Sony Open betting guide: 4 picks our expert loves at Wai’alae
Aloha again, friends.
When you travel to Hawaii, it can be tough to leave.
The PGA Tour knows the lure of the islands. As it does each year after Kapalua, it is lingering in Hawaii for another week, puddle-jumping from Maui to Oahu for the Sony Open, at Wai’alae Country Club.
Unlike last week’s no-cut Sentry Tournament of Champions, the Sony features a full field of 144 players, including defending champion Hideki Matsuyama. Sungjae Im and Jordan Spieth will be on hand as well, but neither ranks as the current betting favorite. That honor goes to the 20-year-old rising star, Tom Kim, who is a fresh of a T-5 finish at the Sentry.
This week’s host course is a par-70 Seth Raynor design with a history of yielding birdies in bunches. The scoreboard should bleed red, and if all goes right, any plays we make will turn up roses.
For help with that, we’ve made a rock-solid pre-tournament pick of Brady Kannon as our new betting expert. Kannon puts the “pro” in prognosticator. A seasoned golf bettor, with more than 20 years of experience, he is an on-air host for VSiN (Vegas Stats & Information Network), and host and creator of Longshots, the network’s golf betting show, now in its fifth season. You can follow Kannon on Twitter at @LasVegasGolfer, and you can read his 4 favorite Sony picks below, along with his methodology and rationale.
Because we like to know where public sentiment is leaning, too, we’re also sharing data from Chirp, a free-to-play mobile platform (and GOLF.com affiliate) that offers an array of enticing prizes (see below) Even without risking money, you can win. After checking out Kannon’s picks, keep scrolling to see which “favorite” Chirp users are leaning toward this week.
This week’s course, Wai’alae, presents a markedly different test from what we saw last week in Maui. The Plantation Course at Kapalua is a massive property — a par-73 with undulations, elevation change, some of the widest fairways on Tour and huge greens. Waialae is a narrow, short, par-70 course with flat, small greens and thick rough. One similarity, however, is that both courses need the wind to blow to really test the players. It looks like it is going to blow a little bit on Thursday and some more on Sunday but nothing too crazy currently is forecast.
To inform my picks, I studied Strokes Gained: Approach, SG: Around-the-Greens, SG: Putting (on Bermuda Grass) and SG: Par 4s. I also looked at Greens in Regulation Gained and Driving Accuracy. In comparing how players have performed at courses that are comparable to Wai’alae, I used El Camaleon at Mayakoba, Sea Island (RSM Classic), Harbour Town (RBC Heritage), and Colonial Country Club (Charles Schwab Challenge).
4 picks I like to win the Sony Open
Brian Harman (20-1)
Harman comes off a wrap-around season in which he finished second twice — and those runner-up showings came at two of our comp courses, Mayakoba and Sea Island. Harman is 5th on Tour in Driving Accuracy, 14th in Greens in Regulation, 4th in Scrambling and 8th in Birdie Average. He has finished as high as 4th here at Wai’alae in the past and has a 20th-place finish and a pair of 13th’s. He also has three top-10 finishes at both Colonial and Sea Island.
Russell Henley (25-1)
If Georgia can win back-to-back National Championships, why not go with Bulldogs to win back-to-back Sonys, in both Harman and Henley? Henley was your winner at Mayakoba two months ago, besting Harman by four shots. He has also won here at the Sony, and has finished 2nd, 11th and twice inside the top 20. He has two top 10s at Harbour Town and three at Sea Island — so, like Harman, Henley also checks out on the performance history at the comp courses. He is number one on Tour in Driving Accuracy, and over the last 24 rounds he ranks 4th in this field for SG: Approach and Par-4 Scoring.
Keegan Bradley (36-1)
Bradley is another recent winner, having captured the Zozo in mid-October. Five of the last eight Sony winners have had a win in the previous fall. Bradley matches up well with all the stats I looked at this week but putting has always been his downfall. But he’s gotten better and finished 88th on Tour last season in SG: Putting. He’s finished 13th here before and 12th twice. He’s also been 8th at 15th at Mayakoba in the past.
Andrew Putnam (50-1)
He played very well during the Fall Series, finishing second to Bradley at the Zozo and 12th at the Shriners in Las Vegas the week prior — and then finished 21st at the RSM Classic just before Thanksgiving. Driving Accuracy and work both on and around the greens are Putnam’s strengths. Over the last 24 rounds, he is 10th in this field for SG: Putting (Bermuda Grass) and 18th in Fairways Gained. He took 2nd here at the Sony four years ago and also has a 3rd-place finish at Colonial along with a 15th and a 20th.
Who Chirp users like to win
Jordan Spieth – 47.92%*
Tom Kim – 27.76%
Hideki Matsuyama – 9.29%
*Percent of users who picked this player to win in Chrip’s “Favorite” category.