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Handicapping

Sony Open Picks

Sony Open Preview and Predictions to Win
Dates: January 12-15, 2017
Course: Waialae CC – Honolulu, HI
TV: The Golf Channel
by Evergreen, Professional Golf Bettor, Predictem.com

Since it is currently 37 degrees and raining where I am, I would love to be anywhere near Hawaii right now. There is no chance of that however so I am stuck simply watching those spectacular views on TV as the PGA Tour holds The Sony Open in Hawaii. The Sony is the traditional second event of the New Year and the first full-field stop as last week's TOC was a winner's only event. Twenty-two players that teed it up at Kapalua will make the trip over to the Sony to be joined by a solid field including about half of the Top-25 in the world ranks. Justin Thomas became the first two-time winner after getting the best of Kapalua and he should be on the short list of favorites this week as he also owns the course record at Waialae after a carding a 61 in last year's second round.  Jimmy Walker returns and looks for his third Sony win after taking the trophy to start both the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Justin Rose joins the group and adds to the tournament profile coming off his winning Olympic performance.

Waialae has been part of the PGA Tour rotation for decades and this course provides a pretty stark difference from Kapalua. Where Kapalua stretched out to nearly 7,500 yards and played at par-73, Wailalae is just over 7,000 yards at par-70. The smaller layout still leads to big scores as 29 of the players that made the cut last year were able to card rounds in the sixties on all four days. The average winning score has been 21-under par over the last four years and it seems that just about anyone can go low. A look at the winners list shows guys like Jerry Kelly, K.J. Choi and Zach Johnson to be just as successful as the bombers here. A hot putter is necessary when the scoring pace is going to be low and that is the prime reason why the short players have fared well here. The ones that can control the approaches and get those 12 foot or less birdie looks will be the ones on the front page come Sunday. Fabian Gomez went on birdie run stretching seven holes during the final round last year before eventually winning in a playoff over Brandt Snedeker.

Each week, we take a look at the wager offerings at the sportsbooks and highlight the best bets. We make a few picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that can be found at 5Dimes. Here are our picks to win the 2017 Sony Open in Hawaii.

Jimmy Walker (20 to 1 odds to win)
The two-time champ is just one of two players to win here more than once and he must have something for island golf after a T9 last week and a T13 here in 2016. Jimmy is squaring up his irons during the early portion, hitting almost 80% of his greens in 2017. It is a small sample size but that is a good sign for this week and it bodes well for a guy that finished 2016 at 17th in birdie average. Walker also finished last year at 46th in strokes gained putting and 27th in 1-putts. He should excel on greens he knows well and be among the leaders.

Brandt Snedeker (25 to 1)
This has not been a typical stop for Sneds but a stop here last year resulted in a playoff runner-up and he may be hooked. Brandt was in pretty good form with a T14 last week and he has the kind of putting stroke that should contend. He finished off 2016 ranked 11th in total putting and 18th in scrambling to prove there isn't much he can't handle on the greens. In two 2017 starts, Snedeker is hitting over 70% of fairways and nearly 80% of greens. He has turned those numbers into a 4.25 birdies per round average and results like that will be necessary to keep up at Waialae. He was top-21 in both birdie and scoring averages at the end of last year so he can keep up no matter how fast the pace gets.

Jason Dufner (50 to 1)
Fairways and greens are the way to go on most par-70's  and Dufner is among the best there with a 23rd best tee-to-green rank from last season. He is making his first start of this season so there is always a little nervousness when backing a guy off a long break but that same scenario produced a T9 here last year. Jason ended 2016 as the 6th best in terms of greens hit so expect him to be putting for birdie quite often. He is at 50 to 1 because he doesn't always make the most of his birdie chances. Dufner is below average in strokes gained on the green and ranked 114th in putting average last year. He will need a hot week with the putter to contend but all the rest looks good.

Head-to-Head Matches

Chris Kirk v. Zach Johnson (pick to win: Johnson)
You get a lot of similarities here when you look at the stat sheet but you have to hand it to Johnson as the 2009 Sony champ. Zach gets a little more out of very similar stats due to a better putting average and finished about 50 spots ahead of Chris in scoring average. Neither has a lot of play over the winter to show a trend yet so I want to stick with the Major champ and Ryder Cup player in this one.

Billy Horschel v. Bill Haas (pick to win: Haas)
If you bet a lot of golf, you see these two matched-up quite often and it is for good reason as both are near mirror images of each other. They are separated by no more than 20 ranking spots in driving distance, fairways hit and greens in regulation. Those numbers are nearly identical when you really look into them so it is no surprise to see them six spots apart in scoring average. Haas has the edge here based on the fact that he scores right along with Horschel despite Billy owning a significant edge in birdies per round. Horschel is more prone to bogeys and I like to shy away from those guys at par-70 track. They lose those par-5 opportunities and eventually bleed a couple strokes away to the control guys.

Good luck and good golf!

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