Aloha again! Part 2 of 2 of the Hawaii Swing has arrived. After Harris English took the Tournament of Champions in a playoff against Joaquin Niemann at Kapalua, we're island hopping to East Honululu on the island of Oahu for the Sony Open (did you know Honululu isn't on the main island of Hawaii? You do now.) 32 of the 42 players from the Tournament of Champions will join us for the Sony for what will be a full field event - 144 players, top 65 and ties make the cut. Despite the likes of DJ, JT, and Rahm not being among those playing, this is still the strongest field this tournament has seen in years.
Last year Cameron Smith beat out Brendan Steele in a playoff to win. It was a remarkable victory considering Cam started the tournament +4 thru 2 holes and clawed his way back. Plus he was playing to raise money for the bushfires that were ravaging his native Australia. Remember when that was the biggest of the world's concerns? Anyways, here's your leaderboard and recent winners.
2020: Cameron Smith (-11)
2019: Matt Kuchar (-22)
2018: Patton Kizzire (-17)
2017: Justin Thomas (-27, a PGA Tournament record low 253)
2016: Fabian Gomez (-20)
Waialae Country Club is a par 70 measuring just a hair over 7,000 yards. As evidenced by those winning scores, it's not a terribly challenging golf course. However, much like the Tournament of Champions in 2020, last year's edition proved challenging due to some extremely windy days. In fact, Cam's 269 was the highest winning score at this tournament in 15 years. The ToC bounced back in a big way with a winning score of -25 and I expect this tournament to as well.
Now with that said, don't misconstrue these two courses to be all that similar. The differences go beyond just Kapalua being a par 73 and Waialae being a par 70. They're stylistically very different as well. Kapalua is extremely hilly with massive fairways and greens. Nearly 75% of drives hit fairways at Kapalua. On the other hand, Waialae's fairways are among the hardest on Tour to hit, with players hitting about 52% of fairways. Driving accuracy is a virtue this week. That's why you've seen guys like Kuchar, Kizzire, and Gomez in the victory circle. I also noted in my Mayakoba preview that El Camaleon and Waialae have very similar leaderboard overlap, particularly with Kuchar and Kizzire having won both events in recent years. So if you're gonna go deep into the weeds on researching picks, looking at Mayakoba results might be one place to start.
As I mentioned before, the wind is one of the few things that protects Waialae. That tends to be typical of coastal courses such as this one. The wind was up last year and the scores suffered. It doesn't look like that will be the case this week. Might catch a few showers, which should soften things up a touch and make it even more scoreable. I said take the unders on score O/U's last week based on the forecast and that certainly seems to be the case again.
Best Hole - 16th Par 4, 441 yards
If you follow golf closely, the Palm tree W has gotta be the first thing you think of when you hear the word "Waialae". In reality, this hole doesn't really have much to it. It's a dogleg left par 4 with some fairway bunkers running up the right side to penalize those who try to blast it through the dogleg. You'll see some guys bomb it over the corner towards that 3rd bunker, but ultimately as it relates to difficulty the hole is pretty benign.
But these days the palm tree W is the trademark of this golf course. It'll remind old movie buffs of the big W that the treasure was buried under from It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Rear Admiral might see the thumbnail on this blog and think I'm infringing on his TCM turf. I'm not. It's just a fkn sweet golf course feature. Fun little story about it - it's only been around since 2009. Apparently one of the club members had the idea and lobbied for the club to create the W with some palm trees behind that green. When they found out it would only cost $4,000 to do it, it became a no-brainer. Hence, the iconic 16th at Waialae.
Another week, another unspectacular trophy. I'm not 100% convinced that the College Football Playoff didn't steal their trophy idea off of this one. And that trophy stinks. Just like this one. Redemption points for the lei but this is a 3/10.
Webb Simpson is the betting favorite at the Barstool Sportsbook at +1000 (as of Tuesday night). You'll notice from the 2020 leaderboard above that Webb finished in solo 3rd a shot out of the playoff last year. He's 10/10 on cuts made here, placed 4th in the start before that (2018), and placed in exactly 13th each year from 2015-2017. He's only had 2 rounds over par in his last 25 here at Waialae. Here is the rest of the board:
Looking at this board there is one name that immediately jumps off the page at me. That's Collin Morikawa +1400. I'm honestly surprised he's not the favorite. Yes, there's a lot to like about the course fit for Webb but Morikawa is…. hmm how do I say this… just a far superior talent than Webb is. Morikawa is 11th in driving accuracy so far this season, a key statistic at this course. He finished T-21 in his debut at this tournament last year and won his maiden at the Barracuda Championship in 2019, a similar ball-striker's tournament to the Sony Open. He's coming off a T-7 performance at Kapalua where he came into the final round a shot off the lead before a cold putter led to an even par finishing round. Putters can run hot and cold, so I'm banking on a bounce back this week. And for what it's worth, I think he has a monster year this year and solidifies himself on that top echelon with the JT's and Rahm's of the world.
At the same price I'm looking at Sungjae Im +1400 and Top 5 +400. I hit on him Top 5 last week at +650 and I'm running it back for a lot of similar reasons. He's had decent results here with 21st and 16th place finishes, but I'm taking him for a lot of the same reasons I'm taking Kawa. Sungjae is one of the premier young ball-strikers on Tour and should probably have more than one W to his name. And his one W was at a similar (albeit more challenging) track at the Honda Classic. He was the best player statistically tee-to-green at Kapalua, just struggled on the greens. I'll take my chances on one of these two figuring it out with the putter.
Ryan Palmer Top 5 +600, Top Former Past Champion +400 - Finished 4th in Kapalua last week, finished T-4 in his last event before that at the Zozo, and at last year's Sony Open…. you guessed it. 4th.
Matt Kuchar Top 10 +400 - Sure, may have missed the cut here last year but over the previous decade had never finished worse than 13th. In those 6 starts, he Top 10'd in 5 of them, including a win. I'll take my chances.
Doug Ghim to win +15000, Top 20 +600 - 6 starts this season, only 1 missed cut and 3 Top 20's, plus a T-23.
Under the Winning Score O/U - I don't see this prop posted yet but if it's 260 or higher I am slamming the Under
And there ya have it.
Enjoy the Sony Open.