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BlogSony Open in Hawaii Preview and Picks

Sony Open in Hawaii

January 11th – 14th, 2018

Waialae C.C.

Honolulu, HI

Par: 70 / Yardage: 7,044

Purse: $6.2 million

with $1,080,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Justin Thomas

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 34 of the top 100 and 15 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings: The top 50 players are #2 Jordan Spieth, #4 Justin Thomas, #12 Marc Leishman, #23 Brian mman, #26 Xander Schauffele, #27 Kevin Kisner, #28 Daniel Berger, #37 Siwoo Kim, #41 Jason Dufner, #43 Tony Finau, #44 Webb Simpson, #46 Russell Henley, #47 Kyle Stanley, #48 Zach Johnson and #50 Yusaku Miyazato.

Last year 17 of the top-50 played.

The field includes 14 of the Top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2018.  Those players are #3 Patton Kizzire, #5 Austin Cook, #6 Justin Thomas, #9 Brian Harman, #11 Tony Finau, #12 J.J. Spaun, #14 Whee Kim, #15 Marc Leishman, #16 Ryan Armour, #17 Cameron Smith, #20 Keegan Bradley, #20 Si Woo Kim, #22 Brian Gay and #23 Chez Reavie.

The field includes 11 players in the top 25 on last year’s FedEx point standings.  Those players are #1Justin Thomas, #2Jordan Spieth, #3Xander Schauffele, #6Marc Leishman, #12Kevin Kisner, #13Russell Henley, #16Daniel Berger, #17Webb Simpson, #19Tony Finau, #24Kyle Stanley and #25Brian Harman.

The field includes 10 past champions: Justin Thomas (2017), Fabian Gomez (2016), Jimmy Walker (2015 & ’14), Russell Henley (2013), Mark Wilson (2011), Ryan Palmer (2010), Zach Johnson (2009), K.J. Choi (2008), 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 Sentry T of C Australian PGA Championship The RSM Classic DP World, Dubai OHL Classic at Mayakoba Shriners Hospitals CIMB Classic WGC-HSBC Champions Sanderson Farms The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges Safeway Open
Cameron Smith
(174.33 pts)
T17
(33)
Win
(88)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP DNP 3
(30)
DNP
Brian Harman
(156.67 pts)
3
(90)
DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP 8
(16.67)
DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP
Marc Leishman
(145.67 pts)
T7
(55)
T4
(53.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T38
(4)
DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP
Patton Kizzire
(117.33 pts)
T15
(35)
DNP T45
(1.67)
DNP Win
(44)
T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Austin Cook
(90.67 pts)
T22
(28)
DNP Win
(44)
DNP T50
(0.33)
T20
(10)
DNP DNP T25
(8.33)
DNP DNP
Ryan Armour
(85 pts)
20
(30)
DNP T37
(4.33)
DNP T55
(0)
T20
(10)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Justin Thomas
(83 pts)
T22
(28)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T17
(11)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
DNP
Si Woo Kim
(68.67 pts)
10
(40)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP 3
(30)
DNP 77
(0)
T69
(0)
DNP T44
(2)
DNP
Tony Finau
(65.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T16
(11.33)
DNP T11
(13)
DNP T26
(8)
2
(33.33)
Kyle Stanley
(63.33 pts)
30
(20)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T21
(9.67)
T5
(23.33)
DNP T19
(10.33)
DNP
Whee Kim
(62 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T45
(1.67)
T2
(33.33)
T39
(3.67)
DNP DNP 4
(26.67)
T54
(0)
J.J. Spaun
(60.67 pts)
DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP T14
(12)
T10
(13.33)
DNP DNP T34
(5.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Kevin Kisner
(59.67 pts)
T17
(33)
DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Xander Schauffele
(59.33 pts)
T22
(28)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T3
(30)
T46
(1.33)
DNP T72
(0)
DNP
Harold Varner III
(57 pts)
DNP T6
(40)
DNP DNP DNP T63
(0)
T23
(9)
DNP DNP T26
(8)
T59
(0)
Chez Reavie
(55.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T14
(12)
DNP T17
(11)
T24
(8.67)
DNP T15
(11.67)
T13
(12.33)
Peter Uihlein
(53.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T10
(20)
DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
T5
(23.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Brian Stuard
(51 pts)
DNP DNP T22
(9.33)
DNP T9
(15)
T57
(0)
DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP T62
(0)
Scott Brown
(49 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T6
(20)
T63
(0)
T23
(9)
DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
T62
(0)
Daniel Berger
(47.67 pts)
T11
(39)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T24
(8.67)
DNP T54
(0)
DNP
Luke List
(46.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T20
(10)
T13
(12.33)
DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
T37
(4.33)
Charles Howell III
(45.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP T51
(0)
T15
(11.67)
DNP T19
(10.33)
DNP
Jordan Spieth
(45 pts)
9
(45)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP
Russell Henley
(43.33 pts)
T17
(33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T36
(4.67)
DNP T33
(5.67)
DNP
Brian Gay
(42.33 pts)
DNP DNP 3
(30)
DNP T25
(8.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T18
(10.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

