Sony Open: Thomas heads the field for first tournament of 2020

It's a new year and a new decade but some familiar faces will be heading to Hawaii for the Sony Open as David Kristiansen explains.

David Kristiansen

The roaring twenties are here and some familiar names head to Hawaii for the first regular tour event of the new decade.

Justin Thomas headlines a better Sony Open field than normal coming of the dramatic playoff win at the Tournament of Champions (TOC) where he beat Patrick Reed, who is also here this week, along with current champion Matt Kuchar and Xander Schauffele.

It’s worth making note of who played last week because the last six winners of this event all played the TOC the week before.

The Course

Course: Waialae Country Club

Length: 7044 yards (Par 70)

Greens: Bermuda

Opened: 1925

Architect: Seth Raynor

Waialae CC is a classic golf course designed in the twenties (the 1920s that is) and is a par 70 with two par 5s and four par 3s that all measure between 175-200 yards.

The fairways are almost 10% harder to hit than average but the greens in regulation numbers are still a couple percentage points higher than the tour average.

This tells me that the rough is manageable and as long as the players stays out of the trees accuracy of the tee isn’t all that important.

When we look at past winners and people that usually do well here, we can also sniff out that you don’t have to be a bomber to do well around here as last shown by Kuchar winning last year.

The greens are smallish Bermuda and according to the weather forecast, it will be windy most of the week so golfers with a stellar approach game will be preferable.

Usually short game isn’t the most important here, but if it gets really windy this can become more of a factor as players will miss more greens than usual.

Here are some of the things I will be looking at/for:

  • Par 4 scoring
  • Strokes gained approach
  • Proximity 150-175 yards
  • Par 3 scoring 175-200 yards
  • Strokes gained short game
  • Bermuda putting

Season overview:

Wagered: 58,5 units

Won: 75.43 units

Result: + 16.93 units


Matt Kuchar at 23.00* (1.5 pts EW) 

I rarely bet the reigning champion since the bookmakers almost always put to much of a tax on the number but Kuchar just sets up to perfectly for me this week.

He obviously likes the course, he played ok at the TOC just like he did last year, and he thrives in the wind ranking 1st tee to green in these types of conditions.

He also putts well on Bermuda greens ranking 15th in the field on this surface.

Joaquin Niemann at 34.00* (1.25 pts EW) 

The Chilean comes off a tough President Cup debut where he only got half a point in four matches but bounced back nicely last week with a T5 at the TOC.

He ranks in the top ten in birdies gained (5th), par 4 scoring (8th), strokes gained approach (10th) and proximity from 150-175 yards (10th).

Should it get really windy his extremely low ball flight will also be a major advantage and the stats tell us that he ranks 15th tee to green in the few (11) rounds he has played in those type of conditions.

Graeme McDowell 126.00 (0.5 pts EW) 

The Northern Irishman also fits the played last week narrative and he had a good week with his approaches, but the rest of his game just wasn’t there.

He is usually an elite putter so if he can turn that around and keep his iron play, he will be a factor this week while the weather should play into his strengths as he ranks 2nd in the field in approach in this type of weather.

He ranks 1stin the field in proximity from 150-175 yards, 6th in strokes gained short game and 16thin par 3 scoring between 175-200 yards. All in all I find good value on McDowell securing his 5thPGA tour victory this week.

How to watch

Sony Open
January 9th – 12th
Sky Sports Golf


*Odds subject to change

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