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BlogSony Open in Hawaii Preview and Picks

Sony Open in Hawaii

January 10th – 13th, 2019

Waialae C.C.

Honolulu, HI

Par: 70 / Yardage:

Purse: $6.5 Million

with $1,152,000 to the winner

Defending Champion:
Patton Kizzire

by Sal Johnson

Founder, Chief Data Officer, GOLFstats

E-mail me at:
sal@golfstats.com

This week’s field includes:

The field includes 41 of the top 100 and 20 of the top 50 in the latest Official World Rankings: The top 50 players are #4 Justin Thomas, #5 Bryson DeChambeau, #15 Patrick Reed, #16 Bubba Watson, #17 Jordan Spieth, #18 Marc Leishman, #22 Gary Woodland, #23 Paul Casey, #28 Hideki Matsuyama, #29 Cameron Smith, #31 Keegan Bradley, #32 Matt Kuchar, #34 Kyle Stanley, #38 Ian Poulter, #39 Kevin Kisner, #41 Adam Scott, #46 Satoshi Kodaira, #47 Emiliano Grillo, #48 Kevin Na and #49 Brandt Snedeker.

Last year 15 of the top-50 played.

The field includes 8 of the Top 25 on the FedEx point standings for 2018.  Those players are #3 Bryson DeChambeau, #7 Justin Thomas, #8 Keegan Bradley, #10 Bubba Watson, #12 Cameron Smith, #13 Hideki Matsuyama, #22 Patrick Reed, and #23 Paul Casey.

The field includes 15 of the Top 25 on the FedEx point standings for this year.  Those players are #2 Gary Woodland, #3 Marc Leishman, #4 Charles Howell III, #5 Kevin Tway, #7 Bryson DeChambeau, #8 Cameron Champ, #9 Matt Kuchar, #11 Danny Lee, #13 Patrick Rodgers, #14 Emiliano Grillo, #15 Scott Piercy, #16 Brandt Snedeker, #18 Sam Ryder, #20 Justin Thomas and #25 Abraham Ancer.

