PGA Tour Picks: Sony Open of Hawaii Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 1/8/2014
So does it make me a golf nerd that I was watching the final round of the PGA Tour's Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Monday during the breaks of the BCS National Championship Game? Well, I was. Zach Johnson continued building off his excellent 2013 season by shooting a final-round 66 at Kapalua to win the event by a shot over reigning Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth, who had a one-shot lead on back nine Sunday.
Maybe Johnson is ready to have a massive season. It was his third win in his past six starts and 11th career on the PGA Tour, and only Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Vijay Singh have more among active players. Johnson paid off at 12/1 at Bovada. Alas I didn't pick him. I pushed on the head-to-head between Matt Kuchar (my pick at +110) against Adam Scott and missed the other head-to-heads. I did nail Top 10s on Dustin Johnson (-300) and Kuchar (-300). Kuchar was my pick at 8/1 to win, and if not for a third-round 75 he probably would have. That was his worst round by seven shots, and he finished T6 at 14 under.
This week the Tour jumps from Maui to Oahu for the Sony Open of Hawaii at Waialae Country Club. This is the first full-field event of the season. According to ESPN, 18 players will tee it up this week after doing so at Kapalua led by Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Spieth, Kuchar and Jason Dufner. This will be the last time we see Scott until Florida. Kuchar also says he's going to take a fairly substantial break after the event. By the way, nine of the past 15 winners of this event did play the previous week at Kapalua.
Last year's Sony Open saw an unlikely winner as Russell Henley shot a final-round 63 to finish at a tournament 24-under 256 (third-best score ever for any PGA Tour 72-hole event) and become the first rookie in 12 years to win in his PGA Tour debut (Garrett Willis, 2001 Tucson Open). Henley's worst of four rounds was a 67 on Saturday. He and fellow rookie Scott Langley shared the lead entering Sunday. Langley shot a final-round 70, and Tim Clark finished runner-up, three shots back. This tournament used to be where most of the rookies debuted, but that's no longer the case with the wraparound schedule.
PGA Tour Golf Odds: Sony Open of Hawaii Favorites
In my humble opinion, when a guy already has announced he's taking a sizable break from the game, that means he has already checked out. And how focused on work are you when your long vacation is right around the corner? Thus, I don't like Scott much this week even though he's the 8/1 Bovada favorite. He hasn't played here much, last missing the cut in 2011. He was runner-up two years before that.
Zach Johnson is 10/1 to go back-to-back. I never recommend that and can't here, either, as well as he is playing. The last player to start the new Tour year with a sweep of the Hawaii events was Ernie Els in 2003. Johnson has missed the cut here two of the past three years but did win in 2009. That's his only Top 10 at the Sony.
Spieth (14/1), Kuchar (14/1) and Charles Howell III, Dufner and Clark (20/1) round out the Top-5 favorites. This is Spieth's first visit to this event, and it's crazy how good he is already. Maybe he's immune to the sophomore slump. Kuchar has tied for fifth in his past two visits to Waialae. Again, though, maybe he already has mentally checked out with a vacation on the way. You might think Howell III doesn't belong among the favorites, but he loves this course. Howell has been runner-up twice and has five Top-5 finishes in the past seven trips. Howell III did play well in the handful of events that started the new wraparound schedule late last year.
PGA Tour Picks: Sony Open of Hawaii Predictions
It's rather unlikely that a player gets his first Tour win here. Henley was the first to do so since Bruce Lietzke in 1977 (many rookies used to not make the expensive trip and wait for the California Swing).
On the Top-10 props, I do like Howell III at +160 along with Clark (+160) and Dufner (+160) despite a not-great record at this course. Head-to-head, take Clark (-125) over Harris English (-105), Chris Kirk (-130) over Jimmy Walker (even), Howell III (+135) over Spieth (-175) and Bo Van Pelt (-115) over Boo Weekley (-115). I love Clark at -175 as the top South African and two shots (+350) as the winning margin of victory.
Marc Leishman is interesting at 40/1 to win. He usually plays well here and was ninth a year ago. His average round of 67.75 in the past four years is sixth among players. John Rollins (80/1) has an even better average round of 67.58 with a best finish of eighth. However, I am shocked Clark isn't higher. His stroke average of 66.67 is the best by far. He gets career win No. 2 after coming oh-so-close at the Sony Open twice previously.
Read more articles by Alan Matthews