Sony Open in Hawaii 2024 Tips: Si Woo one of six for PGA

 | January 08 | 

20 mins read

jamie worsley pga tour

Jamie Worsley hit the bar last week, with a second placed finish for Sahith Theegala at 66/1. Can he now go one better at the Sony Open in Hawaii? As usual, our ace golf tipster has his full long-read preview and six each-way selections for you. 

Sony Open Betting Tips

  • 1.25 pts Si Woo Kim each way (1/5 - 6 Places) - 40/1 
  • 1.25 pts Denny McCarthy each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 40/1 
  • 1 pt Adam Svensson each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 55/1 
  • 1 pt Lucas Glover each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 66/1
  • 1 pt Ben Griffin each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 70/1 
  • 1 pt Tom Hoge each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 90/1

The new golfing year got off to its typically birdie-loaded start at Kapalua last week, as Chris Kirk produced an excellent final-round display to hold off the charging Sahith Theegala and Jordan Spieth, and successfully convert his 54-hole lead; doing so with a final score of 29-under-par.

Kirk will be back in action this week at one of his favourite haunts, Waialae Country Club, where a strong field has assembled for our first full-field event of the year: the Sony Open.

TOURNAMENT HISTORY

The Sony Open debuted on the PGA Tour as the Hawaiian Open in 1965 and barring 1970 it has been played on tour every year since, with each renewal taking place at Waialae Country Club.

Sony stepped in to become the sponsor of the tournament in 1999, which coincided with its moving on the schedule to this spot as the first full-field tournament of the year, following The Sentry to form the second leg of a Hawaiian double-header to kick off the new year.

Five players have won multiple Sony Open titles; four of whom have done so by winning in back-to-back years.

Most recent of those was Jimmy Walker in 2014 and 2015; preceded by: Ernie Els (2003, 2004), Corey Pavin (1986, 1987) and Hubert Green (1978, 1979). Whilst Lanny Wadkins had to wait three years for his second Sony win, picking up the title in 1988 and 1991. As yet, nobody has won the event on three occasions.

Last five winners:

  • 2023: Si Woo Kim -18
  • 2022: Hideki Matsuyama -23
  • 2021: Kevin Na -21
  • 2020: Cameron Smith -11
  • 2019: Matt Kuchar -22

Other notable winners:

  • 2017: Justin Thomas -27 (lowest winning score since the course switched to a par 70 in 1999)
  • 1998: John Huston -28 (lowest winning score when the course was still a par 72)
  • 1983: Isao Aoki -20 (first Asian player to win on the PGA Tour)
  • 1981: Hale Irwin -23
  • 1974: Jack Nicklaus -17
  • 1968: Lee Trevino -16

Si Woo Kim came from 5th place and three behind entering the final round to win his fourth PGA Tour title in the event last year, firing an excellent final-round 64. In doing so, he became only the second player in the last ten renewals to win the event without having a tune-up in The Sentry the previous week, replicating Cameron Smith in 2020.

The Korean star is back to defend this week, in what looks set to be one of the most interesting renewals of the Sony Open in many years.

THE COURSE

The Seth Raynor-designed Waialae Country Club opened for play in 1927 and has been tinkered with by several architects over the years. Tom Doak is the most recent of these and currently acts as a consultant at the club; he made changes in 2016/17, which were done with the aim of restoring the course to be more in-line with Raynor’s original design.

The course was played as a par 72 from the inception of this event up to John Huston’s aforementioned record-breaking winning score in 1998. It switched to a par 70 the following year but it is still a course that can be got at if the wind doesn’t blow, averaging a winning score of -19.9 in the last ten years, with six of those editions being won in a score of -20 or lower.

This par 70 plays to 7044 yards, possessing 12x par 4s (351-480 yards), 4x par 3s (176-204 yards) and 2x par 5s (506-551 yards).

The course is flat and largely tree-lined, though there is enough space with the fairways relatively generous. Most of the holes dogleg, with four of the final five playing from right-to-left and with some strategic bunkering, fairways can be tough to find despite the space within them.

Having said that, the often slow and large bermudagrass greens are among the easiest to find on tour (inside the top 10), with the grown-out rough in last year’s renewal doing little to punish those wayward drivers. Said greens are very well bunkered and the subtle undulations outfox many, particularly if the weather allows them to firm up.