The field includes 9 past champions: Patton Kizzire (2018), Justin Thomas (2017), Fabian Gomez (2016), Jimmy Walker (2015 & ’14), Russell Henley (2013), Johnson Wagner (2012), Zach Johnson (2009), 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 the 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 DP World, Dubai Nedbank RSM Classic Mayakoba Golf Classic Sanderson Farms CIMB Classic Safeway Open Shriners Hospitals WGC-HSBC Champions Nine Bridges
Gary Woodland
(173 pts)
2
(100)
DNP DNP DNP T41
(3)
DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP 2
(33.33)
Marc Leishman
(134.67 pts)
T4
(80)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP DNP T18
(10.67)
Cameron Champ
(132 pts)
T11
(39)
DNP DNP 6
(20)
T10
(13.33)
Win
(44)
DNP T25
(8.33)
T28
(7.33)
DNP DNP
Justin Thomas
(118 pts)
3
(90)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP DNP DNP T36
(4.67)
Charles Howell III
(100 pts)
T14
(36)
DNP DNP Win
(44)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP DNP DNP T61
(0)
Kevin Tway
(99.67 pts)
T11
(39)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T27
(7.67)
Win
(44)
T23
(9)
DNP T52
(0)
Bryson DeChambeau
(99 pts)
7
(55)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP
Patrick Reed
(93.33 pts)
T25
(25)
T2
(50)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T7
(18.33)
DNP
Scott Piercy
(92 pts)
T19
(31)
DNP DNP DNP T6
(20)
DNP T27
(7.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
T10
(13.33)
DNP T5
(23.33)
Matt Kuchar
(75 pts)
T19
(31)
DNP DNP DNP Win
(44)
DNP DNP DNP T57
(0)
DNP DNP
Brandt Snedeker
(72.67 pts)
T22
(28)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T66
(0)
T2
(33.33)
DNP T30
(6.67)
T36
(4.67)
Patton Kizzire
(70.67 pts)
T8
(50)
DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
T55
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP 67
(0)
T23
(9)
Andrew Putnam
(70 pts)
T14
(36)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T50
(0.33)
DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
T29
(7)
Troy Merritt
(69.67 pts)
T16
(34)
DNP DNP T23
(9)
DNP DNP T54
(0)
T4
(26.67)
T57
(0)
DNP DNP
Paul Casey
(68.33 pts)
T16
(34)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T13
(12.33)
DNP DNP T16
(11.33)
T18
(10.67)
Brice Garnett
(62 pts)
T19
(31)
DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
5
(23.33)
DNP T39
(3.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T41
(3)
Emiliano Grillo
(60 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP 15
(11.67)
DNP T2
(33.33)
T41
(3)
DNP T14
(12)
T55
(0)
Abraham Ancer
(59.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T21
(9.67)
DNP T5
(23.33)
DNP T4
(26.67)
DNP T73
(0)
Sam Ryder
(55.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
54
(0)
DNP T43
(2.33)
T4
(26.67)
3
(30)
DNP DNP
Danny Lee
(55.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
DNP T33
(5.67)
T10
(13.33)
T41
(3)
DNP DNP
Ian Poulter
(55 pts)
18
(32)
T51
(0)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP 21
(9.67)
T10
(13.33)
Patrick Rodgers
(53.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP 2
(33.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T14
(12)
DNP T25
(8.33)
T41
(3)
DNP DNP
Keegan Bradley
(53.33 pts)
T27
(23)
DNP DNP DNP DNP DNP T19
(10.33)
DNP DNP 6
(20)
DNP
Dylan Frittelli
(45.5 pts)
DNP T7
(27.5)
T21
(9.67)
DNP DNP T54
(0)
DNP T25
(8.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Pat Perez
(42.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T6
(20)
DNP T63
(0)
DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
T7
(18.33)
Si Woo Kim
(42 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T26
(8)
DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP T15
(11.67)
DNP T23
(9)
Chez Reavie
(39.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T26
(8)
DNP T43
(2.33)
T33
(5.67)
DNP T35
(5)
T7
(18.33)
Sungjae Im
(39 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T37
(4.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T4
(26.67)
T15
(11.67)
DNP T41
(3)
Ryan Blaum
(39 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T4
(26.67)
CUT
(-3.33)
T20
(10)
DNP T33
(5.67)
74
(0)
DNP DNP
Adam Schenk
(36.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
T48
(0.67)
T7
(18.33)
DNP T14
(12)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Ryan Armour
(34 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T15
(11.67)
T21
(9.67)
T54
(0)
T33
(5.67)
DNP DNP DNP T29
(7)
Robert Streb
(34 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T32
(6)
CUT
(-3.33)
T26
(8)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T4
(26.67)
DNP DNP
Ted Potter, Jr.
(33 pts)
T27
(23)
DNP DNP T46
(1.33)
DNP DNP T54
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP T14
(12)
Corey Conners
(32.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T23
(9)
CUT
(-3.33)
2
(33.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Adam Hadwin
(30 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP T10
(13.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T30
(6.67)
T10
(13.33)

