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Live from the Sony Theater

Published about 1 year ago • 6 min read

Island hopping

Since 1965, the PGA tour has been visiting Wai'alae Country Club and playing the Sony Open. This unique Seth Raynor design from 1927 sits only about ten feet above sea level. A stark contrast to last week where the elevation of Kapalua peaks at over five hundred feet. There are 144 golfers ready for our first full season event of the new year. The Top 65 and ties will make the weekend, so the real fun is about to begin.

  • Only seven of the Top 25 in the world are here on Honolulu.
  • They are playing for $7.9 million and a first place check of $1.42 million dollars.

Wai'alae CC is the second most predictive course on tour behind only Augusta National Golf Club. Simply put, certain players play well here. Fifteen of the last sixteen champions had prior experience in the Sony Open. The only one who did not was Russell Henley in 2013. Firm and fast conditions await these guys and I think scoring will be a little tougher than years past.

  • Average winning score over the last five years (-19), last ten years (-21).
  • Alongside the score the winner's odds average out to be +5500 (55-1) whether we compare the last five or ten years.
  • Historically, the cutline has averaged 1.4 under par over the last decade.

I mentioned the course will play a little harder, in the Superintendent's report it was mentioned the rough would be lengthened to 3". In the past they cut it at 2.25". With such a premium on hitting fairways already at Wai'alae, this just tightened the necktie around these competitors throats just a little more. With little rain prior to the tournament and none expected during the championship; fast fairways get smaller. The ball will run through these doglegs and into trouble.

  • Thirteen of the fourteen tee shots bend. Nine move right to left, including four of the last five. Four of them move left to right.
  • Ten of the fourteen tee shots have fairway bunkers to contend with.
  • Wai'alae Country Club is a Par 70 that measures 7,044 yards.
  • It has two Par 5's, four Par 3's and twelve Par 4's.

After Collin's collapse, I promised myself I wouldn't mention last week. It is worth stating that over 70% of the Sony winners of the last twenty plus years have played in the Sentry the week before. Even though the two courses could not be anymore different, it seems the warmup is worth it. Speaking of warm ups... the weather is perfect this week. Temps are expected to range from 70 at night to 80 degrees during the day. Very little wind is in the forecast and no rain.

Bermudagrass is still what covers the course. Unlike last week, players will miss these much smaller greens so playing from that bushy stuff around the green takes a certain skill set. One that will be tested in order to contend. More of that discussion later in the outrights section. I love weeks like this where chess-like players reign supreme. Golf is the greatest game because there are so many facets we can get good/great at. The power Rahm displayed on Sunday closing the Sentry was impressive. This week, I plan to favor a little more style and grace.

Sony Open on TV:

  • Thursday & Friday 12:00 - 10:30pm (ESPN+), 7:00 - 10:30pm (Golf Channel)
  • Saturday & Sunday 1:00 - 8:00pm (ESPN+), 4:00 - 6:00pm (NBC), 6:00 - 8:00pm (Golf Channel)
  • Complete details on PGATour.com
  • All times EST.


The Sony starts in...


And the winner is..?

A classic contest

My outright narrative is going to sound very similar to last week. In my mind, this is one of the reasons why I love golf betting. The field is completely different, the two courses couldn't be more polar opposite, yet approach, putting, and scrambling will serve you well at the Sony.

  • Of the last ten winners:
    • All gained strokes putting by an average of 7.4 strokes.
    • Nine out of ten gained on approach by an average of 4.6 strokes.
    • Eight of the ten gained around the green by an average of 1 stroke.

As we build this blueprint, the biggest differentiator between the two courses is fairway width. Wai'alae has some of the tightest fairways on tour. Driving accuracy for the field is generally about ten percent worse (53%) than the tour average (62%). Contenders must be accurate off the tee. When they do miss, they will only miss by a small margin. In most cases, they will still hit the GIR or fringe. Players who gain fairways against the field are essential at the Sony Open.

Twelve of the holes are Par 4's. Past champions like Russell Henley, Matt Kuchar, and Cam Smith are Par 4 killers. This particular collection focuses on approach play from 125-200 yards. This range accounts for nearly 75% of the approach shots these players will face. With little wind predicted and level ground to hit from, the guys who are really good wedge/mid-iron players will stand out.

Wai'alae can be a windy place. Therefore these greens aren't the most challenging on tour. Great putters can separate themselves from the field. We have Bermudagrass wall to wall, so make sure you don't just choose a guy who is fantastic with the flatstick. Check their history on Bermuda as well.

One last point before we get to the guys for this week. The average winning score over the last decade is twenty-one under par. Rough height might lower that number a little, but any player designing a game plan this week is looking to shoot near that number or more.

  • Ten of the eighteen holes have a birdie rate over 15%. The Par 5's average 55% BoB.
  • Ten of the eighteen holes have a bogey rate over 15%. Of those ten, seven of them are Par 4's.

With the average winner's odds right at 55-1 over the last decade, there are some opportunities to collect on an outright. Another stark difference from the field last week. I have built my card around those guys just below that average as I see a couple players who have a proven ability on positional golf courses to contend and go low.

Outright winners - Sony Open

Brian Harman (+2200)

  • Brian Harman has quietly made ten cuts in a row on tour dating back to The Open at St. Andrews. In that stretch, he has four Top 10 finishes. He wrapped up the fall with back to back runners-up on coastal target style courses. He is fifth in the field in Par 4 scoring and fourth in Bogey Avoidance. His biggest advantage comes off the tee. Wai'alae closes with four straight draw tee shots. Harman is a lefty, his controlled fade around those corners gives him an edge. One I'm sure he will take advantage of this week.

Tom Hoge (+3000)

  • When it comes to positional players, Tom Hoge has established himself as a consistent contender. With his win last year at Pebble Beach, he showed us all on approach courses why he's a favorite. Tom is ranked first in the field for Approach, Par 4 scoring, and in birdie Opportunities Gained. The Sony is an accuracy contest. Nobody at Wai'alae can hit irons close like Hoge. He held the 54-hole lead in 2018 at Wai'alae. He finished third that year just as he did last week at the Sentry. Although things didn't work out for his TCU Horned Frogs on Monday night, I have a strong feeling he'll more than make up for it come Sunday.

Pick 3* (+4000)

Pick 4* (+4500)

*- member content


Bye, bye Sentry, Hello Sony!

Like Collin, we are going to put last week behind us.

4-0 in props, three outrights in the Top 10. Solid start.

Head right to our website and join! Read The Line.

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