The first full field tournament of 2022 takes place on the PGA Tour this week when the roadshow makes the short journey to Waialae in Hawaii for the Sony Open, the event which follows on from last week’s Tournament of Champions.
Kevin Na enjoyed life in this part of the island last year to land the title and he’ll be looking to make a successful defence of his crown. It must be said he’s up against a decent field with a number of stars looking to get their game in order ahead of the West Coast Swing.
2021 – Kevin Na
2020 – Cameron Smith
2019 – Matt Kuchar
2018 – Patton Kizzire
2017 – Justin Thomas
2016 – Fabian Gomez
2015 – Jimmy Walker
2014 – Jimmy Walker
2013 – Russell Henley
2012 – Johnson Wagner
It is the Waialae Country Club that hosts the tournament once again this week. As with most island tracks the wind is the best defence for this place but the organisers are said to have given the track a little tougher look with rough said to have been allowed to grow to three inches. The greens are slow though so that won’t completely stall the scoring but it might avoid a repeat of last week where scoring got out of control. The course is a par 70 but it only measures 7,044 yards so it isn’t overly long.
If you consider that only Russell Henley has won this tournament on debut in recent times then course management is very much a feature of this place. The other thing to consider when we look at the list of recent winners is they are all tremendous putters but now the rough is up a little bit it might bring the ball strikers into the game as much as the bombers. Keep good putters in mind this week though.
The tournament was going to be headlined by Bryson DeChambeau going bombs away off these dogleg tee boxes but he has pulled out so that means the main act will be the man who broke plenty of records in winning last week in Cameron Smith. In total 21 players who teed it up last week have made the short trip to this tournament and seven of the last eight winners had played in the Tournament of Champions the week before.
Some of the other notables in the field who teed it up last week are The Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Sungjae Im and the defending champion Kevin Na. Of those who didn’t compete last week Webb Simpson, Corey Conners, Russell Henley and Charles Howell III are among the players looking to shake off the rust this week. Brendan Steele, Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson are some of the seasoned campaigners in the field.
Cameron Smith will begin the week as the 10/1 favourite to complete the Hawaii double. His game looked in supreme touch last week and he is a winner here in the past so it makes sense that he is the favourite here. That was a pretty intense win last week though as he had to hold off a surging world number one Jon Rahm for 36 holes and it wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if that leaves him a little flat here. That is probably the only concern though unless his relentless driving last week was an anomaly not the new norm.
Sungjae Im and Webb Simpson are next in the betting at 16/1. Im went pretty well at Kapalua last week without ever really being in contention. He has shaken off the rust and is already a winner this season but he doesn’t have a great record around here which is a concern. Simpson has top five finishes in his last three trips here but probably isn’t in the form he was ahead of those outings, although there were signs towards the end of 2021 that things were beginning to click. Of the two I’d favour Im but not terribly strongly.
Hideki Matsuyama had a 2021 to remember and he began 2022 with a solid effort last week. He is 18/1 to win this tournament and on the face of it you would have to think he has every chance here. That was his first outing since he won the ZOZO Championship earlier in the season so he probably had a few cobwebs to blow off. The Japanese star has a fair record here without it being anything special but if he can get his putter to cooperate he might take some stopping.
The only other man in the field shorter than 25/1 is Marc Leishman. The Australian was another who got the 2022 competitive juices flowing last week and he went pretty well at the Tournament of Champions where he nailed a top 10 finish. He has two top fives in the last three years around here so that makes him a dangerous proposition especially with his putter looking like it is playing ball. It is 25/1 bar those named.
Marc Leishman is a pretty obvious pick this week but it makes sense to go with the Australian who ticks every box known to man. If you are a course form man around here he has that with top fives in 2019 and 2021 and if you are a recent form box ticker he has that having gone well at Kapalua last week. The other thing to throw into the mix is his fellow Australian, Cameron Smith, a man Leishman regularly partners in team events and will be good friends with, won last week which should inspire the Aussie to look to get into the winner circle himself. Leishman is showing good form – last week was his third top 10 of the new season after top five finishes at the Fortinet and the Shriners and with plenty in his favour, not least a functioning putter which elevates him on the shortlist above the likes of Hideki Matsuyama and Seamus Power among others, Leishman is my first main bet here.
I was riding the Talor Gooch train earlier in the season and then to sum up a pretty rubbish run throughout the autumn he went and won the one week I’d departed the wagon but that win at the RSM Classic interests me on a number of grounds. Firstly the confidence of winning and elevating the status of a player is huge. He now has exemptions which takes the pressure off and things like that. The other thing it does is gets you into the Sentry last week, a tournament he has never played before which has meant he has come here cold in the past, something he isn’t doing now and finally he won on a course not too dissimilar to this one. If there is a concern it is that his putter can be hit or miss. He lost two shots to the field on the greens last week but he was sampling those surfaces for the first time. That isn’t the case here so I expect a decent showing from Gooch.
Stewart Cink struck it really well last week and that should stand him in good stead for this event. It probably shouldn’t be a surprise that he went well because there are similarities to Augusta about Kapalua and Cink has a good record around there. The last time he played The Masters he won the following week so if he found something similar with his game last week ahead of this one then that is more than a bonus. Cink struck the ball really well from tee to green last week but was bang ordinary on the greens which cost him in the end but if that week has juiced his putter and he goes better in that department this week then he’s entitled to really contend. Cink has been in the top 20 in his last two visits here and shot 63 65 in the middle two rounds last year. That makes me think he could be worth investing in this week.
I’ll take one player who didn’t play last week as well and that is in even more of an outsider in John Huh. Huh hasn’t had the best of times of it over the last while which meant he had to go to the Korn Ferry finals to get his card back but having done that he has hit the ground running and finished T15 in Mexico and T12 at the RSM Classic towards the back end of 2021. He opened in Georgia with 63 and 65 which is good scoring. In both of those events he ranked in the top 10 for accuracy off the tee. His record here is more mixed but twice he has signed for a 63 so it isn’t like he can’t score around here. If he can maintain the accuracy off the tee and his putter can catch fire for more than one round he might offer a much better run than his odds suggest.
Back M.Leishman to win Sony Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 21.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back T.Gooch to win Sony Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 31.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back S.Cink to win Sony Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 71.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back J.Huh to win Sony Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back them here: