kuchar

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
2 (2 SB) T8 T5 T5 CUT CUT 65 CUT CUT CUT

He has been in this position before and not come through, just think the moon’s are aligned for him to do it this time. Him not going low on Saturday could help him on Sunday.

Jimmy Walker

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
1 (by 2) Win T26 CUT 4 CUT T32 T61 CUT

Think if he makes the turn with the lead he won’t hold on. If he can go into the back nine two back, will be very tough to beat. But look for the nerves, they will be on display.

Best of the rest:

Tim Clark

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T5 (4 SB) 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. Think he is in a good postion to free-wheel it on Sunday and play well.

Brian Harman

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T3 (3 SB) T32 CUT T59

Was in the same postion at the John Deere and won, if he was to win wouldn’t surprise me.

Troy Merritt

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T3 (3  SB) CUT CUT T20

Another young guy that we will see if he plays for a high finish or a win.

Justin Thomas

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T5 (4 SB)

Does he have another 61 in him? Don’t think so, just think he will be looking for a high finish.

Needing a miracle:

Gary Woodland

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T8 (6 SB) CUT CUT

Has the power to over power the course and could go low

Harris English

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T8 (6 SB) 4 T9 T67

Wonder if he will go out with a low score in mind.

Jason Kokrak

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T8 (6 SB) T20 72 T75

Would surprise the hell out of a lot of us.

Webb Simpson

2015 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06 ’05 ’04 ’03
T8 (6 SB) T20 T38 T46 T77 T9

Sorry too far behind and he doesn’t have the firepower for sub-60 round.

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