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

Player Sentry T of C Australian PGA Championship The RSM Classic DP World, Dubai OHL Classic at Mayakoba Shriners Hospitals CIMB Classic WGC-HSBC Champions Sanderson Farms The CJ Cup at Nine Bridges Safeway Open
Kyle Thompson
(-16.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Andrew Yun
(-16.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Harris English
(-16.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Jon Curran
(-13.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Matt Atkins
(-13.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T65
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Lanto Griffin
(-13.33 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T61
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Sam Ryder
(-13.33 pts)
DNP DNP T61
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Nate Lashley
(-13 pts)
DNP DNP T49
(0.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Marty Dou Zecheng
(-11.67 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP WD
(-1.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T69
(0)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
Mark Wilson
(-10 pts)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP

How Player Rankings are Computed

The Buzz:

Since 1999 when it was slotted behind the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the Sony got an added boost in that most of those at the Sentry 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 Sentry T of C participants stayed.  In 2009 the trend of leaving, after the Sentry T of C continued as only 26 of the 33 TofC players showed up at Waialae.  In 2010  20 of the 28 Sentry 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 just 18 of the 30 went, while in 2015, 24 of the original 34 players made the trip from Maui to Honolulu.  In 2016 only 22 of the 32 players went to Honolulu why last year 23 of the 32 players played at the Sony.  About the same as previous years, 20 of the 34 will show up as #1 Dustin Johnson, #4 John Rahm, #5 Hideki Matsuyama and #7 Rickie Fowler won’t play.  Still, the good news is that #2 Jordan Spieth, #4 Justin Thomas are in the field.

Now one of the important items for fantasy golfers to think about, since the Sentry moved to Kapalua in 1999, 12 of the 19 Sony winners participated in Kapalua the week before.  So despite Sentry winner Dustin Johnson not playing this week, common sense says to look for the winner to be a player from Kapalua.  Last years defending champion Justin Thomas also won at Kapalua the week before.

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

  • 2018 Sentry T of C winner Dustin Johnson is not playing the Sony
  • 2017 Sentry T of C winner Justin Thomas will play at the Sony
  • 2016 Sentry T of C winner Jordan Spieth did not play at the Sony
  • 2014 Sentry T of C winner Zach Johnson finished T8th at the Sony
  • 2013 Sentry T of C winner Dustin Johnson withdrew after the first round at the Sony
  • 2012 Sentry T of C winner Steve Stricker finished T38th at the Sony
  • 2011 Sentry T of C winner Jonathan Byrd finished T34th at the Sony
  • 2010 Sentry T of C winner Geoff Ogilvy didn’t play at the Sony
  • 2009 Sentry T of C winner Geoff Ogilvy finished T32nd at the Sony
  • 2008 Sentry T of C winner Daniel Chopra finished T32nd at the Sony
  • 2007 Sentry T of C winner Vijay Singh finished T34th at the Sony
  • 2006 Sentry T of C winner Stuart Appleby finished T7th at the Sony
  • 2005 Sentry T of C winner Stuart Appleby didn’t play at the Sony
  • 2004 Sentry T of C winner Stuart Appleby missed the cut at the Sony
  • 2003 Sentry T of C winner Ernie Els won the next week at the Sony
  • 2002 Sentry T of C winner Sergio finished T40th at the Sony
  • 2001 Sentry T of C winner Jim Furyk finished 4th at the Sony
  • 2000 Sentry T of C winner Tiger Woods didn’t play at the Sony
  • 1999 Sentry 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 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 first produced.
  • One of the significant changes made, which didn’t affect the course but did affect the tournament, came in 1999.  That’s when championship and PGA Tour officials moved up the tees on the 1st and 13th holes and changed them from par 5s to 4s. It didn’t make the course easier or tougher. It was a perception that the course was harder with scores 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 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 vital stats that are important for those playing on the Waialae:

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 averaging the rank from 2017 and 2018.
The scoring average of the field at Waialae in 2017 was 68.31, so with par being 70 that means the average score was just over a shot and a half under per round, making Waialae the 8th easiest course to score on in 2017 and the 3rd easiest course for full-field events in 2017. It’s also important to see how the weather will play a factor; it was perfect each day in 2017 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 14th hardest fairways to hit on the PGA Tour, with the lack of rain the usual high rough is again sparse so you can see how Justin Gomez won even though he ranked T-66th in driving accuracy. But in strokes gained tee-to-green he was 1st along with being 4th in strokes gained approach-the-green. There hasn’t been more than a trace of rain in the last week so with the dryness of the fairways and the lack of wind, look for really low scoring. That is because hitting it into the fairways isn’t that important since the rough is not as severe as past years. Last, of the players that finished in the top-ten, only two finished in the top-ten in driving accuracy, so you can see that driving accuracy just isn’t cutting it anymore. Our first stat is Strokes gained Tee-to-Green since even though accuracy isn’t a key anymore, you do have to get it on the greens whether you hit it in the fairway or not.
In looking at the winners at Waialae, greens hit seem to be something that all the winners have in common. Since 2002, 15 of the 16 were in the top-12 while six of the 13 were in the top-three. Last year Justin Thomas hit 56 of 72 greens and ranked 12th. So our second category is Greens in Regulation.
Next is Par Breakers since Waialae had the sixth most birdies on the PGA Tour in 2017 with 1,759 and the 5th most eagles on tour with 59. So with the lack of wind and dry fairways you can see you better make a lot of birdies and eagles.
Last is par 5 scoring average. Typically a course with just two par-5s wouldn’t be on our list. But since the 18th hole is a par 5 and in 2017 was the 10th easiest of the 900 holes last year with a 4.404 average and the par 5, 9th hole is the easiest par 5 last year on the PGA Tour with a 4.214 average. Think of it this way; there were 64 par 4s on Tour in 2017 that had a higher average than Waialae’s 9th hole. Last year in the four rounds, Justin Thomas played the par 5s in 10 under as he had six birdies and two eagles.

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

*Strokes Gained tee-to-green: You need to hit it long and straight along with hitting lots 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

*ParBreakers: Combination of birdies and eagles made

*Par 5 scoring average: Shows which course has the easiest par 5s to score on.

128 of the 144 Players from this year’s field with stats from this year:

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

Here is a link to the other 118 of 128 players with stats at the Sony Open in Hawaii

DraftKings tips

Looking for some good picks at the Sony?

*Of the 144 in the field, 112 have played at least once in the Sony.  Here are the players with the most under par totals at the Sony since 2010:

  • Charles Howell is 87 under playing 8 years
  • Jimmy Walker is 75 under playing 8 years
  • Marc Leishman is 70 under playing 7 years
  • Zach Johnson is 54 under playing 8 years
  • Jerry Kelly is 54 under playing 8 years
  • Brian Gay is 54 under playing 7 years
  • Webb Simpson is 51 under playing 7 years
  • Russell Henley is 48 under playing 5 years
  • Harris English is 48 under playing 6 years

*But who has done the best under par totals averaging it per years played?

  • Si Woo Kim is 16 under playing once (-16)
  • Justin Thomas is 38 under playing 3 years (-12.67)
  • Kelly Kraft is 11 under playing once (-11)
  • Ollie Schniederjans is 11 under playing once (-11)
  • Charles Howell III is 87 under playing 8 years (10.88)
  • Emiliano Grillo is 10 under playing once (-10)
  • Marc Leishman is 70 under playing 7 years (-10)
  • Daniel Berger is 29 under playing 3 years (-9.67)
  • Russell Henley is 48 under playing 5 years (-9.60)
  • Gary Woodland is 38 under playing 4 years (-9.50)
  • Jimmy Walker is 75 under playing 8 years (9.38)

