2009 Sony Open Preview and Picks

2009 Sony Open Preview and Picks
Thursday January 15th - Sunday January 18th, 2009
Waialae Country Club, Honolulu, Hawaii
Golf Channel

by Matt of Predictem.com

The PGA will remain in Hawaii for week two of the 2009 season with the Sony Open at Waialae CC serving as the first full-field event of the year. Most of the 32 players from the Mercedes will play this week as well, including defending champion, K.J. Choi. The Golf Channel will carry all four rounds of action with XM radio providing coverage through the week.

Fans were treated toa ton of birdies from the friendly Plantation Course last week, but Waialae will take a more moderate scoring pace. The par-70, 7,044 yard course ranked in the middle of the pack for scoring average in ’08, with players coming in just over par at 70.12 strokes. Accuracy off the tee will be at a premium as Waialae was the third hardest course in ’08 in fairways hit at just over 51%. The course runs in themiddle of the pack in terms of greens hit and putts per hole, so there is some room to save par after a wayward drive. Players that have had consistent success at the Sony are solid ballstrikers with more driving accuracy versus length off the tee.

Each week, we take a look at the golf sportsbooks and break down some players that should be a factor. We will make a pick to win from a short, middle and long odds perspective and pick a few head to head matches as well.

Ernie Els - 9 to 1 to win
Ernie was a factor in last week’s Mercedes with a T6, finishing at 15-under for the event. Els has one of the best Sony track records of anyone in the field, finishing 1st, 1st and 2nd in a three year run from ’03-’05. Statistically, Els struggled in ’08, hitting only 56% of fairways and 61% of greens, but still managed a 12th best scoring average. A good week with the driver should have Els right there at the end as he has the feel for these greens.

Geoff Ogilvy - 9 to 1
Ogilvy outclassed the field last week at the Mercedes, finishing six strokes ahead of the competition at 24-under. This week will be a different test, but the 86% GIR and 75% fairways hit are a great indicator of just how well he is swinging. Ogilvy must have iron out some kinks in the offseason after ranking outside the top-100 in most of the ballstriking stats in ’08. Geoff was a T8 here last year.

Davis Love III 16 to 1
Like Els, Love made a nice Mercedes run, finishing at 18-under in a tie for second. DL3 has been good and bad at the Sony with a solo 3rd in ’04, but just a T68 in ’07. Putting was the key to success last week as Love averaged 1.69 putts per GIR at the Plantation, a far cry better than his 154th ranked ’08 average.

K.J. Choi –
18 to 1

Choi’s style just seems to fit Waialae. He is the defending champ, and has a T4 in ’07 and T13 in ’06 to put together a nice three year streak. Choi was 15th at the Mercedes, but showed premier ballstriking, hitting 81% of fairways and greens. K.J. is a top-70 putter on Tour, which is plenty good as a complement to his strong approach game.

Steve Stricker = 22 to 1
Stricker is another player whose game is suited to this type of course. Stricker’s strengths are in control and putting and both have been there in consecutive T4 finishes in ’07 and ’08. Steve is making his ’09 debut after a winless ’08, but had 6 top-10’s and maintained a 13th best, 69.98 scoring average.

Adam Scott - 25 to 1
Scott was a little disappointing last week, managing only 9-under and a T18 at a Plantation Course that is seemingly made for him. Scott has top-20’s the last two Sony’s he’s entered and is a top-10 player in terms of driving distance. The driving accuracy will need to be a bit better than his 54% ’08 average, but Scott is plenty strong to play from the roughs and still contend.

Our Picks for the Win:

Short Favorite: Ogilvy - It’s easy to ride the hot hand, but even easier when that hand posts 24-under and led the field in putting coming in.

Middle of the Road: Choi - We like the run that Choi has put together at Waialae, and let’s see if ’09 is as kind to defending champs as ’08 was.

Longshot: Zach Johnson (30 to 1) - Johnson is coming off a T6 at the Mercedes that saw him go 13-under on the weekend, including the tournament low round of 64.

Head to Head Matches (our pick) *all matches for entire tournament

Jerry Kelly (-110) v. Ryuji Imada (-120) (Kelly)
Kelly is another good longshot pick with his three consecutive top-15’s since ’06, including a solo 3rd in ’08. Imada is a technical favorite with a better stat sheet, but was T69 last year and has only a T20 as his best finish.

George McNeill (-145) v. Parker McLachlin (+115) (McLachlin)
McLachlin is a true home dog here as a Honolulu resident and was 10th in ’08. McNeill is good here with consecutive top-20’s, but McLachlin is the better putter, averaging 18th in average and 34th in total putts last year.

Good Luck!