How Player Rankings are Computed

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

Player Sentry T of C DP World, Dubai Nedbank RSM Classic Mayakoba Golf Classic Sanderson Farms CIMB Classic Safeway Open Shriners Hospitals WGC-HSBC Champions Nine Bridges
John Huh
(-16.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Martin Trainer
(-13.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T60
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Jim Herman
(-13.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP DNP
Max Homa
(-13.33 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T60
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
John Chin
(-11.67 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
T45
(1.67)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Matt Jones
(-10 pts)
DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
71
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T57
(0)
DNP DNP
Roger Sloan
(-10 pts)
DNP DNP DNP 70
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP T60
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Roberto Diaz
(-10 pts)
DNP DNP DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
T57
(0)
DNP DNP
Trey Mullinax
(-10 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T65
(0)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
DNP CUT
(-3.33)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP
Sangmoon Bae
(-10 pts)
DNP DNP DNP T59
(0)
CUT
(-3.33)
DNP DNP CUT
(-3.33)
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.  In 2017, only 20 of the 34 showed up as #1 Dustin Johnson, #4 John Rahm, #5 Hideki Matsuyama and #7 Rickie Fowler won’t play.  About the same as previous years, 22 of the 33 will show up as #2 Brooks Koepka, #3 Dustin Johnson, #6 Xander Schauffele, #7 John Rahm, #8 Rory McIlory, #9 Francesco Molinari and #11 Jason Day won’t play.  Still, the good news is that #4 Justin Thomas, #5 Bryson DeChambeau, #15 Patrick Reed and #16 Bubba Watson 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 Xander Schauffele not playing this week, common sense says to look for the winner to be a player from Kapalua.  2017 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:

  • 2019 Sentry T of C winner Xander Schauffele is not playing 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 and Colonial, which has been the home of the Charles Schwab Challenge since 1948.

Let’s take a look at key 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 2018 and 2019.
The scoring average of the field at Waialae in 2018 was 68.90, so with par being 70 that means the average score was just over a shot per round, making Waialae the 39th Hardest course to score on in 2018.. It’s also important to see how the weather will be during the tournament, it will play a factor; it was perfect each day in 2018 with winds at 5 to 10 mph, with Sunday blowing between 8 and 16 mph. In looking at the long-range forecast for this year it’s going to be unbelievable, with winds blowing no more than 7 mph each day and on Friday and Sunday no wind at all. Between that and perfect days of temperatures at 81 each day will produce very low scoring.

In looking at the stats for Waialae last year, driving accuracy hits you. Last year and in 2017, 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 Patton Kizzire (and Justin Thomas in 2017) won even though Kizzire ranked T-56th (Thomas was T-66th) in driving accuracy. But in strokes gained tee-to-green he was 20th along with being 3rd 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 17 were in the top-12 while six of the 14 were in the top-three. Last year Patton Kizzire played against the grain by only hitting 53 of 72 greens and ranked T-23rd. So our second category is Greens in Regulation, last year the course was the 14th hardest on tour.
Next is Par Breakers since Waialae had the eight most birdies on the PGA Tour in 2018 with 1,711 and the 4th 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 9th hole is a par 5 and in 2018 was the easiest of the 918 holes last year with a 4.210 average and the par 5, 18th hole is the 16th easiest par 5 last year on the PGA Tour with a 4.390 average. Think of it this way; there were 68 par 4s on Tour in 2018 that had a higher average than Waialae’s 9th hole. Last year in the four rounds, Patton Kizzire was only 4 under par, the lowest par 5 total of all the winners since 1997.

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 36th 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.

125 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 all of the 125 players in the field

DraftKings tips

Looking for some good picks at the Sony?

*Here are the guys that are very costly:

  • Justin Thomas – $11,400
  • Bryson DeChambeau – $11,100
  • Gary Woodland – $10,800
  • Marc Leishman – $10,500
  • Jordan Spieth – $10,300
  • Cameron Champ – $9,900
  • Patrick Reed – $9,600
  • Cameron Smith – $9,400
  • Hideki Matsuyama  – $9,300
  • Emiliano Grillo – $9,200
  • Paul Casey – $9,100
  • Kevin Kisner – $9,000
  • Charles Howell – $8,900

