What: Sony Open in Hawaii
Where: Waialae Country Club
When: January 11-14
Defending Champion: Justin Thomas (shot a 59 last year, which is an 18-hole record; also set the records for 36-hole score, 54-hole score, and holds the 72-hole score at the 2017 event.)
FedEx Cup Points: 500
While the PGA season isn’t in full swing just yet, we saw Dustin Johnson in mid-season form last week with an incredible and dominating eight-stroke victory at Kapalua. Johnson was a top-tier pick last week. Let’s see how our other picks made out.
We may not be getting into the mid-season excitement of the season just yet, but we do have our first event of the year with a cut, and a field of 144 golfers. Your leagues can now start to give out points (or negative points) for cuts missed/made.
The field this week at the 53-year-old Waialae CC, which actually features a par-70 at only 7,044 yards, is comprised of a great number of Web.com Tour players, and players from overseas. Past winners at this event include Fabian Gomez, Jimmy Walker (2), Russell Henley, and Johnson Wagner.
Waialae is not as easy of a track as Kapalua in terms of seeing another 24-under performance, but some birdies will definitely be had this week. The par-5 ninth hole at this course was actually the easiest hole on the TOUR last season. Strokes gained: tee-to-green is going to be a top stat this week, as hitting the green with accuracy and regularity is going to be a must.
A lot of big PGA mainstays still aren’t able to make the trip out to Hawaii. However, the field does include names such as Jordan Spieth, Brian Harman, Russell Henley, Wesley Bryan, Tony Finau, Justin Thomas, and Webb Simpson. Also making the trip to the tournament are Vijay Singh and Jerry Kelly, two men that won this tournament in 2005 and 2002, respectively.
Much of the field will be names most golf fans have never heard of, including over 30 players with top Web.com finishes last season and three Japanese players (Yasaku Miyazato, Satoshi Kodaira, and Shugo Imahira) that are all in the top-85 on the OWGR but aren’t household names in North America whatsoever.
You will be able to fill salary rosters with big names, but you’ll need some sleepers in leagues with 8, 10, 12, 14+ roster spots.
Jordan Spieth: Spieth, who had a third-place finish last year, is an obvious top choice. With a run of seven straight top-10s, Spieth is as good a bet as any to come away with a win this week, or at least a top-three finish.
Justin Thomas: Thom had a seven-stroke victory here last year, and the fact that he broke all scoring records in relation to holes played last year says enough, as this course plays to his strengths greatly. He will look to join five other men who have won here twice. Thomas’s low finish last week should just be a blip on the radar, but if he doesn’t improve, his cost in salary leagues may actually decrease.
Marc Leishman: Leishman has made five straight cuts at this event. His finish last week marked his fifth finish inside the top-seven out of his last seven appearances. He’s no stranger to potential windy conditions.
Tony Finau: Finishing within the top-26 and adding a runner-up in all four of his fall starts, Finau’s great swings off the tee and second-place ranking in Strokes Gained: tee-to-green is going to play beautifully at Waialae.
Zach Johnson: The 2009 winner also posted a T6, T9, and T8 in 2017, 2016, and 2014, respectively. This fall, he is a perfect 3-for-3 in cuts made, all with top-25s and one top-10s. He also has a T8.
Webb Simpson: To start this fall, Simpson has recorded two top-20 finishes. At this event, he has three top-15 finishes in a row where he’s never missed the cut (8-for-8).
Gary Woodland: Over his last three starts at this event, Woodland has a T6, T13, and a T3. He is one of the most consistent cut-makers on TOUR. His current fifth-place standing in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green is great for this event.
Charles Howell III: The great cut-maker is already 4-of-5 this season. At this course in the last nine years, he’s posted a T8, T13, T26, T8, T3, T2, T68, T5, and 4th.
Russell Henley: Henley won here in 2013 in what was actually the start to his first full season. He hasn’t made his mark yet this year with his great putter, but he is 3-of-3 in cuts so far and knows this place well.
Si Woo Kim: Kim has played here only once, but he recorded a fourth-place finish. Coming off a 10th place finish just last week, Kim already has 5-of-6 cuts under his belt this season. His strokes gained: tee-to-green number has him in the top-25 of that category.
J.J. Spaun: Spaun is a guy you keep picking while you wait for his breakthrough. He ranks 10th in SG: approach-the-green, 12th in SG: tee-to-green, and 18th in SG: total. He’s already 4-of-5 cuts this year with a runner-up finish, a T14, and a T10. He was cut here in 2017, but he is in great form.
William McGirt: A deep dive of sorts here. Since missing the Wyndham Championship cut, McGirt has put up a T54, T30, T25, T10, and a T8. He has made the last five cuts at this course and has two top-20s. In his last two starts here, he has a scoring average of 67.5. Great stuff.