Well, that was just flat-out embarrassing!
The PGA Tour season teed off last week at the winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions and my best “value” pick was David Toms at 20/1. And why not? Toms was coming off his best season in years and had four Top-10s in seven previous appearances at that tournament, both the most of any player in the field.
Well, Toms finished second-to-last in the 27-player field (was supposed to be 28 but a late scratch for Lucas Glover), never breaking 70. Steve Stricker, the highest-ranked player in the field, won at 23 under, five shots ahead of Martin Laird, one of the few non-Americans in the tournament.
Instant $250 Free Bonus Bet from Bovada -
The Tour moves from Maui to Honolulu this week for the first full-field tournament of the season, the Sony Open in Hawaii. This is when you see a lot of new names. Of the 54 graduates from the Nationwide Tour and Qualifying School from the end of last year, 50 are set to play this week. Of the 26 pure rookies on Tour, 24 are playing the Sony. You have to go back to 2009 to find the last Top 10 by a rookie at this event when Matt Weibring shared eighth place.
The field has eight from the Top 50 of the world rankings, led by Stricker. He will attempt to become the first player since Ernie Els in 2003 to win the first two events of the season in Hawaii – otherwise known as the "Aloha Slam." A total of 20 players who teed it up last week are scheduled to again at Waialee CC.
Tiger Woods isn’t playing this week – he will make his PGA Tour 2012 debut at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in early February. Phil Mickelson also won’t debut this week but will next week at the Humana Challenge when the Tour starts its California swing.
Golf Odds: Sony Open in Hawaii Favorites
A short hitter could well win this week because Waialee will play at only 7,068 yards (par 70), but it does have tight fairways -- it usually ranks among the most difficult courses on Tour in driving accuracy. Five of the last eight champions have led the field for par-4 scoring en route to their victories. All eight champions have ranked inside the top three for par-4 scoring during their wins.
As one would expect, Stricker is the favorite this week at +575 to win at WagerWeb. He has a strong record at Waialee, finishing in the top nine four of the last five years, including a high of third in 2010. He has yet to win there, however.
Webb Simpson is next at +600. He was the hottest player on Tour at the end of last season and it carried over last week as Simpson finished third. Aside from Stricker, Simpson was the only other player to record all four rounds in the 60s at the season opener.
Zach Johnson and K.J. Choi are next at +1000. Johnson is not a long hitter but very accurate off the tee, so this course sets up perfectly for him. That’s probably why he won in 2009, although that’s his only Top 10 here in six tries. Choi also is a straight hitter and won here in 2008. He missed the cut last year.
Golf Odds: Sony Open in Hawaii Picks
I won’t lie, if Toms hadn’t burned me so badly last week I would be tempted to target him this week at +2800 on WagerWeb. He won the tournament in 2006 and has four other Top-15 finishes at the event. But Toms has to earn my trust back!
Mark Wilson seems like great value at +4000. He won this tournament last year by two shots. Wilson made a field-leading 21 putts from six feet or longer en route to the victory. Wilson also was the only player in the field to go bogey-free on his final 36 holes of play. He was only the second Sony Open in Hawaii champion to go bogey-free in his final 36 holes and win (1999, Jeff Sluman).
Charles Howell III is worth a look at +2000. “Chucky Three Sticks” has made 10 trips to the Sony Open and has never missed the cut -- half of those appearances have resulted in Top-5 finishes.
But I’m going best value with Steve Marino at +3500. He was a runner-up last year (with Tim Clark), shooting every round in the 60s, and has finished no worse than seventh in his past three trips to this tournament (he didn’t play in 2010). With 21 career Top 10s, including four runner-up finishes, he is overdue his first win.