2018 Sony Open Preview – Picks to Win the Tournament

Sony Open in Hawaii Tournament Preview and Betting Picks
Dates: January 11-14, 2018
Where: Waialae CC – Honolulu, Hawaii
TV: The Golf Channel
by of Evergreen, PGA Golf Handicapper, Predictem.com

Life has been pretty rough recently for some folks that aren’t used to winter weather. Maybe you found yourself stuck on the side of the road or even stuck in your house amidst whatever a bomb cyclone is. You know where the weather is just great right now? Hawaii. It is always nice in Hawaii and that is where the PGA is this week for the Sony Open. The Tournament of Champions kicked off 2018 at Kapalua but the Sony is the first full-field event of the new year and a very solid roster of PGA stars has hit Honolulu to take on Waialae. Justin Thomas will defend his 2017 Sony title against the likes of Jordan Spieth, who was 3rd last year, as well former Sony champs Jimmy Walker and Zach Johnson. Thomas won five times in his breakout season last year and much of it started at the Sony as he fired an opening round 59 before setting the Tour scoring record at 27-under by the time he wrapped things up on Sunday. Twenty players that teed it up at the TOC will complete both legs of the Hawaii mini-swing by playing Waialae and those are some of the names to watch as this event has been good to TOC competitors in the past.

Waialae is one of more established venues on the Tour with roots dating back to the old Hawaii Open in 1965. The 7,044 yard, par-70 layout is a gem that provides some great theater with plenty of birdie opportunities. The Sony has a history as one of the most democratic events on Tour as short hitters like Corey Pavin and Brad Faxon have won here but the bombers have also done well. K.J. Choi and Jim Furyk are also former champs and they won by being precise with the irons. This course has no real overt difficulty but players will separate themselves from the field by hitting it close, not just hitting the green in general. Putting is always a key when the scoring pace is fast and watchout for players making big moves up the leaderboard as rounds in the low sixties can be plentiful. Players that go on prolonged par runs will get left behind.

Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight some of the best values on the board. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches. Here are our picks to win the 2018 Sony Open in Hawaii.

Marc Leishman (14 to 1 odds to win)
The 2017 Palmer and BMW winner got off to a good start with a T7 last week and was T20 here last time out. He finished 2017 with a boatload of top-50 stats but impressed with the 15th ranked overall tee-to-green game and turned in the 4th best scoring average. He has a nice touch on and around the greens to make up a strong overall stat sheet. Thomas and Spieth are the true betting favorites this week but no one would be surprised to see Leishman get a W here and he will bring a much nicer return than the 6 to 1 you are going to get with Justin or Jordan.

Gary Woodland (33 to 1)
There are few that are longer off the tee than Woodland and he uses that prodigious length to set up easy looks into the greens. He finds those greens in regulation with the 11th best frequency and his overall tee-to-green metrics rank 17th on Tour. Gary was able to spin a T6 finish here last year after starting with back to back 64’s and his recent Waialae record also includes a T13 and a T3 going back to 2015. He seems to like the place and putts well here despite being a rather average putter just about everywhere else. His length pays off when that putter is rolling hot and he should be a threat again this year.

Jason Dufner (40 to 1)
Dufner is absolutely one of the best ballstrikers on Tour but he often goes overlooked when the analysts talk about that sort of thing. You can’t argue with Dufner’s skill when you take into account his win at last year’s Memorial. Anyone that can win at Jack’s place is a threat to win anywhere else and Waialae has been a soft landing spot for Jason with a T9 back in 2016. He ranks between 30th and 54th in birdies, scoring, greens and fairways hit and overall tee-to-green strokes gained. Nothing in there is a standout factor on its own but all of those being strengths shows Dufner can do just about anything the situation requires. He scuffled a little on the greens in 2017 but he proved he can beat the field when he is performing on the greens. A T11 last week shows he is in good form to start the season and makes for a nice mid-range bet this week.

Head-to-Head Matches
Picks to win based on predicted score for all four rounds. Check out Bovada Sportsbook for single round matches and a variety of prop bets. Your credit card will work there for deposits and they’ll also give you a nice 50% welcoming bonus up to $250 FREE!

Justin Thomas v. Jordan Spieth (pick to win: Thomas)
Full disclosure: I am picking Thomas mostly because he is currently getting something close to even money in this pairing. Spieth is a tough guy to beat all four days, even when he has a rough start like he did last week at the TOC. Jordan rallied to finish T9 at Kapalua and would have won this pairing as Thomas was T22. I like the fact that Thomas is the record setter here and should have an amazing level of confidence returning to where it all began last year. Both players are remarkably similar on the stat sheet and are some of the most clutch performers on Tour in general. Thomas is a bit longer, Spieth hits a few more greens on average but these are the #1 and #3 scorers on Tour from last year with Thomas winning the FedExCup while Spieth was the runner-up. This should be a close match as these players go through their early season programs so take Thomas anywhere you can find him near that even money value.

Daniel Berger v. Russell Henley (pick to win: Henley)
This is another case that proves the books are paying attention as these players have a razor thin statistical margin separating them. Both finished at 24th in birdie average in 2017 with Henley just edging Berger in scoring by being the slightly better putter on greens hit. Berger is a bit better tee-to-green player overall but Henley sneaks out an advantage in greens hit and I think that will play out this week. Berger would have won this pairing last week as he finished 11th to Henley’s 17th but it was Henley that was T13 at the Sony in 2017 with Berger a ways back at T45.

Good luck and good golf!