Historical ParBreakers

Here is a look at those playing this week and who has made the most eagles and birdies:

So it makes sense that the top players on this list are guys that will make lot’s of points this week

*Here are the guys that are very costly:

  • Jordan Spieth – $12,000
  • Justin Thomas – $11,600
  • Marc Leishman – $11,100
  • Brian Harman – $10,600
  • Kevin Kisner – $10,100
  • Zach Johnson – $9,500
  • Webb Simpson – $9,300
  • Russell Henley – $9,200
  • Cameron Smith – $9,000

The folks at DraftKings has given us a tough choice.  First of all Spieth, Thomas and Leishman are priced too high, even though historically they have produced very high eagle and birdie numbers.  Thomas has produced 5 eagles which is a good sign, Leishman too has done well with 6 eagles.  Last week at Kapalua, they all produced lots of offensive with Spieth having an eagle and 18 birdies, Leishman produced 19 birdies, and even though Thomas didn’t play that great shooting a pair of 75s, he had an eagle and 18 birdies.  So if you have to choose one of the top-three, Leishman is probably the choice.

Now, do you disregard Harman, Kisner or Johnson?  Harman has never contended at the Sony, but produced a lot of eagles and birdies plus he is playing well.  Last week at Kapalua he produced one eagle and 20 birdies so offensively his numbers are good, but frankly $10,600 is a bit steep.  As for Kisner and Johnson, both have done well and contended both making lots of eagles and birdies.  Going down the list, Henley has produced some excellent numbers and even though he is high at $9,200 he is a possibility.  But frankly, all of these guys are very overpriced.

*High price players that are worth the money:

#1 choice is Charles Howell III at $8,800.  In 16 starts he has nine top-ten finishes and never missed the cut.  His offensive numbers are very high, at the Sony he has made 10 eagles and 255 birdies which is second best of those playing this week (Rory Sabbatini is the best, but he struggles and is not an option).  Another person to watch is SiWoo Kim, he participated once at the Sony in 2016 finishing T-4th.  Last week he was good at Kapalua and produced good offensive numbers with 18 birdies, his one time at the Sony he has 2 eagles and 17 birdies.  Daniel Berger at $8,700 hasn’t had any top-tens at Sony, but he always seems to produce a lot of offensive, 1 eagle and 53 birdies in 12 rounds.  Another medium-high price guy is Jamie Lovemark at $8,100.  He was T-4th last year and T-7th in 2016. Despite missing two cuts before those starts, he has good offensive numbers with 4 eagles and 49 birdies in his 12 Sony rounds.

Going down the list Gary Woodland is an excellent choice at $7,800.  He has two top-tens including a T-6th last year and a T-3rd in 2015; his offensive numbers are good with 3 eagles and 63 birdies in 16 rounds.  Also look at Hudson Swafford at $7,300, he has three good finishes and in 14 rounds has produced 2 eagles and 63 birdies.

*What are the “Bargains” out there?

Swafford is one, I also like Jason Dufner at $7,300.  He hasn’t produced any spectacular finishes at the Sony, but if you look at his scores, he seems to have one lousy round each time he tees it up at Waialae.  Last year was a good example, Jason started with a 65 and followed it up with a 73.  The year before he finished T-9th with four rounds in the 60s and the year before that had three rounds in the 60s and a 70 to finish T-29th.  His Sony production numbers are good with 2 eagles and 122 birdies in 30 rounds with 54 of those birdies in his last three starts.  He also made a lot of birdies at Kapalua, 18 of them.  Kevin Na at $7,400 is also a good choice in 42 rounds at Waialae he has 4 eagles and 169 birdies.  Another player to look at is Kyle Stanley at $7,300; he has an eagle and 71 birdies in 18 rounds.  Jimmy Walker is also someone lurking, yes he struggled last year with Lyme disease, and now was informed that his wife also has it.  The good news, Walker is just about over the illness and feeling 95% back to normal.  He comes to the Sony well rested and with a good track record.  He missed the cut last year but did have the flu during the week and probably should have withdrawn.  Walker is at $7,200, and his production numbers are good with 6 eagles and 148 birdies in 36 rounds.  A safe bet is Stewart Cink, who is always cheap and has a knack for making cuts. This week he is at $6,800, and in his last 11 Sony’s has made the cut 9 times.  I like him because he has shot 70 or lower in his previous 4 starts. His production value is good he has 5 eagles and 170 birdies in 46 total rounds.  Cink’s rankings in parbreakers on the PGA Tour has also been high the last two years as he is an average of 44th, so he is a good cost saver.

