The PGA Tour campaign continues at pace with the second of the two Hawaiian-based tournaments, the Sony Open, this week, and in the absence of messrs Spieth, McIlroy and Day we at last have plenty of betting value to work with. With a 14/1 favourite and a decent field with potential winners ranging from 20/1 right through to 55/1, this is an event to savour.
The contest will take place at the Waialae Country Club, and as you might expect from a course built in Hawaii it is beautifully scenic and picturesque. There will be a slight wind to contend with as there tends to be at most coastal clubs, but as previous winning totals of -24 and -23 prove, it is 18 holes that can be tamed through sensible play.
The majority of this field will be making their annual bow this weekend, and while that can be a bit of an obstacle compared to those who have already got some competitive action under their belts it doesn’t have to be a big deal.
And a decent showing at the Tournament of Champions – which is held a week before the Sony Open each year – isn’t necessarily a pre-requisite for a good showing here; as two-time winner Jimmy Walker proves having finished a brilliant 2nd last year but then a not-so brilliant 24th the season before that.
It is Walker who is our top pick here at 14/1; unsurprisingly really given that he has won here for the last two years in a row. A hat-trick of titles is highly unusual but not completely unheard of, and as we saw with our 10/1 each way pick Patrick Reed last week course pedigree is often the key determining factor for success.
Walker won by nine clear strokes in 2015, with rounds of 62 and 63 the obvious highlight, and this is as close to course mastery as is possible. But there’s form there too: two top 10 finishes in his last two outings – 8th at the Hero World Challenge and 10th at last week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Walker could well be celebrating his 37th birthday this weekend with another victory in stunning Hawaii.
The other feather in his cap is that we can rule out a few of the top runners with the bookies already; with caution, of course. Zach Johnson has switched to a new club manufacturer this season and struggled last week with his new set, while Brandt Snedeker has never really taken to this course. Kevin Kisner played well in the Tournament of Champions last time out but has missed the cut here in his last four attempts.
We’ve got two huge value each way shouts as well if you’re feeling confident:
Matt Kuchar (25/1)
Kuchar has finished in the top ten in his last four Sony Open starts, including a tie for third in 2015, and so it is clearly a course he loves dearly. He would have paid an each way return in three of those four – it’s the top five as a minimum that we’re looking for – and so he looks a reliable money-maker here.
All in all the 37-year-old has made the top 10 in seven of his last eight starts in Hawaii, and he finished the 2015 campaign in fine style with five top ten finishes in his last dozen appearances.
Form and course pedigree is generally a recipe for success, and while Kuchar may not be considered by many to be an event winner these days he can still offer ROI in the each way stakes.
Harris English (40/1)
Ninth here in 2013, fourth in 2014 and third in 2015….that’ a nice bit of progression from Harris English.
The two-time PGA Tour winner is in good nick too having tied for second in his last start at the ominously-named Franklin Templeton Shootout towards the end of December, and in a nice echo of his 2015 form he finished second there last year as well and then went on to achieve his podium finish at the Sony Open a fortnight or so later. The omens are good.
English is handy off the tee – he’s ranked 33rd in the world for driving distance – and it is noticeable that Jimmy Walker ranked eighth for driving distance at this event last year and first back in 2014. If English’s putter is hot then we stand a good chance of a decent each way reward.