The PGA Tour remains in the 50th state for one more week following Cameron Smith’s victory at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. We dive into the Sony Open in Hawaii with our top PGA Tour outright, matchup, and prop picks.
Kevin Na is back to defend his 2021 title at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu while Smith will attempt to go back-to-back in an event he won in 2020. The field isn’t nearly as strong as last week’s star-studded event, but Webb Simpson, Sungjae Im, and Hideki Matsuyama are among the big names looking to challenge Smith and Na.
The PGA Tour returns to the mainland next week for The American Express in La Quinta, CA. We’re just two months out from The Players Championship and under three months away from the Masters as the golf season truly gets rolling. This is the first 144-man field of 2022.
Here are my outright, matchup, and prop picks for the PGA Tour’s Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, HI.
Sony Open Odds
Sony Open Odds Analysis
Bryson DeChambeau was set to be the top-ranked golfer in this week's field at No. 8 in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR), but he withdrew Monday morning. It's a good example of why it's always best to look at the early odds and get a bet or two in, as his withdrawal moved everyone else up the board.
Before and after DeChambeau's withdrawal, Smith was a heavy favorite across all sportsbooks. That position was solidified with last week's win, but he was likely to be in the mix regardless. FanDuel Sportsbook is hanging the best number on Na at +2900.
The board spreads out quickly with only five or six golfers carrying odds of +2000 or lower at most books. It's a good week to back a long shot and to make a few more, smaller bets than usual.
Waialae Country Club Betting Profile
Waialae Country Club has hosted the Sony Open since 1965, so there's plenty of course history from which to draw this week.
Charles Howell III is the field leader with 68 career rounds played at this venue and with 1.83 total strokes gained on the field per round. Howell has never won this event, but he does have two runner-up finishes. The last 10 winning scores have ranged from minus-11 to minus-24 and six of those were minus-20 or better.
Corey Conners is second in the field with 1.73 strokes gained per round. However, Na is averaging just 0.60 strokes gained per round, even with last year's win, so it's the number of rounds that can be considered more important. Thirty-two members of the field are making their debut at Waialae this week.
The Seth Raynor design is a par 70 measuring a modest 7,044 yards. Water is truly in play on only two or three holes, with sand bunkers being a far more common hazard. For the second straight week in Hawaii, the greens are composed of Bermudagrass.
The four par 3s range from 167 yards to 199. The par 4s vary from 343 yards to a long of 461 with six in the 400-450-yard range. Four par 5s top out at a long of 549. The course plays firmer than Kapalua and the rough is considerably longer. The greens are much flatter but don't expect Smith's record of 34-under par to be challenged this week.
Sony Open Stats
Eight of the last 10 winners of the Sony Open played the week before at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at Kapalua. That speaks mainly to the elite winners-only field in attendance for the first event and those who stick around than it does for any similarities between the courses, outside of the green composition.
Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green is the key stat for this week, but a hot putting week on the navigable greens can make all the difference, more so here than most other venues.
We'll also consider par 4 efficiency: 400-450 yards, sand save percentage, and bogey avoidance.
Sony Open Picks
To win: Billy Horschel (+4600 via FanDuel), Denny McCarthy (+8000 via PointsBet), Keegan Bradley (+9000 via DraftKings Sportsbook)
Tournament matchup: Howell vs. Harris English (-110 via BetMGM), Maverick McNealy vs. Christiaan Bezuidenhout (+105 via DraftKings)
Top-20 finish: J.T. Poston (+800 via DraftKings)
Top Australian: Marc Leishman (+230 via PointsBet)
Round 1 leader: Rory Sabbatini (+11000 via PointsBet)
Sony Open Outright Picks
Horschel, who won last year's WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play as well as the then-European Tour's BMW PGA Championship, tied for 32nd at last week's Tournament of Champions. He did so despite a field-worst 2.10 strokes lost per round on approach, as he gained a field-best 0.82 strokes per round around the green.
