Sony Open in Hawaii Analysis & Picks

by | Jan 14, 2021 | golf

Event: Sony Open in Hawaii

When: January 14-17, 2021

Where: Waialae Country Club - Honolulu, HI

TV: The Golf Channel

The perks of being a professional golfer are many and maybe one of the most underrated benefits is the option to start your season in Hawaii each season. The Sony Open in Hawaii is the first full-field stop of the calendar year and a strong group heads to Waialae, including thirty players that teed it up last week at the Tournament of Champions. Cameron Smith will defend his 2020 title against former Sony champs Matt Kuchar and Patton Kizzire as well as Major champions like Collin Morikawa, Patrick Reed and Sergio Garcia. This event has a history of catering to Tour veterans but the young guns are represented well and this is a wide-open tournament.

Waialae CC has been a staple of Hawaiian golf for decades and provides a stark change from what we saw at Kapalua last week. Waialae plays at just over 7,000 yards at par-70 but organizers can employ some creativity as the course measures nearly 7,200 yards for members when it plays at par-72. The overall conditions are much tighter and slower than what we saw last week and it has led to the more accurate players seeing an advantage. Power players like Ernie Els have won here but you will more often see the likes of Jerry Kelly, Brad Faxon, K.J. Choi and Zach Johnson on the winner’s list and those names certainly suggest this is a shotmaking course. Scoring was slow with 11-under good enough to get into a playoff last season but more often than not, it takes 17-under or better to contend. Justin Thomas set the course record of 59 en route to 27-under and a seven stroke win in 2017.

Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best values on the board. We make a short, middle and long odds pick to win and breakdown a couple of popular head-to-head matches that can be found at just about every golf betting outlet. Odds to win and pairings for this week can be found at Bovada. (You can bet on golfer to finish in top 10, top 20 or top 30 there. Awesome option for those not wanting to go all or nothing!)  Here are our picks to win the 2021 Sony Open in Hawaii.

Daniel Berger (14 to 1 odds to win)

Berger had it all going at Kapalua last week before a 1-under finish wasn’t enough to keep pace on Sunday and he fell to T10. That was good enough to show that he is rust-free heading into Waialae where he has never posted an over-par round in five appearances. He gets it out there over 300 on his drives but more importantly is top-50 in fairways hit and comes in at 27th in strokes gained off-the-tee. He was the 17th ranked putter in 2020 and that produced top-6 marks in birdies and scoring. Berger led the Tour in one-putt percentage and scrambling last season to give him a sneaky edge over the field when it comes to making the most out of his rounds. He did his best work right out of the Covid break last year, including a win and two other top-3 finishes and I’m looking for that fast-start ability to vault him past those in the field that are looking at The Sony as a tune-up start.

Kevin Kisner (25 to 1)

Kisner had a very nice finish to last season with seven top-25 finishes in eight starts after play resumed, including three top-4 finishes over that span. That trend has continued with a T2 at the RSM this fall and a T24 last week and he heads to Waialae where he finished 4th last year and has three career top-5 results. This course is set up to reward an accuracy-first player and Kevin fits that bill with the 33rd most fairways hit in 2020. The putter is Kisner’s money club and he finished at 15th in strokes gained on the greens last year with top-15 marks in one-putt percentage and total putting. He is also solid around the greens, ranking 16th in scrambling. He fits the mold of many that have done well at this course and is on a run himself so this opportunity may be one of the best he faces all year.

Sergio Garcia (45 to 1)

Garcia was a bit of a forgotten man after making just 12 starts in 2020 but he got things off to a good start with a win at The Sanderson Farms Championship in September which earned him a spot in the TOC where he ran T11 at 18-under. He has not played at Waialae since 2003 but I like his stat sheet here, especially his off-the-tee performance that currently ranks 4th. He sits 27th in strokes gained from tee-to-green and averages more than four birdies per round despite a statistically weak putter. Sergio is currently 114th in putting average, which is actually an improvement from some years past where he was closer to that 200 mark. He doesn’t need to be much better than field average on the greens to gain an advantage and with a recent win in pocket, I like his potential to win again.

Head-to-Head Matches

Picks to win based on predicted score for all four rounds. Check with your favorite sportsbook for single round pairings and a variety of prop bets.

Adam Scott (-115) v. Billy Horschel (-115) (pick to win: Horschel)

Scott has the appearance of a favorite here but this is a dead-heat pairing as Waialae is not the kind of course that he is best suited for and it shows in the results with Scott finishing with a missed cut and a T56 in his last two Sony starts. Horschel has an 0-2-1 head-to-head record against Scott in recent events but he has a sizable edge in fairways hit over his opponent and is the better overall performer off-the-tee by a wide margin. That is going to give Billy a better chance to control the approach shots and that should pay off considering both are putting at about the same rate. Horschel is also less mistake-prone with the 96th ranked scrambling rate while Scott is back at 247th. In an early season scenario, I am fine sticking with the higher floor play and that is Horschel.

Collin Morikawa (+110) v. Webb Simpson (-140) (pick to win: Morikawa)

Value is a large factor in this head-to-head pick as Simpson is among the betting favorites this week and is 4-1 straight up against Morikawa over the fall and winter although Collin did get the W last week at the TOC. I like Morikawa at better than even money as he hits enough fairways to not lose out to Simpson in that category and he averages more birdies per round despite Webb being the better putter overall. Simpson can often erase any deficit in scoring ability by being one of the most mistake-free players on Tour but Morikawa finished 5th last season in tee-to-green play so he just needs a good week on the greens to be in a shot-for-shot match with Simpson and there is no such thing as a “big” underdog on Tour in a one-week scenario. I have both as near locks to be top-15 finishers with Morikawa pulling out a low round like he did last year when he opened with a 65 to be the difference maker.

Good luck and good golf!