Water is in-play on five holes and with Waialae being situated on the Pacific Coast, it is always susceptible to wind. Which if it arrives, seriously changes the dynamics and difficulty of the venue, as shown by Cameron Smith’s -11 winning score in 2020.

Both nines finish with par 5s that will be gettable for all and though the par 3s have some of the most heavily-bunkered greens on the course, they’re not too intimidating. The par 4s are the real meat of this course and whilst scores can be made on them, few are pushovers and require ball-striking of the highest order to orchestrate those scoring opportunities.

THE STATS

Key Stats:

  • SG: Approach
  • Proximity - 150-175 yards
  • SG: Putting (Bermudagrass)
  • Par 4 Scoring
  • Scrambling

We’re set for some rain-softened conditions in Hawaii this week and though wind may make things a little more interesting over the weekend, I expect scoring to be good. This means that the usual necessity of quality approach play and/or a hot week on the greens are a must.

Si Woo Kim led the field in approach last year and while Hideki Matsuyama was at his best with putter when winning in 2022, five of that year’s top 10 ranked inside the top 10 in approach.

Kevin Na was 5th in approach when winning in 2021 and every winner from 2016-2019 ranked at least 7th; Fabian Gomez ranked 2nd (2016), Justin Thomas 5th (2017), Patton Kizzire 4th (2018) and Matt Kuchar 7th (2019).

Digging a little deeper and it’s in that 150-175 range that holds the most sway at Waialae, with over 26% of approach shots hit in that distance range in last year’s event.

It’s no surprise to see many a strong week on the greens relate to success in an event where scoring is often low. As mentioned, Hideki ranked 1st on the greens when winning in 2022, as did Cameron Smith in 2020 and each winner from Jimmy Walker in 2015 to Matt Kuchar in 2019 ranked no worse than 6th with the putter. Therefore, we should look closely at those proven on bermudagrass.

Finally, players will need to handle that high volume of par 4s and with a little wind potentially putting some pressure on the ball-striking over the weekend, a decent scrambling ability could prove important; four of the last five winners ranked inside the top 6 in scrambling that week.

CORRELATING EVENTS (COURSES)

Honda Classic (PGA National)

Though the abundance of water at PGA National makes it a more perilous ball-striking test than this week’s course, there are plenty of similarities that mean it can act as a strong comp for the Sony Open. It is a short par 70 situated by the coast, with large bermudagrass greens and puts added importance on approaches in that 150-175 yard range.

Notable Correlating Form:

Russell Henley:

Sony (1st, 2nd) / Honda (1st, 3rd)

Mark Wilson:

Sony (1st) / Honda (1st)

Matt Kuchar:

Sony (1st, 3rd, 5th, 5th) / Honda (1st)

Ryan Palmer:

Sony (1st, 4th) / Honda (2nd 4th)

Chris Kirk:

Sony (2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 5th) / Honda (1st, 7th)

Michael Thompson:

Sony (5th, 6th) / Honda (1st)

Brendan Steele:

Sony (2nd, 4th) / Honda (3rd, 4th)

Wyndham Championship (Sedgefield Country Club)

Much like the above, Sedgefield Country Club is a short, tree-lined par 70, with bermudagrass greens and sees a higher volume of approaches hit between 150-175 yards. It ranks closely to here in most aspects statistically, both in ball-striking and short-game difficulty, meaning it should work as an ideal correlating course this week.

Notable Correlating Form:

Si Woo Kim:

Sony (1st, 4th) / Wyndham (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th)

Kevin Na:

Sony (1st, 4th, 5th) / Wyndham (2nd, 4th)

Russell Henley:

Sony (1st, 2nd) / Wyndham (2nd, 5th)

Brandt Snedeker:

Sony (2nd) / Wyndham (1st, 3rd, 5th, 5th)

Kevin Kisner:

Sony (3rd, 4th, 4th, 5th) / Wyndham (1st, 3rd)

Webb Simpson:

Sony (3rd, 4th, 4th) / Wyndham (1st, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd)

RSM Classic (Sea Island Resort)

The Seaside Course at Sea Island hosts three rounds of the RSM Classic and ticks the same boxes as the two courses already mentioned; as a short par 70 covered in bermudagrass, with large greens and is located on the coast. It ranks particularly closely in the questions it asks of your short game.

Notable Correlating Form:

Kevin Kisner:

Sony (3rd, 4th, 4th, 5th) / RSM (1st, 2nd, 4th, 4th)

Charles Howell:

Sony (2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 3rd) / RSM (1st)

Chris Kirk:

Sony (2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 5th) / RSM (1st, 4th, 4th)

Russell Henley:

Sony (1st, 2nd) / RSM (4th, 6th, 10th)

Webb Simpson:

Sony (3rd, 4th, 4th) / RSM (2nd, 2nd, 3rd)

Michael Thompson:

Sony (5th, 6th) / RSM (3rd)

Jamie Lovemark:

Sony (4th, 7th) / RSM (6th, 9th)

Seamus Power:

Sony (3rd) / RSM (4th, 5th)

 

World Wide Technology Championship (El Camaleon)

Former host of the World Wide Technology Championship, El Camaleon, is a short, coastal track which offers up a similar ball-striking test to Waialae, ranking closely in both driving accuracy and greens-in-regulation percentages.

Notable Correlating Form:

Matt Kuchar:

Sony (1st, 3rd, 5th, 5th) / El Camaleon (1st, 3rd)

Patton Kizzire:

Sony (1st, 7th) / El Camaleon (1st, 10th)

Russell Henley:

Sony (1st, 2nd) / El Camaleon (1st)

Johnson Wagner:

Sony (1st) / El Camaleon (1st)

Mark Wilson:

Sony (1st) / El Camaleon (1st)

Si Woo Kim:

Sony (1st, 4th) / El Camaleon (3rd)

Steve Marino:

Sony (2nd, 4th) / El Camaleon (2nd)

Brian Stuard:

Sony (4th, 5th, 6th) / El Camaleon (2nd, 2nd)

 

Texas Open (TPC San Antonio)

Many players with ties to Texas have gone well at the Sony, no doubt due to the necessity to handle wind that is often required both there and in this event.

Notable Correlating Form:

Jimmy Walker:

Sony (1st, 1st) / Texas (1st, 3rd, 4th)

Mark Wilson:

Sony (1st) / Texas (2nd, 3rd)

Matt Kuchar:

Sony (1st, 3rd, 5th, 5th) / Texas (2nd, 3rd, 4th)

Ryan Palmer:

Sony (1st, 4th) / Texas (4th, 6th, 6th)

Si Woo Kim:

Sony (1st, 4th) / Texas (4th)

Brendan Steele:

Sony (2nd, 4th) / Texas (1st, 4th)

Corey Conners:

Sony (3rd) / Texas (1st, 1st)

Chris Kirk:

Sony (2nd, 2nd, 3rd, 5th) / Texas (6th, 8th, 8th)

 

Bermuda Championship (Port Royal Golf Club)

I’m going to finish with the Bermuda Championship at Port Royal Golf Club for my final comp course this week. It ticks most of the boxes: short, tree-lined, large bermudagrass greens and coastal.

Notable Correlating Form:

Seamus Power:

Sony (3rd) / Bermuda (1st)

Brian Gay:

Sony (5th, 6th) / Bermuda (1st, 3rd)

Fabian Gomez:

Sony (1st) / Bermuda (7th)

Ryan Palmer:

Sony (1st, 4th) / Bermuda (8th)

 

THE WEATHER

With some heavy rain set to fall on Monday and reappearing again on Thursday/Friday, the course conditions should be receptive this week in Hawaii. As always, wind can be a serious factor at this type of course and though nothing too severe is currently forecast, gusts of up to 20mph over the weekend could make things tricky.

THE FIELD

Our first full-field event of the new season brings an intriguing field to Waialae Country Club.

Thirty-seven of last week’s 59-man field in The Sentry stay on for the Sony Open. World #8, Matt Fitzpatrick is the highest-ranked player in the field and is joined by #9 Brian Harman from the world’s top 10.

A further twenty-one of the world’s top 50 are also in attendance, including last year’s winner, Si Woo Kim. He is one of seven former winners teeing it up, along with Hideki Matsuyama (2021), Matt Kuchar (2019), Patton Kizzire (2018), Russell Henley (2013), Ryan Palmer (2010) and Zach Johnson (2009).

This week is the first event where we’ll see some of the newcomers to tour in action. This includes five of the ten players who earned PGA Tour cards via the DP World Tour last season: Alexander Bjork, Sami Valimaki, Robert MacIntyre, Matthieu Pavon and Ryo Hisatsune. Whilst fourteen of the Korn Ferry Tour graduates will be involved, including the top 5 from 2023 of Ben Kohles, Chan Kim, Alejandro Tosti, Rico Hoey and Ben Silverman.

Japanese stars and former world #1 amateurs, Takumi Kanaya and Taiga Semikawa are in on sponsors exemptions and we will also see the official return from injury of Will Zalatoris and Gary Woodland, the latter who underwent brain surgery in September last year.

SELECTIONS

Market Leaders: Ludvig Aberg 12/1, Matt Fitzpatrick 16/1, Tyrrell Hatton 16/1, Brian Harman 22/1, Russell Henley 22/1

This looks a wide open contest and a difficult one to call, with many unknowns entering the fray.

Whilst we’ve had a couple of winners in recent years to not have played in The Sentry, history is still in favour of players blowing away the cobwebs at Kapalua if they have aspirations of winning here. Thus the majority of my selections will be made up of players who teed it up last week.

I begin with last year’s Sony Open winner, Si Woo Kim, who’s a decent price to become the fifth player to record back-to-back wins at Waialae after an encouraging start to his year in The Sentry.

1.25 pts Si Woo Kim each way (1/5 - 6 Places) - 40/1 

Si Woo finished 25th at Kapalua, where he showed quality in every area of his game at some point and closed out the event with a 7-under 66 in round four. It was particularly promising to see him find a little something in approach, which had been an issue later in the season in 2023, after guiding him to many strong performances in the early/middle part of the year, including that win here.

He ranked 44th on tour last season in approach but more importantly for this week’s tournament he was 5th in approaches from 150-175 yards. His scrambling ability is another asset here, as he showed last year and though the putter would be the weakest part of his game, it’s no coincidence that each of his four PGA Tour wins so far have come on bermudagrass.

The Korean highlighted his potential as a winner here on debut in 2016, finishing 4th and recorded another solid effort when 25th in 2021. A good record at the Wyndham - where he’s finished 1st and 2nd among other strong performances – is another plus; as are top 4 finishes at El Camaleon and in the Texas Open.

These short, tree-lined courses, where there is an emphasis on quality approach play is Kim’s bag and though somewhat of a trend-breaker last year, that taster last week should have him primed for a big performance in defence of his title.

Si woo 40-1

1.25 pts Denny McCarthy each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 40/1 

Denny McCarthy had the best year of his PGA Tour career in 2023 and whilst he took a little time to get going on his debut in The Sentry last week, I was encouraged by the fact he was doing all of his best work at the end, closing with a 6-under 67. His previous two efforts here offer positives and he looks the ideal type to succeed at Waialae.

McCarthy recorded ten top 25 finishes on tour last season, seven of which were top 10s and went closest when an agonising playoff loser to Viktor Hovland in the Memorial Tournament. He maintained a strong level of form throughout the year, signing off 2023 with a 5th-place finish in the RSM Classic.

The putter is his biggest weapon, ranking 3rd on tour last season and he is strong on all surfaces. That contributes to his strong scrambling stats, where he ranked 9th in 2023 and among a list of elite ball-strikers, I was impressed by his high ranking of 5th in par 4 scoring, which should come in handy on the twelve par 4s at Waialae.

Though efforts of 48th and 32nd here in the last two years don’t sound like much, there has been lots to like about those previous two starts. He fired rounds of 64 and 66 in 2022, and opened with a 65 last year to sit inside the top 5 after round one; following that with two rounds of 68 to take him to 16th entering the final round, before standing still there to finish 32nd. With 5/8 rounds in the 60s and a worst of just 71, he certainly looks to have the game to contend here if it all clicks.

That belief is strengthened by McCarthy’s strong book of correlating form, which includes finishes of 3rd at PGA National; 4th and 6th in the Bermuda Championship and three top 10s in the RSM Classic.

mccarthy

1 pt Adam Svensson each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 55/1 

Adam Svensson looked solid at Kapalua last week, reeling off three consecutive rounds of 68 to finish his week in 33rd. As a strong iron player who looks good on bermuda, this type of challenge suits him down to the ground, which he’s shown in past efforts here and at comp events alike.

The Canadian was in really good shape towards the end of 2023, where he made his last eleven cuts in a row and recorded six top 25 finishes; a 5th-place finish in the season-ending RSM Classic – where he led the field in approach - rating as his best effort over this period.

That quality in approach was evident throughout much of that late-2023 run and saw him rank top 50 on tour by season’s end. A solid level of play that was replicated throughout much of his game and saw him develop into a quality all-rounder over the course of the season.

