The Sony Open is the first full-field event of the calendar year. The tournament is contested at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. The course has hosted the event since its modern-day inception as the Hawaiian Open in 1965. Sony took over as title sponsor in 1999.
An interesting fact to consider this week is that since the Tournament of Champions moved to Hawaii in 1999, 15 Sony Open winners have emerged victorious having played the Plantation Course in Kapalua the previous week.
In 2019, Matt Kuchar finished T19 in the Tournament of Champions before going on to win the Sony Open. In 2018, Patton Kizzire finished T15 in Kapalua the week before winning his second PGA Tour title at the Sony Open. 2017 saw Justin Thomas win both the Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open (Ernie Els matched this feat in 2003). In 2016, Fabian Gomez, finished T6 the week before and the 2015 Sony Open winner, Jimmy Walker, finished runner-up in Kapalua.
Waialae Country Club was designed by Seth Raynor and opened for play in 1927. The 7,044 yard Par 70 is tight and features small Bermuda greens. Length off the tee takes second place to accuracy around.
Scoring, as you would expect in Hawaii, is dependent on the strength of the wind. The average winning score since 2000 is just shy of -17 so a fast start is essential. You need to be playing from the short stuff in order to attack the small greens and set up scoring opportunities.
Last year, Cameron Smith made an 8ft birdie putt on the final hole of the Sony Open for a final round -2(68) and force a playoff with Brendan Steele. The Australian went on to win the tournament with a par on the first extra hole.
”Just had to hang in there. No one was playing good golf today, it seemed like. Just hung in there, and what do you know?”Cameron Smith
Greenside is where the magic happened for Smith, finishing the week 9th in Strokes Gained Around-The-Green (2.374 strokes) and 1st in Strokes Gained Putting (8.232 strokes). Combined these contributed over 90% of his overall strokes gained for the week. Other stats include T41 for Driving Accuracy, T5 for Driving Distance, T20 for GIR and 2nd for Putts per GIR.
In 2019, Matt Kuchar emerged victorious in the Sony Open winning by 4 strokes from Andrew Putnam on a score of -22 (258). It was his second win of the season having won the Mayakoba Golf Classic a few months previous.
Kooch made only one bogey through 54 holes shooting rounds of 63-63-66-66 on his way to victory.
“I kept plugging along, and I knew good things were going to happen”Matt Kuchar
Kuchar finished the week 3rd in both the key categories of SG:Tee-To-Green and SG:Putting. In particular, his approach play was dialled-in and was backed up with a solid display with the flat-stick. Other stats for the week include 14th for Driving Distance, T4 for Driving Accuracy, 1st for GIR and 5th for Putts per GIR.
In 2018, Patton Kizzire pipped James Hahn in a six hole playoff to capture the Sony Open title. He closed with a final round -2 (68) to finish on a score of -17 (263) and force the playoff.
“It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it was nice to come out on top”Patton Kizzire
His approach play and putting were key to capturing his second PGA Tour title having won the Mayakoba Golf Classic just a couple of months previous. He finished 3rd in both the Strokes Gained Approach-The-Green and Strokes Gained Putting. Kizzire ranked 54th for Driving Distance, T56 for Driving Accuracy, T23 for GIR and 2nd for Putts per GIR.
In 2017, Justin Thomas finished on a score of -27 (253) to complete the ‘Hawaiian-double‘. He finished an impressive seven shots clear of his nearest rival Justin Rose. His ball-striking master-class included a first round 59.
Thomas finished the week first in both Strokes Gained Off-The-Tee and Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green. He backed up his superb ball-striking with his putting, finishing the week 2nd in Strokes Gained Putting. Thomas ranked 9th for Driving Distance, T66 for Driving Accuracy and 12th in GIR.
The 2016 winner, Fabian Gomez, finished the week T7 for GIR hitting the greens 77.78% of the time. He was also 5th in Strokes Gained Putting, T60 in Driving Accuracy and T27 in Driving Distance.
Scoring and saving par are key attributes this week. Previous course knowledge and an ability to manoeuvre the ball in breezy conditions are usually two fundamental requirements.
Sony Open Betting Tips
Sungjae Im 18/1 (E/W) – this is his third look at Waialae Country Club having finished T16 here in 2019 and T21 last year. Dusted the cobwebs off nicely after a long break at last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions. Topped the pile in Strokes Gained Tee-To-Green around Kapalua on his way to a T5 finish. Despite weak Scrambling stats the talented Korean still manages to feature inside the Top 30 in this week’s Stats Analysis table. His accurate game from the tee is well suited to the challenges presented by Waialae, but needs the flat-stick to come to the party. Value pick at top end of market.
Kevin Kisner 30/1 (E/W) – a regular at the Sony Open, he has three Top 5 finishes in his last five visits. Finished T24 at last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions which was preceded with a solo 2nd at the RSM Classic. The South Carolina native places mid-table in this week’s Stats Analysis. He is currently 5th on Tour for Driving Accuracy which is an attribute that won’t go astray this week. If he capitalizes on his accurate play from the tee then he should be one of the main protagonists come Sunday. Horses for course pick at good each way value.
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