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Sony Open in Hawaii Odds: Four against the field for Waialae shootout

Sony Open in Hawaii tips: Kevin Kisner features.
Sony Open in Hawaii tips: Kevin Kisner features.

Sony Open in Hawaii Tips

Whatever your opinion is on how easy the course played at Kapalua, there is no doubt that the PGA Tour started 2022 with a bang at the Tournament of Champions. Cameron Smith showing fantastic composure to hold off the best player in the world on Sunday, to win by one and break the tour’s record tournament score in the process, with a final score of 34-under-par. 

He wasn’t the only one who broke the previous record, with runner-up Jon Rahm shooting two better than the previous record and 3rd place finisher, Matt Jones bettering it by one, after a stunning -23 for his final 36 holes.

Things should be a little trickier this week, though how much trickier will depend on the weather, as we complete our two-week stint in Hawaii with the Sony Open (Formerly the Hawaiian Open) at Waialae Country Club. An event first staged in 1965 and that has taken place at Waialae on every occasion.

The Course

This Seth Raynor par 70 measures 7044 yards and it’s not only the distance of the course that contrasts hugely to the course we saw last week at Kapalua. Large, wide, undulating fairways are replaced by flat, narrow, tree-lined corridors. Though despite those obvious differences, we should be set for another birdie-fest, weather permitting. 

In the last nine years we’ve seen six winning scores of -20 or better. The tournament record belonging to Justin Thomas, who shot -27, which included a 59 in the opening round and resulted in him trouncing the field by 7 shots in 2017.

Golf betting tips

As with most low-scoring affairs, it’s what you do into and on the greens that usually provide the keys to success. Of the last 12 winners here, 10 ranked inside the top 6 in putting for the week and the other two still comfortably gained strokes on the putting surfaces. The stats are almost as compelling when we look at approach play, with 9 of those 12 winners ranking inside the top 7 in approach when they won.

Of course the requirements can change if the wind plays its part. Though the forecast is currently for nothing more than breezy conditions, we’re still a way off the start of the event and it would be of little surprise to see the wind kick up once tournament play arrives.

Waialae is one of a bunch of courses that often tie in with one another. I always think there’s a touch of Colonial Country Club about it, particularly down the back nine, though not as tough. This backed up by last year’s leaderboard, with winner Kevin Na and runner-up Chris Kirk both being past champions at Colonial. The likes of Kevin Kisner & Matt Kuchar also possessing form at both courses, amongst plenty more. 

Those names alone tie in with various other events too: the RBC Heritage, Honda Classic, Wyndham Championship and RSM Classic the standouts. Short/narrow/tree-lined/coastal/bermuda greens/low scoring – if a player has form at any course/event that matches some of that criteria, chances are he can give a good account of himself here at Waialae.  

Of the 38 players to tee it up last week, 21 will stay in Hawaii and make their way to Honolulu. After the break, I am inclined to favour players who indeed played last week, and this is very much backed up by the winners here. Where 8 of the last 10 victors of the Sony Open took part in the Tournament of Champions the previous week. Cameron Smith in 2020 and Russell Henley in 2013 the two to come here fresh, and win.

Kevin Kisner each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2022-01-11 11:15 Odds subject to change.

I’ve had to alter my plans a little due to the withdrawal of Bryson DeChambeau playing havoc with the prices of a couple of my original selections. Though ultimately my feeling stays the same and that’s to keep it simple this week. As stated above, eight of the last ten winners played in the Tournament of Champions the week before and all my selections come into this week after having that tune up last week at Kapalua.

Sunday’s victor, Cameron Smith heads the market at 11/1, which now looks a good bit more appealing after the withdrawal of DeChambeau, as he was the same price with Bryson in the field. Sungjae Im and Webb Simpson both come next at 16/1.

I’ll start a little further down the betting, with Kevin Kisner. Who, after an 8th place finish at Kapalua, a course which would fit his game much less than here at Waialae, was a must bet for me this week and looks to have a big chance on his favoured Bermuda putting surfaces.

After opening with a round of 69 last week, Kisner got better every day. Shooting a 5-under 68 on Friday before a weekend of -15 propelled him into the top 10. Most eye-catching was the way in which he did it. He putt excellently throughout, ranking 3rd in the field on the greens at the end of the week and despite looking a little rusty to begin with his approach play, he improved markedly over the weekend to ultimately rank as the 9th best iron player in the field.

A solid week at the Tournament of Champions has often been a great pointer to Kisner’s potential for success at Waialae:

2016: 9th in the Tournament of Champions, 5th in the Sony Open

2018: 17th in the ToC, 25th in the Sony Open

2020: 14th it the ToC, 4th in the Sony Open

2021: 24th in the ToC, 32nd in the Sony Open

This is in contrast to his performances here when he doesn’t play the week previous, with form figures that read: MC-MC-MC-84-4-69. A 4th place finish in 2017 appearing the outlier in an otherwise poor book of form when he comes here fresh. 