Have to say that no matter who is on top it really doesn’t matter.  With the lack of wind and perfect conditions, you will have to go with the player that produces the most offensive, meaning lot’s of birdies and eagles this week.  So of the top-six of this list, five of them are in the top-six of our par breaker total of the last two seasons.  The only one out of the top-20 is Jordan Speith.  So those in the top-six do have a big advantage.  Looking at Justin Thomas at $11,400 he won at Waialae in 2017 and has 69 eagles/birdies in the last four years.  Not only is that a good omen, but he is high in 3 of our 4 categories in our course fantasy stats.  Sealing the deal is his 3rd place finish last week at Kapalua.  Next up is Bryson DeChambeau at $11,100 and he is another great choice.  He has only played at Waialae once and finished T-49th with two eagles and 14 birdies over 72 holes.  He is very high in our four categories and we can’t say good things for his play over the last six months, including a possible disappointing 7th place finish at Kapalua.  Next up is Gary Woodland at $10,800 and his record has been great at Waialae with no higher than a 13th place finish and was T-3rd in 2015.  Another good mark for him, in his last 4 Sony starts he has made 4 eagles and 75 birdies, which on the players entered this year is the most.  The only problem, he had a nice lead and lost the Sentry TofC.  Some would say this will hurt him this week, but I don’t think so.  Yes, he was runner-up but did shot a bogey-free final round 68 and was beaten by Xander Schauffele’s final round 62, so yes Woodland is a great choice.  Marc Leishman at $10,500 is another that will give plenty of offensive as with 3 eagles and 64 birdies, but frankly, he hasn’t played great since finishing 5th in 2014.  Still, he hasn’t missed any cuts in 9 Sony starts so he is up to you, I personally like the other guys. Jordan Spieth at $10,300 is I think a problem, yes he was 3rd in 2017 but T-18th last year and again his game has not been very sharp the last six months and along with getting married, he hasn’t seen a top-ten in a tournament since finishing T-9th at the British Open.  Next is Cameron Champ at $9,900 and he can hit a lot of greens and make a lot of birdies.  He hasn’t played at Waialae but I think he will find the course to his liking and play great.  My first really solid no is Patrick Reed at $9,600 and he isn’t very high on our stat list, only played once at Waialae missing the cut and struggled at Kapalua.  Next up is Cameron Smith at $9,400 and his production numbers at Waialae is 1 eagle and 52 birdies in just three starts at the Sony.  His best finish at the Sony was T-18th last year, but his last start at the Australian PGA Championship he was a winner so I say yes to him but with so many good players to choose from it could be a problem working him in.  Next up is Hideki Matsuyama at $9,300 and even though his driving is top notch, the rest of his game including making lots of eagles and birdies aren’t there so take a pass on him.  Emiliano Grillo at $9,200 and frankly I wonder why?  His record at the Sony is not very good, and other than a runner-up at the CIMB Classic his number isn’t worth bragging over so take a pass on him.  Paul Casey at $9,100 is also a no for me, his record not very impressive at the Sony in 3 starts and he hasn’t had a finish higher than a T-11th at the Tour Championship so don’t take a chance on him.  Kevin Kisner may have had a T-5th in 2016 and T-4th in 2017 but I have very little faith in him.  Charles Howell III has been hot of late and at $8,900 is a very good choice

*High price players that are worth the money:

Lot’s of good choices, first is Zach Johnson at $8,600, not only has he won but was T-14th last year after opening up with a 63.  He was T-6th in 2017 and T-9th in 2016 but I like that he is a past winner and knows how to play at Waialae.  Also, like Matt Kuchar at $8,500, he has some good finishes including five top-tens in 13 starts.  Adam Scott at $8,300 is a good pick, he was T-2nd in 2009 and he is on an upswing.  Next, I don’t like Brandt Snedeker at $8,200 because his game isn’t that sharp right now also with Keegan Bradley at $7,700

What are the “Bargains” out there?

Kevin Tway at $7,500 seems good, played ok at Kapalua, the only thing he could be tried.  The best player I think is Jimmy Walker at $7,400. He is on the way back and this could help him as a two-time winner of this event.  Patrick Rodgers at $7,400 is also a good pick, lot’s of birdies and eagles and this week is perfect for him.  Jaime Lovemark at $7,300 is also good, he makes lots of birdies.  Lastly, I like Jerry Kelly at $7,100 he has a great track record at Waialae.

