Aloha again! Part 2 of 2 of the Hawaii Swing has arrived. After a remarkable comeback victory by Jon Rahm at Kapalua, we're island hopping to East Honululu on the island of Oahu for the Sony Open (did you know Honululu isn't on the main island of Hawaii? You do now.) 19 of the 39 players from the Tournament of Champions will join us for the Sony for what will be a full field event - 144 players, top 65 and ties make the cut. Despite some of the biggest names from Kapalua not being among those playing, this is still a pretty solid field for a tournament halfway across the Pacific.
Last year it was Hideki Matsuyama who edged out Russell Henley in a playoff after Henley led the tournament following the first 3 rounds. Matsuyama tracked Henley down with a Sunday 63 and then absolutely stole his soul with his trademark cut 3-wood on the first playoff hole for a kick-in eagle.
Last year's leaderboard and recent winners of the Sony Open…
Waialae Country Club is a par 70 measuring just a hair over 7,000 yards. As evidenced by those winning scores, it's not a terribly challenging golf course. Between Waialae and what we see every year at Kapalua, it's safe to say the Hawaii Swing is a cakewalk for these guys.
Now with that said, don't misconstrue these two courses to be all that similar. The differences go beyond just Kapalua being a par 73 and Waialae being a par 70. They're stylistically very different as well. Kapalua is extremely hilly with massive fairways and greens. Nearly 75% of drives hit fairways at Kapalua. On the other hand, Waialae's fairways are among the hardest on Tour to hit, with players hitting about 52% of fairways. Driving accuracy is a virtue this week. That's why you've seen guys like Kuchar, Kizzire, Gomez, and Na in the victory circle. I also noted in my Mayakoba preview that El Camaleon and Waialae have very similar leaderboard overlap, particularly with Kuchar and Kizzire having won both events in recent years. So if you're gonna go deep into the weeds on researching picks, looking at Mayakoba results might be one place to start. Real shame Viktor Hovland isn't playing because I would be hammering the heck outta the Hov.
Best Hole - 16th Par 4, 441 yards
If you follow golf closely, the Palm tree W has gotta be the first thing you think of when you hear the word "Waialae". In reality, this hole doesn't really have much to it. It's a dogleg left par 4 with some fairway bunkers running up the right side to penalize those who try to blast it through the dogleg. You'll see some guys bomb it over the corner towards that 3rd bunker, but ultimately as it relates to difficulty the hole is pretty benign.
But these days the palm tree W is the trademark of this golf course. It'll remind old movie buffs of the big W that the treasure was buried under from It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World. Rear Admiral might see the thumbnail on this blog and think I'm infringing on his TCM turf. I'm not. It's just a fkn sweet golf course feature. Fun little story about it - it's only been around since 2009. Apparently one of the club members had the idea and lobbied for the club to create the W with some palm trees behind that green. When they found out it would only cost $4,000 to do it, it became a no-brainer. Hence, the iconic 16th at Waialae.
The Weather/TV Coverage
Hawaii. You get it.
More afternoon and evening golf for us East Coasters. Love that.
Obligatory Iconic Sony Open Moment
Walkoff hole-outs are going to get posted every time. Especially when they're monumental wins for an emerging golf country.
Another week, another unspectacular trophy. I'm not 100% convinced that the College Football Playoff didn't steal their trophy idea off of this one. And that trophy stinks. Just like this one. Redemption points for the lei and that trophy POPS with the yellow shirt but this is still a 3.5/10.
Tom Kim (!) is your slight tournament favorite this week at +1000 at the Barstool Sportsbook. I didn't have a lot of success last week over at Kapalua but Tom was the one bright spot, finishing T-5 in his first go at the Tournament of Champions to cash a Top 10 ticket.
It's so early in Tom's career where we're still learning about what makes that guy tick. It's clear that he's a dynamo with few weaknesses, but the sample size isn't all that big to really drill down on what he excels at. But early indications are that he thrives on shorter courses like this one, which suggests a classic ball-striker's profile. His two wins at Wyndham and the Shriners were at relatively shorter courses at 7,131 and 7,255 yards, and his only missed cut since exploding on to the Tour was at last year's PGA, which measured out at a lengthier 7,556.
I'm on the Tom Kim train at +1000. And wouldn't ya know it? I just noticed my colleague Dan is too. And that's why he's boosted to +1175. Honest to god did not know this was his pick until I had already done my research and typed all this up.
Synergy. Let's go Tom.
Tom Kim Top 10 +138 - LGT.
Hideki Matsuyama To Win +1800/Top 10 +200 - Didn't play great last week (T-21) but like him as a defending champ against this weaker field.
Denny McCarthy To Win +5500/Top 20 +240 - Denny had his best year to date in 2022 and sniffed around a W a couple times. This is one of those places that fits his profile where he could break thru.
Webb Simpson To Win +7000/Top 20 +280 - Obviously been a tough couple years for Webb with injuries but he's had time to get right. Great course fit, this is a pretty similar track to Sea Island where Webb is a perennial favorite.
Corey Conners Top Canadian +138 - Ball-striker. Hughes, Svensson, Nick Taylor, and Gligic are the competition here. Corey.
Hole in One in Tournament Yes -125 - A simple and fun one. Three par 3's under 200 yards. Let's all pop off when it happens.
That's what I got this week. Enjoy the Sony Open.