Not only does he boast some quality finishes here but his form at correlating course is extra enticing. His victory back in August 2021 at the Wyndham Championship is the most recent but he’s also a winner at Colonial, Sea Island in the RSM Classic and has finished runner up in the RBC Heritage. Simply put a short, narrow(ish) course with Bermuda greens (preferably) and Kisner automatically looks a player.

He’s a self-described horses for courses player and will be eager to capitalise on the good golf he’s started the year with, to launch a real challenge for a title here. Before some less favourable events arrive on the calendar. 

Harris English each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2022-01-11 11:15 Odds subject to change.

Harris English possesses a strong record at the Sony Open and despite being out of form in the new season, his 30th place finish last week offered promise. He now looks a decent price in a field only boasting one player of the world’s top 10. 

That performance last week saw him get better with every round, starting with a 73 on Thursday and signing off with a 67 on Sunday. Throughout the week he showed glimpses of quality in approach but most taking was that he finally seemed to find something with his putter on Sunday, ranking 8th on the greens during that final round. At his best he’s an excellent putter and if that was a sign of a return to form with the flat-stick, he’d be a real danger this week.

English has played at Waialae every year since 2012, except for 2020. In those nine visits he’s missed the cut just once, recording three top 10s, which all came in consecutive years from 2013-2015. Two of them top 5s, with his best finish coming when 3rd in 2015.

His correlative course form stacks up well too. A 2nd place finish at Colonial in 2016 the best of them and has also put up multiple quality performances at the Wyndham, Honda Classic, RSM Classic and RBC Heritage.

There’s no doubt he’s failed to fire in his handful of starts in the new season, but he remains one of the classiest players in the field. Coming into the event as the 2nd highest ranked starter at #14 in the world. With some strong form at the course, a good book of form at courses with ties to this week’s venue and a performance last week that offered more encouragement than the bare form figure suggests, I think this looks as likely a place as any for English to stage a return to form.

Masters odds
Seamus Power each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2022-01-11 07:35 Odds subject to change.

Irishman Seamus Power played well on his first try at Kapalua last week and has been in largely good form since picking up his first PGA Tour title at the Barbasol Championship in July last year. As a much improved player over the previous 12 months, he can leave behind an ordinary past record at Waialae and take another forward step in his career this week.

That victory had been coming for Power, who had recorded 5 straight top 20 finishes before his victory. Since then he’s played 9 times and missed just 2 cuts, hitting the top 25 on 5 occasions. With his best a 4th place finish in the strongly correlating RSM Classic on his last start of 2021. 

As mentioned, he kicked off a new year at the Tournament of Champions last week for the first time in his career and performed admirably. Getting the hang of the course after a slow start in which he shot -2. He followed with three rounds in the 60s, the best a -8 65 on Friday. All culminating in a 15th place finish.

His approach play was the standout part of his game last week and despite letting him down over the weekend, he putted excellently over the first two rounds. This very much the story of his game this season, where approach leads the way overall but in truth, he’s a rock solid all-rounder, ranking 28th in Strokes Gained: Total on tour last season.

His record here is unimpressive, with two missed cuts on his two most recent starts, following on from average finishes of 49th and 54th on his first two trips to Waialae. Having said that, he does possess form at correlating courses. To go with that 4th in the RSM Classic last year, he also has a 6th place finish at Harbour Town in the RBC Heritage to his name. Which tells me he does have the game to go well here. 

With that, and the huge improvements he’s made over the last 12 months, I expect Power will put to rest his past performances here and build on that strong start to the year by going close this week.

Billy Horschel each-way (8 places)
Odds correct as of 2022-01-11 11:20 Odds subject to change.

Billy Horschel enjoyed a really good year in 2021. Not only picking up his first title since 2017 when winning the WGC: Matchplay but then doubling up on that by winning another quality event, when he walked away the winner of a thrilling contest at Wentworth in the BMW PGA Championship. After starting 2022 in solid fashion at last week’s ToC, finishing 23rd, he can bring great confidence into an event here, where he recorded his best finish in 2021, when finishing 7th.

Horschel played some high class golf last week amidst some not so good golf. Two rounds in the 70s were followed by two in the 60s and though his short game looked in excellent nick, where he ranked 1st around-the-greens and 7th in putting, the ball-striking was off. Not only ranking as the worst iron player in the field but putting up his worst approach statistics since the 2020 American Express.

This is an obvious concern, but his iron play is often a little in and out, proving able on plenty of occasions to leave behind a poor performance with that area of his game the previous week on his next start. Though he didn’t need to be on top form in approach when 7th here last year. 

That 7th was his best performance on just his fourth appearance at the event, in which he’d previously been underwhelming. It was largely engineered by a top class putting performance, where he ranked 2nd in the field, and it still ranks as his best putting performance of the last 2 ½ years. 

That performance not a real surprise as it strikes me as a Billy Horschel course, with the accurate ball-striking he possesses and his quality with the putter. Further confidence as to his suitability to this type of test is found in 2nd place finishes at both the Wyndham Championship and RSM Classic, two of the most striking correlating events.

If he can find the necessary improvement with his irons this week, he’s putting well enough now and has putted these greens well enough in the past to improve on that 7th place finish last year.

Golf odds
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