After opening up the decade with a select field last week, the first full field tournament of 2020 on the PGA Tour takes place this week when the show moves across the island of Hawaii for the Sony Open, a popular event with the players.
Matt Kuchar certainly enjoyed it last year as he waltzed off with the title and he is back looking to defend the crown after having a spin in the Tournament of Champions last week. A decent field goes up against him though.
2019 – Matt Kuchar
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
We return to the Waialae Country Club for the competition this week. This has been the venue for a while so the players will know the test in front of them but what they might not be ready for is the strong winds and rain that is set to come into play over the course of the tournament. That is likely to keep the scoring relatively high so this is going to be a real test for the players.
That will bring the ball strikers right back into play. In fairness they also have been here as the course is a par 70 but it only measures 7,044 yards so you don’t need to bomb it to tame this place. If you look at the previous winners above they are all exceptional putters and have good control of their ball. Given the winds that are forecast it would be foolish to take players who are not comfortable in those conditions.
23 of the 34 men who teed it up last week have come across the island for this tournament including the winner Justin Thomas. He is the latest to attempt to do the Hawaii double but there are some excellent players opposing him. The man he beat in the playoff to win the Tournament of Champions, Patrick Reed, is among them while the likes of Webb Simpson, Hideki Matsuyama and Collin Morikawa will be hoping to take him down too.
The defending champion is here in Matt Kuchar, as are three youngsters who really impressed at the Presidents Cup last month for the international team in Sungjae Im, Joaquin Niemann and Abraham Ancer. Charles Howell III has a good record on this track while the likes of Corey Conners, Marc Leishman and Kevin Kisner are all capable of taking down any course of this kind. Brendon Todd is another in the field looking for another title this season.
It is certainly no surprise that Justin Thomas is the favourite after his win last week. He’s a 5/1 favourite to do the Hawaiian double and it is hard to suggest that he won’t do it. The only minor concern would be that he didn’t exactly inspire late on in that event when he messed up a tidy lead in the back nine. He isn’t the kind of price I get involved with in a golf tournament anyway but that might be enough to put me off.
Patrick Reed and Webb Simpson were paired together in nearly every round of the Presidents Cup and they are together as the joint second favourites here. Both are 12/1 and Reed has obvious claims, especially after last week where only a heckler may have cost him the title in the playoff. He is going to have to deal with that for a while though I fancy. Simpson tees up for the first time in 2020 here and I think that could be a negative.
Hideki Matsuyama and Collin Morikawa are next in the market at 18/1. The latter played last week and revealed that this is a home game for him so he has to be respected based on that but his price is probably only about right now rather than anything I’m rushing out to get stuck in to. Matsuyama was another not involved last week and I don’t want anyone at the head of the market who didn’t tee it up there.
Defending champion Matt Kuchar is a 22/1 shot to keep hold of the title this week. He won well last year and the winds certainly wouldn’t have an effect on his game. He went pretty well last week in the main to shake off any rust that had come about. This course should probably suit him better so there is a lot to like about Kuchar and I would be getting involved if there wasn’t slightly better value to be had elsewhere. It is 25/1 bar those named.
I’m siding with the internationals here with my first bet coming on one of the many men who impressed for them in the Presidents Cup in Joaquin Niemann. He started this season brilliantly when he landed the title at the Greenbrier when he won the title and he hasn’t really looked back since. He has a decent spin in the CJ Cup and an excellent Presidents Cup and he was in good touch last week too. Those events show he is comfortable in the wind, he’s an excellent putter and he’s controlling his ball nicely. He’s my first main bet.
Second in the main bet department is a man I can see myself backing regularly in 2020 in Abraham Ancer. I think the Mexican is class and he is improving all the time and his spin at the Presidents Cup will have done so much for his confidence. He was the best player in the tournament over the first three days and you could see the confidence he took from that. This course suits his strengths perfectly. He is a solid striker of the ball, excellent on and around the greens and most importantly of all he has shown he is comfortable in strong winds. He ticks every box at a very acceptable price this week.
Another one who interests me from the same part of the world as Ancer is Carlos Ortiz. He is nearly twice the price of his countryman but is in no worse form than him it has to be said. Ortiz was the runner up in his homeland in the Mayakoba Classic and fourth in Houston so those two efforts alone highlight that he is comfortable when the wind blows. He is probably taking plenty of inspiration from what Ancer is currently doing and that should continue for a while. Ortiz was in the top 10 at the Genesis last season and you have to be good to be that high up in that field. At 80/1 there is enough to suggest he can outperform expectation here.
I took Graeme McDowell last week and it didn’t really pay off because of a slow start but on the Friday when the winds were really strong he fired in a four under par 69 which was bettered by just two men on the day. Interestingly in that round there were two par 5s that he didn’t birdie so you’ve got to think this course will actually suit him better. Having reminded us last week that the winds are not going to affect him, and us knowing that he’s one of the better putters out there, it would be silly if I don’t back him again this week.
Back J.Niemann to win Sony Open in Hawaii (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-7)
Back A.Ancer to win Sony Open in Hawaii (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 46.00 with Coral (1/5 1-7)
Back C.Ortiz to win Sony Open in Hawaii (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 81.00 with Betfair (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back G.McDowell to win Sony Open in Hawaii (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with Boylesports (1/5 1-8)
Back him here: