Sony Open in Hawaii 2024 First Round Leader Tips

 | January 10 | 

7 mins read

Sony Open Hawaii

There’s just one day to go before an exciting field tees off in our first full-field event of the year and I’ve got four final plays for the week in Hawaii; starting with a look at the first-round leader market and finishing with a proven Waialae Country Club performer, who looks a nice price for a top 20 finish.

Sony Open in Hawaii 2024 First Round Leader Tips

  • (First-Round Leader) Brian Harman 40/1 – 1/4 5 places – 1 pt ew
  • (First-Round Leader) Andrew Putnam 66/1 – 1/4 5 places – 0.75 pts ew
  • (First-Round Leader) Nick Taylor 70/1 – 1/4 5 places – 0.75 pts ew
  • (Top 20) - Hayden Buckley 6/1 – 1.5 pts

Most recent Sony Open first-round leaders (scores):

  • 2023 – Chris Kirk, Taylor Montgomery, Jordan Spieth (64)
  • 2022 – Kevin Na (61)
  • 2021 – Joaquin Niemann, Peter Malnati, Jason Kokrak (62)
  • 2020 – Collin Morikawa (65)
  • 2019 – Adam Svensson (61)
  • 2018 – Zach Johnson, Chris Kirk (63)
  • 2017 – Justin Thomas (59)

Looking at the most recent renewals of this event going back to 2017, the standout factor for a player being first-round leader appears to be past experience at the course, and further to that, a proven ability to go low at Waialae.

Of the twelve players to hold or be tied for FRL in those seven editions, there were just three debutants: Taylor Montgomery (2023), Collin Morikawa (2020) and Adam Svensson (2019).

When focusing on those nine players with experience here, eight of them had shot a prior round of 65-or-better; six had shot at least a 63.

A tune-up around Kapalua last week doesn’t appear to be overly important, with that group of twelve players split evenly into six who held the FRL after playing in The Sentry and six who went straight to the Sony Open.

Finally, we look at draw biases and whether the conditions will play a part. There hasn’t been any sort of bias over this time, with another even split of six AM starters and six PM. However, there does appear to be some strong winds on the way tomorrow, which could favour a particular portion of the field.

Conditions are stated to be breezy throughout the day but are due to get stronger at around 11am, with constant winds of 15mph, gusting up to 23mph; reaching as high as 18mph, with gusts of 29mph over the course of the afternoon and it isn’t forecast to die down until the later starters are finishing their rounds.

Therefore, my focus on the FRL market this week will be on those earliest starters who can get a few hours in before the wind rises, whilst I’ll also be concentrating on golfers who have some low scores under their belt here.

First up is reigning Open Champion, Brian Harman.

(First-Round Leader) Brian Harman 40/1 – 1/4 5 places – 1 pt ew

Start Time: 07:50

Harman got his year off to a strong start last week with a 5th-place finish in The Sentry, that saw him open with a 6-under 67 to sit 12th after round one. This lively start to his week wasn’t a one-off, as he’d been starting quickly on a regular basis over the closing weeks of 2023.

He opened with a 67 in the opening round of the Hero World Challenge on his final start of last year, which was enough for the first-round lead and three starts prior to that he shot 65 to tie Rory McIlroy at the top, at the end of the opening round of the BMW Championship.

Harman’s memorable Open Championship win saw him start well, sitting 4th after the first round and in his three starts prior to that he sat 15th, 25th and 16th after eighteen holes; with another major first-round top 5 in the US Open preceding those.

All adding up to a player who has started swiftly in eight of his last eleven starts, which enabled him to rank 24th on tour last season in round-one scoring.

His record here is solid but not as strong as you’d expect for a course which appears to suit his accurate ball-striking and excellent short game. Having said that, a 4th-place finish in 2018 showed what he is capable of, as he opened with a 64 to sit 3rd after round one and followed that with a 63; firing two further 64s over the years at Waialae.

This shows Harman is capable of finding that low one needed and as one of the fastest-starting players in this field over recent months, he looks to have a great chance of topping this field at the close of play on Thursday.

Brian Harman Sony Open First round leader

(First-Round Leader) Andrew Putnam 66/1 – 1/4 5 places – 0.75 pts ew

Start Time: 08:10

Andrew Putnam finished 40th in last week’s The Sentry but he was doing all of his best work over the weekend. With that rust now shaken off, he can make a speedy start this week at a course where he’s proven an ability to go very low.

Putnam was really slow to get going at Kapalua, sitting second-to-last after round one and dropping to be bottom of the pile after round two. Though he got better as the week went on, shooting a 6-under 67 in round three and after a closing 64 he’d risen up the leaderboard to 40th.

What I find particularly encouraging is that after his only previous start in The Sentry in 2019, he followed up with a best ever finish in the Sony the following week, when 2nd; an event at which he opened with an 8-under 62 to sit 2nd after the first round.

That was comfortably the best start Putnam has ever made in the event and with another 62 in last year’s third round here – where he eventually finished 4th – showing that low one wasn’t a fluke, I’m hoping lightning will strike twice and he can follow a week at Kapalua with a quick start in the Sony.

Andrew Putnam Sony Open 1st round leader

(First-Round Leader) Nick Taylor 70/1 – 1/4 5 places – 0.75 pts ew

Start Time: 08:10

Nick Taylor’s record at the Sony Open has been improving year-on-year and with several low rounds under his belt he can capitalise on his early start to hit the top on Thursday.

The Canadian made an inauspicious start to his year by finishing 52nd at The Sentry. Although, despite that being his worst performance in that event in three visits, it is a course that he hasn’t played particularly well at previously, therefore it’s easy to ignore.

He looked in good shape towards the end of last season and it was noticeable how quickly he started in some of those closing events, with an opening 65 enough to see him sit 6th after round one of the Shriners; one better than the score he shot to sit 2nd after the opening round of the Phoenix Open earlier in the year.

As mentioned, Taylor’s Sony record has been getting better with each passing visit, recording an 11th-place finish in 2021 and he was 7th last year. He has shot a round of 62 in each of those editions and we can take encouragement from the fact that his best start in this event - when opening with a 66 in the 2021 first round - came following a tune-up at The Sentry.

Nick Taylor Sony Open First round leader

(Top 20) - Hayden Buckley 6/1 – 1.5 pts

I’m going to move away from the first-round leader market for my final selection of the week and perennially quick starter, Hayden Buckley looks great value for a top 20 finish in Hawaii.

After some positive performances at the start of 2023, Buckley’s year fizzled out after he made a return following a rib injury, but that shouldn’t put us off looking at him getting 2024 off to a good start.

He made his first start in this event in 2022, where he finished 12th and returned last year to finish 2nd. In both performances he has gained strokes on the greens – a positive for a player who occasionally looks lost with the flat stick.

His rapid yearly starts aren’t exclusive to Waialae alone, as in 2021 he kicked off his second season on the Korn Ferry Tour with a victory in the LECOM Suncoast Classic in Florida; no coincidence that bermudagrass was again on show there.

That takes Buckley’s record on his first start of the year to 1 – 12 – 2 in the last three years, and as someone who has never shot a round worse than 68 in eight career rounds in the Sony Open, he looks an appealing price to record another top 20 in the event this week.

Hayden Buckley top 20 finish Sony Open

Golf Betting tips, from Betfred Insights.

Share Article

(Visited 518 times, 1 visits today)