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The PGA Tour island-hops to Oahu, Hawaii, this week for the Sony Open. Twenty-three members of last week's Tournament of Champions field are making the short trip from Maui, with the rest descending on the Hawaiian capital of Honolulu for the first full-field event of 2020.
Hosting a tournament that dates back to 1965, Waialae Country Club will welcome the 144-man field for the 55th time. Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, and Webb Simpson headline a group featuring plenty of young talents like Collin Morikawa, Sungjae Im, and Joaquin Niemann.
2019: Matt Kuchar (-22)
2018: Patton Kizzire (-17, playoff)
2017: Justin Thomas (-27)
2016: Fabian Gomez (-20, playoff)
2015: Jimmy Walker (-23)
2014: Jimmy Walker (-17)
A few distinct trends among recent Sony Open winners are definitely worth mentioning:
There are a few likely reasons for these trends. First, the best players in the Sony Open field are typically playing in the Tournament of Champions as the previous year's winners. Those who play in Maui also face reduced travel for the Sony Open compared to the rest of the field. Finally, when the best players in the field are in good form, they tend to find themselves in contention.
|Justin Thomas||11-2||1st (2017)|
|Patrick Reed||10-1||T-13 (2019)|
|Webb Simpson||12-1||T-4 (2018)|
|Hideki Matsuyama||18-1||T-27 (2017)|
|Sungjae Im||22-1||T-16 (2019)|
|Matt Kuchar||22-1||1st (2019)|
Thomas is easily the best player in the field, especially after winning the Tournament of Champions last week. He won both Hawaii events in 2017 and is the 5-1 favorite to do it again. If you want to put your money on him to go back-to-back once more, few would try to talk you out of it.
That said, betting the player at the top of the board is risky regardless of who it is, and the payoff simply isn't sufficient for those looking to hit big.
Reed and Simpson are the next two up at 10-1 and 12-1, respectively. Reed snuck into a playoff last week thanks to some ridiculous work with his putter, but he's tough to back at nearly single-digit odds. Webb, meanwhile, is making his first start of 2020 and doesn't fit the trend of Sony Open winners playing the Tournament of Champions the week prior.
Of the favorites, Morikawa deserves the most attention as a value play after ranking third in strokes gained: tee to green during his Tournament of Champions debut. The 22-year-old checks the boxes for recent Sony Open winners and a victory at Waialea would be a nice second title to add to his resume.
|Corey Conners||40-1||T-3 (2019)|
|Charles Howell III||40-1||T-2 (2012)|
|Cameron Smith||40-1||T-18 (2018)|
|Abraham Ancer||40-1||T-29 (2019)|
|Marc Leishman||45-1||T-3 (2019)|
|Brandt Snedeker||45-1||2nd (2016)|
|Kevin Kisner||45-1||T-4 (2017)|
Still oozing confidence after a strong Presidents Cup performance, Niemann played well in Kapalua last week and enters the Sony Open at 30-1. One could argue he and Morikawa are fairly equal, with the Chilean priced at a much juicer number.
Corey Conners and Kevin Kisner are the other two players in this range who played the Tournament of Champions. Conners finished T3 at Waialae in 2019, but it's Kisner who makes for the more enticing option at a larger number. Let down by his putter in Kapalua, one could reasonably expect Kisner to rebound in that department this week.
Abraham Ancer stands out as a player who can break the trend of Sony Open winners playing in Maui beforehand; his standout showing during the Presidents Cup will likely carry into 2019-20. He's bound to win on the PGA Tour this season, though Waialae won't reward his off-the-tee game as much as other venues.
Sticking with the idea that this week's winner will come from last week's field, J.T. Poston (50-1), Sebastian Munoz (70-1), Lanto Griffin (80-1), and Graeme McDowell (110-1) are all worth looks. There's no reason to venture into long-shot range without considering the obvious trends.
Poston's accuracy-over-distance style aligns well with Waialae, and he putted competently en route to a T11 result in Kapalua. His chances at the Sony Open would be more promising had he not lost strokes tee to green last week, though.
If you want to venture away from players who were in Kapalua, Doc Redman (200-1) is worth a small wager. The former U.S. Amateur champion is a couple of top-10 finishes from being priced in the 50-1 range for similar fields.
Joaquin Niemann (30-1)
The argument for Niemann over Morikawa simply comes down to value. Niemann at 30-1 is better than Morikawa at 18-1 if you consider them to have reasonably similar chances to win.
The 21-year-old Niemann placed fifth in his first trip to Kapalua - an impressive result at a tournament filled with the game's biggest names. He proved he can handle windy conditions, and those four rounds in Maui will prove beneficial if wind plays a factor in Honolulu. Though he's known for his ferocious swing, Niemann's best Tour results have come on courses that don't require distance off the tee.
Kevin Kisner (45-1)
Kisner has been solid in his last two tournaments, albeit in a pair of limited fields. Coming off a T14 at the Tournament of Champions and a T7 at the Hero World Challenge, the 35-year-old continues to keep himself in the mix on Sundays.
He's finished inside the top five twice in his past four appearances at Waialae and he's won on coastal courses before, securing victories at the RBC Heritage (Harbour Town) and the RSM Classic (Sea Island Resort). Kisner would've been considered here even in the 30-1 range - anything over 40-1 is a steal.
Lanto Griffin (80-1)
Griffin's already recorded six top-20 results this season, including his Houston Open victory, and he's likely to carry his strong form into the Sony Open. He was sixth in strokes gained: tee to green at his first-ever Tournament of Champions, finishing T13.
Early acclimation to the Hawaiian wind, weather, and time zone will only work in Griffin's favor. You could do a lot worse than a PGA Tour winner in great form at 80-1 and above.
Graeme McDowell (110-1)
McDowell fits the bill of a player who played the Tournament of Champions, but his T23 in Maui means he narrowly misses the top-21-or-better criterion met by seven of the last eight Sony Open winners. He ranked third in strokes gained: approach in last week's loaded field, however, a strong indication his game is in fine form.
More promising is the fact that the Northern Irishman thrives on coastal tracks, with all four of his PGA Tour wins coming on courses that border the ocean. If the wind picks up in Honolulu - and forecasts indicate it will - McDowell should have a massive advantage over most of the field. At 110-1, or larger if you shop around, he's a long shot well worth considering.