9th - 12th January
The PGA Tour welcomed the New Year in at Maui last week and this week it takes a small trip to Honolulu for the 2020 Sony Open in Hawaii. The event takes place at its traditional home at the Waialae Country Club that has hosted the event since it became a fixture on the PGA Tour in 1965. That means there is plenty of course form to digest this week which can, hopefully, give us a few pointers to finding the winner.
The Waialae Country Club is short by modern standards at just over 7,000 yards and this Par 70 has produced winning scores of between –13 and –27 in the last decade. But winners don’t fall into any particular category, with the top-class Justin Thomas the only headline act to win in the last decade.
Meanwhile, consistency wouldn’t be something you’d normally associate with the other winners, Jimmy Walker (twice) Russell Henley, Ryan Palmer, Mark Wilson, Johnson Wagner, Fabian Gomez, and Patton Kizzire, whilst last year’s winner Matt Kuchar is normally more of a place bet than a win bet.
That range of winners suggests there’s no identikit winner of the Sony Open in Hawaii. But there’s not much trouble off the tee here unless the wind blows ridiculously (which is possible), so the tournament often turns into a putting contest.
The bookies are taking no chances on Justin Thomas this week after he emerged victorious from a three-man play-off with Xander Schauffle and Patrick Reed to win last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions. He’s just 5/1 to win this full-field event, the same price he was to win a 34-runner event last week.
But Thomas is swinging great, he’s putting well, and he has tournament-form of 6/MC/1/14/16. It’s never easy to defend a title but, interestingly, he followed up his 2017 Sentry Tournament of Champions win with a win here and can go close to doing so again. Thomas is ranked seven places higher than his nearest rival at number four in the world and could easily make a move on the world number one spot in his current form. That’s why Justin Thomas looks a fair each-way bet with up to eight places up for grabs, and he’s the first of this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii 2020 free tips.
Next in the world ranking is Patrick Reed and the new world number 11 serves quotes of 12/1 after making the play-off last week. But his form in Maui is much better than in Honolulu. He’s only graced this tournament twice with his presence and, whilst last year’s 13th was decent, he’s probably not a lover of the course at Waialae Country Club.
The man Reed usurped in the rankings last week was world number 12 Webb Simpson and it’s easier to make a case for Simpson going well this week. He’s posted consistently high finishes in his last four visits of 13/13/13/4, and that fourth last year coincided with an improved putting technique. There’s no doubt he appreciates the room of the tee here and approach shots and short game skills have always been his forte. Simpson looks decent each-way back up to Thomas the week and is the second of our free tips for the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Last year’s winner Kuchar deserves a mention but he often finds winning difficult and trying to defend a title will add even more pressure. Hideki Matsuyama and the useful youngster Collin Morikawa are the others to receive quotes of 20/1 or less.
But it’s another youngster, Sungjae Im, that gets a chance to impress this week. He’s put in some solid performances recently including a win in his home nation Korea in the Genesis Championship. He also finished second in the Sanderson Farms Championship and third in the ZOZO Championship to make it three top-three finishes in his last six events.
Im also made a deep impression with some of his play at the President’s Cup. He finished 16th last year when an opening round of 71 left him eight shots behind the winner Kuchar. However, he was only 10 shots behind at the end after posting a –13 under score for the final three rounds. If he can put his experience to good use and post four solid round, Im could go close this week.