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 as Justin Thomas showed us in 2017 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 and in 2017 it ranked 14th and in 2016 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 fourth 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 17 champions have been in the top-ten in this stat, and none of them were worst than 15th.  Until last year when Patton Kizzire was T-23td, hitting 53 of the 72 greens.  It was the worst performance since 2001 when champion Brad Faxon was T-28th, hitting 48 of the 72 greens.  Frankly, with the lack of wind, this year maybe hitting greens won’t be that important.  In 2017 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 2019.  Si Woo Kim, Zach Johnson, Stewart Cink, Benjamin Silverman, Patton Kizzire and Gary Woodland are all in the top-ten and are playing the Sony. Last year’s champion Patton Kizzire was 4th in this stat. 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. Gary Woodland, Cameron Champ, Marc Leishman, Justin Thomas and Si Woo Kim 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 Patton Kizzire was 8 under, 2017 winner 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 2019.  These players are in the top-six playing Sony; Cameron Champ, Gary Woodland, Brice Garnett, Si Woo Kim, Kevin Tway, Abraham Ancer, and Scott Peercy and in the top-ten.

Who to watch for at the Sony Open in Hawaii

Best Bets:

Gary Woodland

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T7 T6 T13 T3 CUT CUT

Has a good record in this event. Have to think that he would love some glory after losing last week at Kapalua, not by his poor play in his final round as he had a bogey-free 68 and was beaten by Xander Schauffele’s final round 62. So look for him to get back after his disappointment of a week ago.

Justin Thomas

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T14 Win CUT T6

Is really good at Waialae, he played well last week in Maui and could carry it over to a victory this week.

Bryson DeChambeau

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T49

A smart player who can maneuver around Waialae, he also makes a lot of eagles and birdies which it will take to win this week.

Best of the rest:

Jordan Spieth

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T18 3 CUT

This will be his first event as a married man, again it’s down to his putter and if he gets that rolling will be tough to beat.

Zach Johnson

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T14 T6 T9 T64 T8 CUT T54 T57 T12 Win T32

A local favorite the past champion knows how to play Waialae as he is 80 under par in 46 rounds at the Sony.

Brian Harman

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T4 T20 T13 T13 T32 CUT T59

Showed that he could go low on this course last year.

Charles Howell III

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T32 T8 T13 T26 T8 T3 T2 T68 T5 4 T69 T2

Has a love/hate relationship with Waialae as he has finished nine times in the top-ten in 17 starts.

Kevin Kisner

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T25 T4 T5 84 CUT CUT CUT

Has gotten better since he has learned the course.

Solid contenders

Cameron Champ

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
First time playing in this event

Playing for the first time, yes he is the real thing and could surprise all with his game that is great for Waialae.

Russell Knox

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T10 T11 CUT T13 CUT CUT CUT

Was 27 under par in his last 8 rounds at the Sony.

Brandt Snedeker

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
CUT 2 T69 CUT

Was runner-up in 2016 so he knows how to play well at Waialae.

Keegan Bradley

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T39 CUT CUT T49 T13 T68

Looking to prove that last week was not going to be the norm for him in 2019.

Patrick Reed

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
CUT

Missed the cut in his only Sony start, can do well if his tee to green game is sharp.

Long shots that could come through:

Kevin Tway

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
T69 CUT CUT

Could be the time he plays well here, does make a lot of birdies.

Abraham Ancer

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
CUT

Was a winner in Australia so he can win in Hawaii.

Danny Lee

2019 ’18 ’17 ’16 ’15 ’14 ’13 ’12 ’11 ’10 ’09 ’08 ’07
CUT T33 CUT CUT T13 CUT

Yes he has struggled on this course but things could be different this year.

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