I have zero problem admitting when I was flat-out wrong, and boy was I on Justin Thomas this past weekend at the Sony Open as the PGA Tour wrapped up its two-event Hawaii Swing. I wasn't real high on Thomas after winning the SBS Tournament of Champions the week before because only one player had ever swept both events in one season and the courses are very different.
Yet all Thomas did at the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu was set a 72-hole PGA Tour record of 253 (27 under, but the total not the strokes under par is the record), breaking the previous mark of 254 set by Tommy Armour III at the 2003 Texas Open. In the first round, Thomas became the youngest player ever with a 59 -- which, if you remember, is no longer the Tour record after Jim Furyk had a 58 last year.
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Thomas' worst round of the week were his pair of 65s on the weekend as he won by seven shots over Justin Rose. Thomas two-putted for birdie from 60 feet on the par-5 18th on Sunday to set the record of 253. He is also the first player since Tiger Woods in 2009 (Buick Open and Bridgestone Invitational) to win back-to-back weeks by three shots or more. Thomas joined Johnny Miller (1974 and 1975) and Tiger (2003, 2008, 2013) as the only players since 1970 to win three of their first five starts in a PGA Tour season. Finally, Thomas is up to No. 8 in the world and basically already has qualified for the Tour Championship.
While I was way off on Thomas, I did hit on Rose at +225 as the top European finisher. His 20-under score would have been good enough to win, or have a chance to win, 17 of the last 20 Sony Opens. Rose's worst round was a 66. I also hit on him at -125 over Gary Woodland (-105). My pick to win was Jimmy Walker and he missed the cut. I did get Jordan Spieth (third) for a Top 10 at -185 and Marc Leishman at +135 as top Aussie.
This week the Tour begins the California Swing in La Quinta with the CareerBuilder Challenge, which used to be sponsored by the Clinton Foundation. David Duval shot a 59 at this tournament at the PGA West Course back in 1999 when it was the Bob Hope Classic and a five-round event. Phil Mickelson is a "tournament ambassador" and was on the original entry list but it's not 100 percent he will play off surgery to repair a sports hernia. He hasn't played since the Safeway Open to kick off the 2016-17 season in October. Lefty says he may not decide on playing until Wednesday.
American Jason Dufner is the defending champion. He and Sweden's David Lingmerth finished 72 holes at 25 under and headed to a playoff. Dufner had a nice par save on the first extra hole in getting up-and-down from a bunker while Lingmerth missed his 23-foot birdie try. On the next hole, Lingmerth's approach went into the water and Dufner drained his par from 5 feet for his first win since the 2013 PGA Championship. This is played over three courses: the TPC Stadium Course at PGA West, Nicklaus Tournament Course and La Quinta Country Club over the first three days and then only the Stadium Course on Sunday.
Golf Odds: CareerBuilder Challenge Favorites
No super-heavy favorite this week with many of the world's top-ranked players not in attendance. Patrick Reed is the +1600 favorite at Bovada . He won this event in 2014 at 28-under by two shots over Ryan Palmer. Reed hasn't had a Top-20 here the past two years. He was off last week following a T6 at the SBS Tournament of Champions.
Italy's Francesco Molinari, Mickelson, Bill Haas and Zack Johnson are all +2000. Molinari hasn't finished worse than sixth in his past four worldwide events. He was 62nd here last year but 10th in 2015. Mickelson won here in 2002 & '04 and was third last year. But even if he plays, he's going to be really rusty as Mickelson has barely touched a club since the surgery.
Haas won here in 2015 -- I picked him then -- and 2010. He was ninth last year and 13th last week in Hawaii. Johnson was T6 last week but has missed the cut here the past two years.
Golf Odds: CareerBuilder Challenge Picks
Twelve of the past 13 Challenge winners have been U.S.-born champions. The only one who wasn't was Venezuela's Jhonattan Vegas in 2011. For a Top 10, I'll go with Reed (+125), Haas (+200) and Lingmerth (+500). He also lost a playoff in 2013.
Head-to-head, go with Chris Kirk (even) over Webb Simpson (-130), Jon Rahm (-125) over Charles Howell III (-105), Haas (-125) over Paul Casey (-105), Reed (-155) over Molinari (+120) and Jamie Lovemark (-130) over Kevin Na (-110).
I may throw a few dollars on Lovemark to win at +3300 as he has been Top 10 in his past two tournaments and was sixth here a year ago. But Haas is the clear Horse for the Course with 39 straight under-par rounds at this event and the all-time money leader there. He's the pick.
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