Sony Open in Hawaii preview

Venue: Waialae Country Club, Honolulu, Hawaii
Date: January 10-13, 2019
Course stats: Par 70, 7,044 yards
Purse: $6.4 million
Defending champion: Patton Kizzire (-17, beat James Hahn in a play-off)
Weather forecast: Partly cloudy, and sunny, for most of the week with the temperatures in the mid 70s and the wind expected to peak at 8mph on Thursday.

TV Coverage

Thursday: Sky Sports Golf, 12am (Friday)
Friday: Sky Sports Golf, 12am (Saturday)
Saturday: Sky Sports Golf, 11pm
Sunday: Sky Sports Golf, 1am (Monday)

As at the Tournament of Champions, the wind can be an issue in Honolulu so it could be significant for scoring that we’re not expected to see any stiff breezes during the week.

There are only two par 5s, the 9th and 18th, and any score that isn’t a birdie is a missed opportunity. The par 3s are a very stiff test. Of the quartet of the 4th, 7th, 11th and 17th, only the 7th played under par last year.

The short par-4 10th should catch the eye of hole-by-hole bettors. It yielded 181 birdies and just 20 bogeys in 2018.

Generally, though, this is a second shot golf course. Finding the green in regulation is important to a successful week.

Patton Kizzire

Patton Kizzire returns as defending champion following his victory over James Hahn at the sixth play-off hole. That was the longest play-off in tournament history.

Even though the course has been a par 70 for 20 years, very low scores are still routine. Justin Thomas was 27-under in his victory in 2017, helped on his way by a 59 in the first round.

Jordan Spieth makes his first start of the year, while Thomas, tied 14th 12 months ago, looks to build on a very solid week in Kapalua with a second Sony title.

Sony Open in Hawaii each-way betting tips

Conventional wisdom tells you that Jordan Spieth’s 2018 was a car crash.

He failed to win and looked tormented with the putter. After a brief spurt of top 10s as spring arrived, he largely toiled. He even failed to make the Tour Championship.

And yet were it not for a dodgy drive on the 18th he might have pushed Reed closer at the Masters, and he was tied for the lead going into the final round at Carnoustie before blowing up with a 76.

A terrible year might still have brought two majors.

These are all ifs and buts, of course, but what I’m trying to suggest is that if this is what constitutes awful, we won’t need to see massive improvement before Spieth’s adding to his 14 victories.

His travails may now have given us an opportunity. The World No. 17 is freely available at prices between 16 and 18/1 and that has to be too big.

Yes, he has to kick off the rust of two months away from competitive action but Waialae could be the perfect place for that.

He finished 3rd in 2017 when Justin Thomas swept to victory and ranked 3rd in the important par-4 scoring category on the PGA Tour last year.

This tree-lined challenge also suits an iron game that was 12th in GIR in 2018.

The Texan has had plenty of time off to improve a putting stroke that ranked 123rd in strokes gained last season. If he’s found the answer, his price could be huge.

Sony Open in Hawaii

I’ve largely sat on the fence with Cameron Champ (28/1). It’s not that I don’t admire his talents, and his prodigious long hitting, I simply wanted to see what he would do against the big guns.

It’s one thing dominating the fall series and quite another when going toe-to-toe with the world’s best. So his creditable performance at Kapalua has peaked my interest.

Turns out he’s not simply a gun and run hitter off the tee. Tied 17th in par-4 scoring average, and 14th in par-4 birdie or better, there’s every chance he could build his massive ball striking into a challenge here.

Finally, Brian Harman has been prone to a fast start to a calendar year and a repeat of that might bring us some each-way money at 66s.

Fourth here 12 months ago, his worst finish since 2014 is 20th and he’s a whopping 57-under-par over the last five years. With January top 10s recorded in the last couple of seasons, it’s hoped he will hit the ground running yet again.

You’ve seen who Steve thinks will make the frame in Honolulu, but what are his best bets? Find out on the next page…