The PGA TOUR continues the Aloha Swing by taking a 30-minute flight to Oahu for the Sony Open in Hawaiʻi at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. The course is a par 70, measuring 7,044 yards and will be on Bermuda greens again this week.
There’s a handful of golfers making the trip from Maui to the South Shore of Oahu this week, but two have decided to leave early — Bryson DeChambeau and Garrick Higgo have withdrawn from the tournament and will not be playing this week. Still, other golfers like Abraham Ancer (+2200; $9,700), Cam Davis (+6000; $8,000), Stewart Cink (+8000; $7,200), Joel Dahmen (+5000; $7,600), Harris English (+3500; $9,300), Lucas Glover (+15000; $6,800), Talor Gooch (+2500; $9,100), Branden Grace (+10000; $7,100), Lucas Herbert (+13000; $7,200), Sungjae Im (+1600; $10,300), Billy Horschel (+4500; $8,700), Matt Jones (+5000; $8,400), Si Woo Kim (+7000; $7,700), Jason Kokrak (+4500; $8,600), Marc Leishman (+1600; $10,000), K.H. Lee (+10000; $7,000), Hideki Matsuyama (+1800; $10,600), Seamus Power (+4000; $8.100) and Erik Van Rooyen (+8000; $8,200) are making the short trip to Waialae CC (as of now).
Playing in Hawaii the previous week has recently given golfers a sizeable advantage. Seventy percent of the past champions were at Kapalua the week prior (eight of the last 10, more recently), with four of the last seven winners having a top-15 finish at the Plantation Course. Previous success at Waialae CC is not crucial to winning, but most of the Sony Open champions over the past two decades had played here at least once before hoisting the trophy. Experience in Hawaii and at Waialae CC should be a focal point when choosing who to roster.
Waialae is a straightforward coastal course. The fairways are tree-lined and relatively flat, which is a stark difference from last week. Historically, Waialae CC hasn’t been adversely affected by weather or wind like other coastal tracks, even with its proximity to the ocean. It can play tricky if the wind picks up substantially, but we’ve only seen two rounds since 2016 play extremely windy; as always, check the forecast leading up to Thursday. Missing the fairway won’t matter too much this week as we’ve seen past winners like Kevin Na (+2500; $9.900), Cameron Smith (+800; $11,200), Justin Thomas, Patton Kizzire (+10000; $7,300) and Fabian Gomez all lose strokes in fairway accuracy and still win. With all par 70s, success on par 4s is paramount, and the most important stat to target this week will be Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green. Top-five finishers have gained almost twice as many strokes through approach over Off-the-Tee and nearly three times as much as around-the-green, even though a short game is necessary this week.
A contrarian build should involve fading a few high-rostered golfers who played last week. You’ll hear it throughout the week to play guys who’ve already made their way to Hawaii; that they’ll have gotten used to the wind and weather in competitive play. While this is true, most lineups may be full of last week’s golfers. While it’s a valid strategy, it isn’t a prerequisite to playing well and winning here. Rostering golfers who’ve done well on correlated courses like Harbour Town (RBC Heritage), El Cameleon (World Wide Technology Championship) and PGA National (Honda Classic) is a way to get off the chalk and onto other solid players who’ll go unnoticed. Na finished 38th on the Plantation Course the week before winning last year, and Smith’s President’s Cup success coupled with gaining 8.2 strokes on the greens (first in the field) led him to the winner’s circle in 2020. He and Brendon Steele (runner up) didn’t compete in Maui the week prior.
Corey Conners (+1800 to Win, $9,600 on DraftKings)
Conners has never been a great putter unless he’s at Waialae CC. Over his three previous starts here, he’s gained a total of 13.1 strokes on the greens, and two of his top three putting performances have been at the tournament. His ball-striking is stellar, and if this is a Conners putting week, he’ll be tough to beat. Webb Simpson (+1200, $10,500) also deserves a look. Last season was the first time Webb didn’t have a top-three finish since 2010. He also missed four cuts, which was the most since 2017. His lone top-five in 2021? The Sony Open. Waialae shares many similarities to Harbour Town GL, a tournament Simpson’s extremely successful playing every year. Webb gained nearly 10 strokes with his irons at The RSM Classic, which is much closer to the golfer we’re used to seeing on TOUR. Simpson hasn’t missed a cut here since 2009 and has three straight top-five finishes at Waialae CC.
Talor Gooch (+2500 to Win, $9,100 on DraftKings)
He’s one of a handful of golfers making the trip from Kapalua to Waialae that we should be backing this week. Gooch shot back-to-back 67s (7-under) last weekend, en route to a top 15 in Maui, a solid finish for his first time at the TOC. Gooch has gained an average of just under a stroke per round with his irons over the previous 50, which ranks first in the field this week. These are small greens, but Gooch shouldn’t have any trouble, ranking third in SG: Around-the-Green over the same timeframe.
Cameron Davis (+6000 to Win, $8,000 on DraftKings)
The young Australian was the best TOC debutant last week, finishing T10 and shooting a pair of 66s on the weekend. He was able to log an eagle on both Saturday and Sunday and ranks first in eagles gained over the previous 50 rounds. He’s played well on other coastal courses, finishing top 25 at the RBC Heritage, 15th in Mayakoba and a top 10 here in 2020. Davis should get off to a hot start and continue his solid play in Hawaii. Keith Mitchell (+8000, $7,600) is someone to keep your eye on this week. He’s coming in with three top 25s in his previous four starts at the Sony Open, and is one of the better wind players on TOUR.
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