PGA Tour: Sony Open in Hawaii Predictions and Betting Odds
by Alan Matthews - 1/12/2011
This week’s PGA Tour stop at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu for the Sony Open in Hawaii is the first full-field event of the season as it comes on the heels of last week’s winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Even though it is a full-field event, it’s still a bit watered down in terms of the world’s top talent. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson aren’t playing. And most of Europe’s top players have stayed overseas, again not wanting to use their limited starts available on the U.S. tour until the bigger events. Thus players like Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Martin Kaymer, Paul Casey and Graeme McDowell (who did play last week) won’t be teeing it up in Honolulu. Just two players from the world Top 10 are in the field: Americans Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk.
One thing to know before offering my Sony Open in Hawaii predictions is that in the 12-year history of this event since it became known as the Sony Open, eight times the winner here did play in the season-opening event in Hawaii. By my count, there are 22 players from the 34-man field from last week who are playing this week (Dustin Johnson also played last week and would have been a favorite in the Sony, but he withdrew early in the week).
Oddsmakers at WagerWeb aren’t giving defending champion Ryan Palmer much of a shot here, as he is listed at +4000 to win, according to Sony Open betting odds. Palmer was tied with Robert Allenby on the 72nd hole last year but birdied the 18th to finish at 15-under total and win his third career tournament. For what it’s worth, Palmer did play last week, but he wasn’t a factor.
Last week’s winner, Jonathan Byrd, is at +2500. And really no one is playing better right now when you consider that Byrd also won the PGA Tour season finale in 2010. But only four players, including Tiger Woods, have won three tournaments in a row in golf history. Byrd has never had a Top-10 finish at this tournament.
The WagerWeb favorite for this PGA Tour event is Stricker at +450. He played very well last week with three rounds in the 60s before a final-round 71 left him in a tie for fourth. Stricker has finished in the top four of this tournament three of the past four years.
Ernie Els is the second favorite at +650. He finished tied for 17th last week, which did include a second-round 64, his career-low round ever at Kapalua. And Els has been dominant at the Sony Open, leading the field with an average finish of 9.0. In one five-tournament stretch here (over six years from 2000-05), Els won back-to-back and had three other Top-5 finishes. He tied for 12th last year. Els is just one of three players to ever repeat at the Sony Open.
Furyk is at +700 and finished tied for ninth last week and has five Top-5 finishes in 15 Sony Opens. But he hasn’t played here since 2008.
A good value bet might be Charles Howell III at +1000. In nine career starts in the Sony Open, “Chucky Three Sticks” has five top-five finishes: 2010 (T5), 2009 (4), 2007 (T2), 2005 (T3) and 2002 (T4). While Howell didn’t play last week he did close 2010 playing arguably his best golf of the year. Another good value bet would be on Tim Clark (+2500), who has finished T25 and T12 the past two years.
By the way, rain could be a factor in the early rounds, with a 100 percent chance of rain on Thursday and 70 percent on Friday. And if the island winds are howling, Waialae plays as one of the longest courses on tour. If no wind, then players will be going low. Waialae did have the hardest fairways on the PGA Tour to hit last year (only 47.7 percent of tee shots landed in the fairways) and has some very difficult rough. Thus accuracy off the tee will be key.
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