Sony Open Picks
Tournament Dates: January 14-17, 2016
Where: Waialae CC Honolulu, HI
TV: The Golf Channel
by Evergreen, Pro Golf Handicapper, Predictem.com
Given that hitting the links is a favorite offseason activity for many football players, it is appropriate that the PGA Tour season is kicking off just as most NFLers are shutting it down. I know several folks in places like Cincinnati and Minneapolis that will be happy to watch anything other than football after the events of last weekend so maybe they can tune into the Golf Channel for The Sony Open in Hawaii. The Sony is the first full-field event of 2016 as last weeks TOC was invite only and while the season officially kicked off in the fall of 2015, this event really feels more like the start to the season than any other. Jimmy Walker is looking for his third consecutive Sony title as he successfully defended his 2014 title with a nine-stroke victory last year at Waialae. Adam Scott, Matt Kuchar and a solid group of the top-50 in the world are in attendance this week, including several former Sony champs. The FedEx Playoffs seem so far away at this point but every point won in the early going is one you dont have to worry about later so the motivation for players to get off to a hot start is certainly a factor this time of year.
Waialae has a rich history with the PGA Tour and Im guessing none of the players teeing it up this week are bummed about spending some time in Hawaii during the winter. The 7,044 yard, par-70 layout is just about everything you would come to expect from island golf with beautiful terrain, lush conditions and great views. There isnt much outside the wind factor to provide difficulty here however and Waialae has been the easiest or 2nd easiest par-70 course in each of the last three seasons. Walker blitzed the field with a 23-under winning total last year and Russell Henley set the tournament record of 24-under just two seasons ago. The forecast is calling for modest winds through the weekend so expect another low-scoring affair with players most likely needing multiple rounds of 66 or better to stay in contention. The possibility exists that someone could go very low as 62s and 63s have been pretty common over the last few years. Since moving to the week after the Tournament of Champions, 11-of-16 Sony winners have played the TOC the week prior.
Each week, we take a look at the golf betting sites and highlight the players that we think are the best bets to win. We will give you a few picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches. Here are our picks to win the 2016 Sony Open.
Jimmy Walker (15 to 1 odds to win)
There have been several players to win back-to-back here but no one has been able to pull the three-peat. Ernie Els came close with consecutive finishes of 1-1-2 during his heyday but while it appears that pulling a double title defense is long odds, Walker holds good value at 15 to 1. Walker has simply played too well in Hawaii for too long to ignore his chances. He was a playoff runner-up and T21st leading into his two Sony wins and he is fresh off a T10 to open this year. There is something about Hawaiian golf that suits Jimmy and that isnt fools gold; there is clearly a meaningful comfort level here. Walker is an easy 300 yards off the tee so he can shrink this course even more than it already is and he bookends that with one of the better overall putting games on Tour. He is top-6 in both total putting and strokes gained and if you are looking to be good at just two things in golf, make it driving and putting. Walker is plenty good everywhere else to boot and he seems to have figured out how to play well early while everyone else is still figuring out how to shake off the rust.
Brandt Snedeker (25 to 1)
Sneds got off to a brutal start by missing two cuts in the fall portion of the schedule but it has been all good since then as Brandt played masterfully at the Franklin Templeton shootout and ran T3 at the TOC. While Snedeker is never going to keep up with the bombers on Tour, he is a superb putter and plays some of the best approach shots when he is on. He is one of the more boom-or-bust players on Tour but you really have to like his chances when he is at a course like Waialae and put his best traits to good use. He finished 2015 with the 19th best scoring average despite not being in the top-50 in birdies per round. That relatively mistake-free style gets him the most out of each round and makes him a good pick when bogeys really set you behind the field. Brandt is a top-5 putter on Tour and that also shows in a stellar scrambling game so he can save those key pars along with using the putter to notch the birds. It will surprise to one to see Snedeker in contention come Sunday.
Charles Howell III (40 to 1)
CHIII has long been a workhorse on Tour and he is at it again as he will already be making his sixth start on the season. He has made the cut in all five start, notched four top-25s and two top-10s. He has been T26 and T8 in his last two Sony starts so there is some positive track record at Waialae and there is enough of a sample set from late 2015 to suggest his decision to play much of the early schedule is an actual advantage over the field. Howell is averaging over 300 yards off the tee as usual, adding top-32 marks in strokes gained-putting, total putting and 3-putt avoidance. Similar to Walker, that skill combo should play well at a relatively soft course. Despite being outside the top-100 in birdies per round, Charles still nets the 17th best scoring average so far and that is about as efficient as it gets. That is a good sign given the high likelihood of a shootout this week.
Steve Stricker (80 to 1)
You just never know when it comes to the longshots and even seeing Stevies name on the field list jumped off the page at me. Stricker is well into his multi-year farewell tour and while he isnt a real threat to win any big event on Tour, I could see him making a run at a course like this and winning three straight Jon Deere titles not so long ago suggests he is just fine with winning a low-scoring event. Stricker only played in nine events in 2015 and has just 33 starts in the last three years combined but those 33 have produced 31 made cuts and four runner-up finishes. He might not still have the kind of game that saw him rise to #4 in the world ranks but he isnt a slouch either. In his last full season on Tour (2013) he finished top-3 in fairways, greens hit, birdies and scoring. That was a while ago but he doesnt have to be near that good to make some noise this week. Betting golf longshots is all about fun and this is among the more fun bets I see on this board. Take the $2 you were going to buy your Powerball ticket with and put in on Stricker.
Picks to win based on final score after all four rounds. Check with your favorite Sportsbook for single round matches and a variety of prop and futures bets.
Zach Johnson v. Matt Kuchar (pick to win: Kuchar)
This is a very popular pairing as both players are similarly talented and both fit that solid, hard-working Tour stereotype. Neither player in long by Tour standards although that isnt going to matter much this week anyway and both log in very close to each other in birdies and scoring. Zach is a bit better on the overall ballstriking while Kuchar is the better scrambler and putter. If this course was more of a challenge to shotmaking, I would favor Johnson but just about everyone will get around Waialae from tee-to-green just fine so I would rather have the better putter in any match. Kuchar has a strong record here as well, with T8 or better finishes in each of his last four Sony starts. That will be a tough trend for anyone to buck and Kuch looks like the pick to win a close match here.
Kevin Kisner v. Justin Thomas (pick to win: Thomas)
We have two very talented yet very underrated players in this one. Both would be emerging stars if not for the exploits of guys like Spieth, McIlroy and Folwer and that goes to show just how deep the Tour is these days. Kisner is the more accurate driver but he really doesnt take full advantage of that and actually loses the greens hit advantage to Thomas despite almost always playing from the short grass. Thomas is a prototypical bomber with a massive driving distance and that lets him find the putting surface even from the rough. Thomas might be a little more bogey-prone but he finished 6th in birdie average last year and Kisner was way back at 114th. That is just too much of a gap to eat this weekend and I think it plays out that Thomas is the more likely contender overall and should be able to use his length and ballstriking advantages to put away Kisner. Where are you betting golf this season? I GUARANTEE your bookie doesn’t offer as low of odds or as many wager offerings as 5Dimes! 5D pays faster too! Stop overpaying for odds and start reaping the benefits TODAY that this first class operation offers! (Plus you help keep us in business which is VERY much appreciated!)
Good luck and good golf!