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 especially if the wind doesn’t blow.  Wind is the only true protection Waialae gets.  If it blows scores are reasonable, but without winds, scores go low, and just like Justin Thomas showed us last year by shooting 59.  The wind was up in Maui last week, making it tougher but according to the weatherman at Weather.com. the winds will calm down this week and weather won’t play a factor.  So with the lack of wind, look for low scoring with a possibility of having a couple sub-60 rounds. The key defense in the past for Waialae is the driving zone.  In normal conditions of dry, fast fairways it makes it hard to keep it in the fairway.  But the rough isn’t as tough anymore, and that is the reason Waialae is easy  Last year it ranked 14th and the year before it was the 12th hardest in driving accuracy.  That is up from the 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 for the third year in a row with short rough, 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 lots of birdies and eagles.

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

  • The first thing to realize is that Waialae is the complete opposite of the Plantation Course which held the Sentry 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 the driving accuracy list’s the last couple of years, funny how past champions in the last decade like Russell Henley, Mark Wilson, Zach Johnson, Paul Goydos, David Toms and Jerry Kelly have ranked high.
  • 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 essential, on a scale of 1 to 10, with ten being the most critical give hitting greens a 7.  Still, you can’t dismiss this stat since 1997, 12 of the last 16 champions have been in the top-ten in this stat, and none of them were worst than 15th.  Last year Justin Thomas was T-12th, in 2016 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 2018 Stewart Cink, Jason Dufner, and Luke Donald are all in the top-ten and are playing the Sony.  2016 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 are important this week is picking a person who is high on the par breaker list. Justin Thomas, Marc Leishman, and Cameron Smith rank in the top-ten.
  • 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 Justin Thomas was 15 under while Fabian Gomez was 12 under the year before. 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 those playing the par 4s the best on tour in 2017 these players are in the top-six playing Sony; Brian Harman, Cameron Smith, Scott Brown, Patton Kizzire and J.J. Spaun.

Who to watch for at the Sony Open in Hawaii

Best Bets:

Jordan Spieth

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
3 CUT

Good finish last week at Kapalua along with his good finish last year.

Brian Harman

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
                        T20         T13         T13           T32         Cut          T59

Showed a lot last week and the last six months. He is going into a different level of playing golf, finding ways to contend.

Marc Leishman

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T20 T28 T37 5 T9 T27 T20 T12

Was great for three rounds last week, good record at Waialae he will find a way to contend.

Best of the rest:

Charles Howell III

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T8 T13 T26 T8 T3 T2 T68 T5 4 T69 T2 T53

His numbers show how well he plays at Waialae, he seems to be in contention every week at the Sony.

Zach Johnson

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T6 T9 T64 T8 CUT T54 T57 T12 Win T32

Has this course wired, playing it in 54 under in his career.

Kevin Kisner

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T4 T5 84 CUT CUT CUT

Another player who finds a way to get into contention. Was T-4th last year and T-5th the year before.

Cameron Smith

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T27 T81

Another of those players that are figuring it out and playing well week after week after week.

Solid contenders

Si Woo Kim

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
4

Good finish at Waialae in his only Sony in 2016, played well last week and at the RSM.

Daniel Berger

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T45 T42 T13

Good history at Waialae he is 29 under in just three years played.

Russell Henley

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T13 CUT T17 T51 Win

Another that has the course wired, he won his first title on this course in 2013.

Gary Woodland

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T6 T13 T3 CUT CUT

Produces a lot of offensive in making lot’s of birdies.

Long shots that could come through:

Jamie Lovemark

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T4 T7 CUT CUT

Was T-4th last year, T-7th the year before so 32 under par in last 8 rounds at Waialae.

Tony Finau

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
T20 T64 CUT CUT

This is a guy that could breakout this week, this is almost like a home event for him

Peter Uihlein

2018 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07 ’06
First time playing in this event

This is a player that I feel will have a great year.

Comments

  1. Mark Harmon? I think you mean Brian Harmon.

  2. My mistake, thanks for catching it. Have fixed it.

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