He has made the cut in each of his three previous visits to Waialae, recording a best of 7th in 2022; an event in which he sat 3rd entering the final round. However, his highlight here is no doubt the opening 61 that saw him take the first-round-lead in 2019 and of his twelve career rounds he has only shot over par once; posting a number in the 60s on ten occasions.

Svensson’s affinity for coastal golf can be traced back to his first professional victory in The Bahamas on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2018 and he signalled this again in 2022, winning his first PGA Tour title in the RSM Classic. He’s a player who has made a habit of winning in recent years and he looks well placed to launch another challenge this week.

adam svensson 55-1

1 pt Lucas Glover each way (1/5 - 6 places) - 66/1

Lucas Glover was one of the stories of the PGA Tour towards the end of last season with his back-to-back wins in the Wyndham Championship/St Jude Classic. He maintained a good level of form following those wins and after ranking as the best approach player in the field in his 29th-place finish in The Sentry last week, he can add a third win in a little over five months at Waialae.

Glover had been enduring another year to forget in the first half of 2023 but turned it around at the Canadian Open. His 20th-place finish there was his first top 20 of the season and he kicked on after it, responding to a missed cut in the Travelers Championship with three consecutive top 6 finishes in the Rocket Mortgage Classic, John Deere Classic and Barbasol Championship.

He then bounced back from another missed cut in the 3M Open to record those two wins, converting from a leading position entering the final round in both.

Whilst this turnaround can be largely attributed to his approach play, for which he ranks 5th over the last six months and was 6th last season from 150-175 yards, it was aided by a switch to a broomstick putter bringing about better performances on the greens for a player who has been just about as low as it’s possible to go with that club.

Glover hasn’t played here a great deal in the past but recorded a best of 5th in 2022. His win at the Wyndham last year can act as a guide and with top 5s across the Texas Open, Honda Classic and at El Camaleon all offering added promise, he looks a big price to go well.

lucas glover 66-1

1 pt Ben Griffin each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 70/1 

Ben Griffin’s debut season on tour was littered with positives, including a strong first-time effort here and with some comp form providing some extra encouragement, I’m taking him to shine on his first start of the year in Hawaii.

Griffin finished 12th here at the start of 2023 but most of his best performances came towards the end of the year. He recorded six top 25s in his last eleven starts, going close to a first PGA Tour win when 2nd in the Sanderson Farms Championship and finished his year with an 8th in the RSM Classic.

He showed quality across most areas last year but was particularly strong with the short game, ranking top 40 on the greens – where most of his best performances came on bermudagrass – and he was top 50 in scrambling. Combined with a solid level of approach play he was able to play the par 4s well enough to sit inside the top 25 in par 4 scoring at the end of the season.

Griffin opened with a 65 here last year to sit 4th after round one and entered the final round in 9th, before eventually settling for 12th – though shot every round in the 60s. With a 3rd in the Bermuda Championship, 4th in the Wyndham Championship and 8th in the RSM Classic, three of his four PGA Tour top 10s have come in comp events and he can rely on this experience to impress this week.

griffin

1 pt Tom Hoge each way (1/5 - 8 places) - 90/1

Tom Hoge has consistently been one of the best iron players on tour over recent years, which was once again on show last week and with some strong efforts to his name here, he’s an appealing price for a win in the Sony Open.

Hoge had an up-and-down year in 2023, with a 3rd in THE PLAYERS Championship a highlight. After struggling for form throughout the middle of the year, he found some consistency over his latter starts, recording five top 25s in his last ten starts and missing just two cuts.

His return to action resulted in a finish of 38th last week but he looked very good in approach, ranking 4th. This is reminiscent of the quality he showed last season, where he ranked 9th for both approach and proximity from 150-175 yards, whilst further promise can be found in the fact he’s typically putted well here.

Hoge produced this combined quality in approach and on the greens to finish 3rd in the 2018 Sony Open, returning to finish 12th in 2020. Efforts of 3rd at El Camaleon and 4th in the RSM Classic are another plus and with his liking for coastal golf on display from his solo PGA Tour win at Pebble Beach, I expect him to be in the mix.

TOm Hoge

You can find all Jamie's latest Golf Betting Tips on our dedicated Betfred Insights golf hub.

Share Article

(Visited 1,536 times, 1 visits today)