SONY OPEN: The PGA Tour island hops from Maui to Oahu this week for the first full-field event of the season, the Sony Open. While the rich got richer at Kapalua last week, this is where the rubber meets the road for the vast majority of Tour players who have been fine-tuning their games throughout the offseason. It’s go time.
The venue is a familiar one– Waialae Country Club has been hosting this tournament since before anyone in the field was born and has changed very little, with Seth Raynor’s original design holding up beautifully despite the changes in equipment and technology. A par-70 that measures 7,044 yards, it’s quite short by Tour standards, but the tight doglegs, well-placed bunkers, sticky Bermuda rough, and tricky green complexes are more than enough to get the players’ attention. When the weather is calm the course will yield some low scores, but if the wind picks up, look out– in 2020, for instance, only three players reached double-digits under par for the week and 11-under was the winning score. That said, mild conditions are forecasted for the next four days, with the winds expected to stay in the 5-15 mph range, so low numbers should be out there and it may turn into a race to 20-under.
Several players who teed it up at Kapalua have decided to turn this week into a Hawaiian vacation as opposed to four more days in the office, so the field is a little light on big names, with only 17 of the world’s top-50 in attendance. Last week’s winner Cameron Smith is here, though, and considering he’s fresh off a record-setting performance at Kapalua and won this event back in 2020, it’s no surprise that he heads BETDAQ’s Win Market at 11.0. It’s worth mentioning that 16 of the past 23 winners of this tournament have teed it up at Kapalua the week prior, so having a bit of a “warm-up” after a few weeks off does seem to be helpful. With that in mind, here’s what I’m thinking this week:
Recommendations to BACK (odds in parenthesis)
Sungjae Im (18.5)- Despite earning over $4 million and finishing 20th in the final FedEx Cup standings, last season was a disappointment for Im after he failed to pick up a victory and registered only two top-10s in his final 19 starts. He began to show signs of returning to top form with his T3 at the end-of-season BMW Championship, however, and he left no doubt after a 4-tournament stretch in the fall that included three top-10s and a victory at the Shriners Children’s Open. He returned to action in Kapalua last week and picked up right where he left off, breaking 70 in all four rounds to post 24-under and finish T8. With a record in this tournament that includes two top-25 finishes in three career starts, Im is one of the clear favorites this week and is worth a bet at a price like 18.5.
Harris English (34.0)- English had to shake off some offseason rust when he got to Kapalua and he did so on Thursday and Friday of last week before finding his form and posting 11-under over the weekend. That surely gave him some confidence and good vibes which will make him dangerous this week at Waialae, where he’s had plenty of success in the past, logging three top-10s and a pair of top-5s in this tournament. It’s been a few years since he found the podium, but it’s not like his recent Sony Open form is anything to be concerned about, as he’s 22-under in his last eight competitive rounds at Waialae and has only missed the cut once in nine career appearances at this event. If you’re looking for an elite player with good course history and a reasonable price, look no further. English fits the bill.
Tom Hoge (86.0)- Though he wasn’t in the field in Kapalua last week, Hoge is off to a great start in this new season, posting three top-25 finishes in his past six starts and finishing 4th at the RSM Classic last time out. It’s been a couple of months since we’ve seen him on the course, but we sure know what he’s capable of at Waialae, as he finished 3rd in this event in 2018 and T12 in 2020, digging himself out of a Thursday hole with three straight rounds in the mid-60s. A terrific iron player who currently ranks 2nd on Tour in strokes gained on approach, Hoge is always dangerous on courses that don’t prioritize length off the tee, and Waialae certainly fits the bill. He’s a live longshot this week at better than 80/1.