The Tour veteran has played a modest 14 career rounds at Waialae with just 0.05 strokes gained on the field per round. We're trusting experience over success at this venue, as Horschel's coming in with great form in the short game. He averaged 0.80 SG: Putting per round last week, and 1.48 SG: Putting in Round 4 while shooting a seven-under-par 66. He's 13th this season in par 4 efficiency: 400-450 yards and seventh in bogey avoidance, albeit through just eight measured rounds.
The best value is at FanDuel with BetMGM offering odds of just +3300 for Horschel to win.
McCarthy is one of the relatively few in the field making his debut in Hawaii this week. He entered the holiday break in excellent form off of a T-15 at the World Wide Technology Championship, a T-11 at the Houston Open, and a T-10 at The RSM Classic. He climbed as high as No. 171 in the OWGR but enters this week at No. 179.
True to his quality results, McCarthy is 10th on Tour in par 4 efficiency from our key distance, and through a more meaningful 24 measured rounds. He's averaging 0.45 SG: Around-the-Green and 0.63 SG: Putting this season. Though he's known to struggle with his driver and his approach shots, McCarthy will be able to lean on the quality short game at the diminutive venue.
Bradley hasn't teed it up in a professional event since a missed cut at The RSM Classic. That capped a disappointing fall swing for the now-87th-ranked golfer in the world. Still, Bradley is a tremendous value at these odds in this lackluster field based on that world ranking. He's the 32nd-best golfer in the field by world ranking.
Despite struggling through the fall, Bradley's third in par 4 efficiency: 400-450 yards through 16 measured rounds. He averaged just 0.18 SG: Around-the-Green per round last season, but with 0.91 SG: Approach. He has 24 career rounds played at Waialae CC with 0.24 strokes gained per round.
He missed the cut in this event last year amid a dreadful putting performance, but he tied for 12th in 2020 while relying on his iron play.
Sony Open Matchup Picks
Howell vs. English (-110)
While English had a disappointing tie for 30th in his defense of the Sentry TOC last week, the warmup round will prove advantageous for bettors in this head-to-head. Howell hasn't played since a T-16 at The RSM Classic and he had just one top-10 finish across 19 PGA Tour events last calendar year.
While we noted that Howell is the course history favorite here, English is no slouch with 34 rounds played and an average of 0.84 strokes gained per round. Howell's most recent runner-up finish at this venue was in 2012.
McNealy vs. Bezuidenhout (+105)
Neither golfer played last week so that helps level the playing field slightly. Bezuidenhout last tied for sixth at the SA Open Championship, while McNealy tied for 19th at the Houston Open.
The South African has a significant edge in short-game play and sand save percentage. Lean into those with both golfers making their Sony Open debut this week.
Sony Open Top Prop Picks
Top 20: Poston (+800)
Poston ended the 2021 portion of the season on a stretch of eight straight missed cuts dating back to the Wyndham Championship to slip to No. `76 in the OWGR entering this week. There's at least some measure of hope the former PGA Tour winner can right the ship at a course where he has 12 rounds of experience.
Poston was sixth among all golfers with 0.71 SG: Putting per round last season. He lost strokes in every other key area, but he's a quality sand player.
Top Australian: Leishman (+230)
Leishman has the second-best odds in this group, behind Smith. We're going to bet against the 2020 champion with his good friend and Zurich Classic of New Orleans co-champ.
Leishman has 48 career rounds played at Waialae to Smith's 23 and he has averaged 1.53 strokes gained per round to rank fourth among all golfers in this field with at least two appearances. Leishman struggled mightily around the greens last week, but he was strong with the putter.
First-round leader: Sabbatini (+11000)
Sabbatini racked up six PGA Tour wins from 2000 to 2011 but his career highlight came via a silver medal at last year's 2020 Summer Olympics.
The Slovakian (since 2019) is second in this field with 63 rounds played at Waialae. He has averaged a quality 0.88 strokes gained per round, despite a missed cut last year. More promisingly, he tied for 21st in 2020. He has an average first-round score of 67.33 through three events this season to rank 14th on Tour.
Picks made on 1/11/2021 at 8:50 a.m. ET.