Its back! The first full field event of 2017 at the Waialae Country Club
Forget about last weeks limited field SBC Champions event at the crazy Kapalua – as entertaining as that was. Here it couldn’t be more different with a clear focus on accuracy off the tee…as opposed to huge open spaces and wicked slopes last week. Jordan Speith heads the market and he talked up his chances after posting the lowest Sunday round to move into equal 3rd. Any rust should have been sloughed off for those that played last week but for all Spieth’s scoring prowess he just occasionally hit it way too sideways for me coming into this event. He pips Hideki Matsuyama in the market whose form is sensational. Despite this he too looked shaky down the stretch and he’s played a lot of golf, all of it in contention, and that has to tell. I wouldn’t rule either of them out but they don’t appeal at the prices.
The course is a proper old fashioned drivers paradise and past winners feature a range of players across the power / distance spectrum including Jimmy Walker (twice..but hardly noted for accuracy) and Fabian Gomez the Argentinean last year edging out Brandt Snedeker in a playoff. Ryan Palmer, Zach Johnson, Russell Henley, KJ Choi, Johnson Wagner and David Toms….round out a parade of great players but not superstars who’ve prevailed around here. Since the tournaments inception in 1965 no winner had averaged over 300 yards…and all winners from 2009 – 2013 averaged under 300 yards with Johnson Wagner coming in at 276.4. Come Jimmy Walkers’ 2014 win at 319+ and then again in 2015 at 308+ we then have Fabian Gomez last year at 306. A clear trend probably more a reflection of Walker skewing the results and ball / equipment. Suffice to say Walker won by 9 so great, long driving set him up for a ton of birdies. The event has also seen it appear in the top ten in most birdies yielded over the course of the season for the past four years.
Where does all this lead us?
Charles Howell 111 1pt e/w @ $51
Zach Johson 1pt e/w @ $61
Zac Blair 1pt e/w at $151
Cody Gribble 1pt e/w @ $151
Chucky 3 Sticksloves this place and while he never seems to win this event is weak by some PGA Tour standards. Charlie has won just twice on tour but made a ton of cash over the years and had a good 2016 with six top 10’s. He’s posted seven top tens in twelve running’s including two runners up and two thirds here. He has some reasonable 2016/17 form as well with some better than average driving stats (for him). He’s not an obvious pick but horses for courses allied to some good recent form suggest he could get into the mix
1pt e/w @ 51 with
Zach Johnson has two top 10s at the Sony Open in his last three starts at the tournament and won this in 2009. He’ accurate off the tee and into the greens and can he putt! Plus he’s a multiple Major Champion and long time winner / performer on tour.
1pt e/w @ $61 with
Zac Blair is tiny at 5ft 6 and has never won on tour but in two starts here’s he posted a 6th and a 3rd. It could be his accuracy off the tee and into the smallish greens. His worst GIR figures this season were the 69.44 % at the Shriners – he missed the cut having hit only 53% of the fairways…but by and large he’s a very straight driver. Looks to have a nice profile for this event and he’s 150/1.
1pt e/w at $151 with
Cody Gribble is a Web.com tour graduate who won early in his main tour career. He’s yet to tee it up here but he played last week in the SBC Champions courtesy of his win last year and finished a respectable 14th. In his six starts on tour he’s posted an 8th first up and then won the Sanderson Farms. Where he really appeals is his ability to make a ton of birdies -111 so far this season topping that category at 5.05 a round. If he can keep the bogeys and worse off his card anything’s possible.