The PGA Tour stays in Hawaii this week, for the first full-field event of 2018 as the players tee it up in Honolulu for the Sony Open.
This event has long been a part of the PGA Tour and what better way to get the year started than to spend a week in Honolulu, Hawaii trying to hone your game for the year ahead. Whilst the course can be tricky if there are some extreme winds, generally speaking this is a low-scoring event which offers an easy start to the year.
The Course and what it will take to win
Waialae Country Club, 7,044 Yards, Par 70
As previously touched on, this course’s only real defence is Mother Nature. Should the wind get up, the scoring can become a lot more difficult but generally this short Par 70 course is here to be scored on.
This course rarely requires driver off the tee, due to length of the course and hitting the tree-lined fairways whilst not essential, will be helpful when looking for the best angle into the greens.
Hitting the small and hard BermudaGrass Greens will be imperative to any success this week, in order to set up good birdie looks on a consistent basis throughout the round.
Good putting form on Bermuda Greens will be advantageous this week, as will knowledge of the Hawaiian winds, especially if the weather does change.
Correlating courses this week include Harbour Town (RBC Heritage) and the Seaside course at Sea Island Georgia, which is one of two courses used for the RSM Classic. Both of these courses also feature Bermuda greens.
Another one and perhaps the strongest correlation is the host venue of the OHL Classic at Mayakoba, El Camaleon. Both Johnson Wagner and Mark Wilson have won at both courses, and with the OHL Classic being a relatively new event this is quite a promising link.
Due to their comparable length and similar locations (by the coast) it is definitely worth looking at players’ form at these three events, especially if they haven’t played here.
Playing at the Tournament of Champions the week before looks to be highly advantageous here also. Of the last six winners (Jimmy Walker twice), only Russell Henley has won here without playing a week prior and he couldn’t have done so, considering his win here came on his PGA Tour debut.
There a number of factors this could be down to, it could be those that played last week have had a chance to acclimatise to Hawaii or it could simply be that those that played last week have played competitively since the Winter Break whereas others are coming in cold.
Justin Thomas secured his second win in as many weeks here at the Sony Open last year, breaking every single scoring record in the event on the way.
Thomas broke the 18, 36, 54 and 72-hole scoring record here last year, finishing the week on -27 and seven strokes clear of his nearest challenger, Justin Rose. His 36-hole score was a Tour record and he tied Steve Stricker for the lowest 54-hole score on Tour also, highlighting an incredible scoring week.
Rose’s -20 score would have been enough to win this event seven times in the last ten years and also got him to a play-off in 2015. Having said that, the winning score has been -23 or better in three of the last five renewals so the benchmark for scoring has clearly gotten even lower in recent years.
This is a clear indicator of just how well you can score in this event, should the wind remain calm and that has to be a key consideration this week.
Jordan Spieth 5/1
Justin Thomas 8/1
Marc Leishman 16/1
Brian Harman 20/1
Kevin Kisner 25/1
There’s no great surprises at the top of the market this week. Both Spieth and Thomas were vying for favouritism last week, but a lacklustre performance from Thomas last week sees Spieth the clear favourite this week.
Thomas was without his full-time caddie Jimmy Johnson last week, and will be for the next month due to an injury, but he has recruited the help of recently retired Jim “Bones” Mackay to help him this week.
This will be Jim’s first return to caddying since his split from Phil Mickelson last year, after their 25 year partnership. It will be interesting to see how Thomas and Mackay work together here, as Thomas looks to put up a better defence of his title this week than he did at the Tournament of Champions.
Si Woo Kim 60/1 (Bet365 & StanJames) 1pt e/w:
There has never been a doubt over Si-woo Kim’s ability, but his consistency which has largely been due to his injury record has led to some question marks being raised.
Each week it seems like you are never sure which Kim is going to turn up, but as of late he looks to have found some form, and generally looks injury-free. If that is the case, he looks an excellent bet this week.
I expected him to be around the 40-50/1 mark this week, and there was some early 100/1 and 70/1 about him, but he has now come into a more realistic price at 60/1. Despite the drop of price, I still think there is plenty of value in backing him this week.
The Korean won the Players Championship in 2017, during a season in which he missed 11 cuts and also withdrew 7 times. The win at TPC Sawgrass was a huge reminder of just how talented he is, becoming the youngest winner of the event at just 21. This was second win on Tour in as many seasons, and now just 22 he still more than enough time on his side.
Early signs this season though suggest he can put together a more consistent season this time around, with hopefully the worst of his injury concerns behind him.
So far in the 2018 season, which of course is still in its infancy, Kim has a 3rd place finish at the OHL Classic in Mayakoba as well as a 10th place finish at last week’s Tournament of Champions.
The fact he played and played well last week is a massive positive, as is his 3rd place finish at the correlating El Camaleon a couple of months ago, and that fills me with confidence.
Add to that his 4th place finish on his only start in this event (2016) and I really do think he can go well again.
2016 was Kim’s first full season on Tour and to add to his impressive finish here and his win at the Wyndham Championship, he finished T18 or better in each of the RSM Classic, RBC Heritage and the OHL Classic which suggests he likes these kind of tests.
At 60/1 you are looking at a player who is in good form, putts well on Bermuda greens and has proven he can play well both here and at the correlating courses. At just 22. Kim has already notched two impressive wins, and a win here can get his 2018 off to a huge start.
Chris Kirk 125/1 (Betfred & StanJames) 1pt e/w:
For the past year or so, Chris Kirk has struggled and his last win came in May 2015, but I am expecting the four-time PGA Tour winner to turn it around, hopefully as soon as this week.
Kirk was one of the players to make the switch to PXG in 2016 and that may well be attributed to his struggles, but in recent starts he looks to be on an upward curve in terms of form. Whether that is to do with the fact he has dumped the PXG clubs and is now playing with a mixed bag of equipment, or whether it is a coincidence remains to be seen.
In his first five starts this season however, Kirk has made four cuts and last time out finished T4 at the RSM Classic, a favourite event of his.
The RSM Classic has been a good tournament for the Georgia native and resident, finishing 1st, T4, T18, MC and T4 in his last five starts there and this a positive heading into this week, given it is a correlating course.
Kirk also finished T7 at the Mayakoba in 2016 which was one of just three top-10’s in the 2016/17 season for him.
Kirk’s course form here is largely impressive also, with a 2nd place finish in 2014, a year after finishing 5th. His first five starts including those in 2014 and 2015 yielded results of 30-38-5-2-26 before missing his two most recent cuts here.
Given his dip in form last year I am not too concerned about his recent start here, and I am confident in his current form, he can perform well this week on a type of golf course that he relishes.
At 125/1 I think it is worth having the four-time Tour winner onside, in the hopes he can find the form he showed from 2013-2016.
Total Points Staked this week: 4
Profit/Loss for 2018: + 4.6