The first full field event of 2019 on the PGA Tour is the Sony Open, which like the Tournament of Champions last week comes from the island of Hawaii. There is the feeling that the season kicks off properly here with some big events on the horizon.
Patton Kizzire got his 2018 off to a fast start with a victory in this tournament and he will go in search of a title defence this week, but he faces some stiff competition if he is going to hang onto his title, with some big players teeing it up.
2018 – Patton Kizzire
2017 – Justin Thomas
2016 – Fabian Gomez
2015 – Jimmy Walker
2014 – Jimmy Walker
2013 – Russell Henley
2012 – Johnson Wagner
2011 – Mark Wilson
2010 – Ryan Palmer
2009 – Zach Johnson
It is the Waialae Country Club which once again hosts the tournament this week. The Honolulu venue is a regular stop on the tour now. As with most island courses, the wind is very much a factor this week but by and large the theory is a simple one this week. Hit the greens in the right number and make a lot of birdies.
The track is a par 70 which only stretches to 7,044 yards so it is not a long course. Players who get it out there off the tee and have hot putters tend to get the job done around here. Keep players comfortable in the wind onside of course but green in regulation hitters and top notch putters are the way forward in this one.
Patton Kizzire is here to defend the title this week but the field is pretty strong. It includes 2017 champion Justin Thomas while regular winner in 2018, Bryson DeChambeau is also here, as is The Masters champion Patrick Reed. Jordan Spieth is another big name in the field this week looking for an early success in 2019.
Last week’s runner up Gary Woodland goes for glory in this tournament while Marc Leishman, Cameron Champ, Cameron Smith and Charles Howell III have all won this season. Paul Casey, Hideki Matsuyama, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott and Zach Johnson all add real star quality to a very strong field.
Justin Thomas is a 13/2 shot to win the tournament. It is probably a fair price but in this company it is no more than that in my opinion. He warmed up for the event well with a decent finish last week so he has the form box ticked and probably is the man to beat. He’ll need to win for any kind of sizeable return though and I wouldn’t say that is guaranteed in this field. He’s not really for me.
Bryson DeChambeau can be backed at 11/1 to win the tournament this week but he’s also not on my radar at that price. I’ve no doubt he will go in again in 2019, possibly multiple times, but these sorts of tournaments don’t convince me where he is concerned. I think he prefers the stiffer tests so I’m happy to pass him over.
Gary Woodland continued his good form from the end of 2018 at the Tournament of Champions and he is 14/1 to win here but that immediately looks a little short given how infrequently he wins. That is easily passed over whereas Jordan Spieth at 16/1 is much more interesting. We know he can putt anyone to death so if his long game is in good order then that has plenty of mileage.
Marc Leishman is 18/1 this week, five points shorter than he was in a more condensed field last week despite never truly threatening to win despite his top five finish. I wouldn’t be completely surprised if he goes in here but I can’t say I’m in a mad rush to back him again even though he got me a pay out last week. It is 28/1 bar those named.
I feel compelled to take Jordan Spieth at 16/1 this week. Although there are some decent players in the field there are only truly two you would fear as a genuine threat to Spieth if his putter has warmed up over the Christmas break. It wouldn’t be the biggest surprise in the world though if on this course we are taking 16/1 that he putts well and to be fair those are odds I very much like the look of. Spieth had a 2018 to forget but he wouldn’t be the first young star to have a bad year before coming again and I expect big things from him this year. That can start here if he has solved his putting issues.
Abraham Ancer has run hot on the PGA Tour over the last few months and then he capped off that form with a win in windy conditions down in Australia before partnering Roberto Diaz to a runner up spot in the World Cup, so the Mexican is someone I want on my side this week. He is second in total putting this season and fourth in strokes gained putting and we saw in Australia how well he is hitting the ball. At 40/1 he can’t be ignored.
Two men with excellent scoring records around here are Brian Harman and Jimmy Walker and that isn’t a surprise given how well they both putt and play in the wind. Indeed as this tweet below highlights, they are among the best five players here over the last five years and when you think Walker missed the cut due to his illness in the last two outings his record could be deemed particularly good.
Best cumulative score to par at the @SonyOpenHawaii, last 5 years:
Brian Harman -57
Charles Howell III -56
Gary Woodland -56
Zach Johnson -54
Jerry Kelly -54
Jimmy Walker -54
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) January 7, 2019
I think at 90/1 it is worth taking a punt that Walker is in good health as if he is, as a two time winner here and extremely comfortable in the conditions he is entitled to be in the mix again. Harman is very much underrated himself though and was in the top five here last year. I think both rate as good outside bets.
I’m always a sucker for a punt on Andrew Landry at this time of year and this week is going to be no different. He won the Texas Open in a fairly low scoring renewal of that tournament and you don’t win around there without being competent in the wind. He should have had a crack at a couple of other events last term too so he seems to have been forgotten a little a 175/1. Landry got the Christmas rust out of his system at Kapalua last week and can benefit from there here.
Back J.Spieth to win Sony Open in Hawaii (e/w) for a 2/10 stake at 17.00 with Betfred (1/5 1-7)
Back him here:
Back A.Ancer to win Sony Open in Hawaii (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 41.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-7)
Back him here:
Back B.Harman to win Sony Open in Hawaii (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)
Back J.Walker to win Sony Open in Hawaii (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 91.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-6)
Back A.Landry to win Sony Open in Hawaii (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 176.00 with Skybet (1/5 1-7)