For the second week of the ‘Hawaii swing’ the PGA Tour island hops from Maui to Ohau and arrives in Honolulu the capital city of the state.
20 players from the Sentry Tournament of Champions are due to tee it up at the Sony including defending champion Justin Thomas. Thomas will have to ‘go some’ to match his heroics of last year which included opening up with a 59 before shooting a record -27 total for the four rounds.
The event has been played since its inception in 1965 at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
The course was designed by Seth Raynor who also designed the Old White Course used for the Greenbrier.
The course is a Par 70 playing to just over 7000 yards and features Bermuda Greens.
The two par 5s are the 9th and the 18th. Both are great birdie opportunities with the 9th usually playing to the easier stroke average of the two.
7 of the last 10 editions of the event have been won by a player who had played in the Tournament of champions event the week before so it pays to focus on the previous weeks field.
Of the 3 winners who were teeing it up for the first time in the year only one of them, Russell Henley was a first time winner on tour. [The other two winners playing for the first time in the year were Ryan Palmer and Mark Wilson].
The highest winning score in the last 10yrs is -13 [KJ Choi] and in 4 of the last 5yrs the winning score has been -20 or lower so this is clearly a low scoring event.
Only 2 the last 10 winners have been non Americans [Fabien Gomez & KJ Choi]. Interestingly of the 8 American winners 4 were natives of Texas. Jimmy Walker [twice], Ryan Palmer & Johnson Wagner, whilst one of two non American winners KJ Choi has made his US base in Texas for many years.
The other 4 winners to hail from the US over the past 10yrs, [Justin Thomas, Russell Henley, Mark Wilson & Zach Johnson] either hail from southern states or had a proven track record in events played in eastern/southern states of the US.
In other words while you can ‘never say never’ this is not an event won by players hailing from the West Coast of the US!
Finally while past course form is always useful it doesn’t seem hugely pertinent here with the likes of Zach Johnson, Fabien Gomez, Ryan Palmer & Mark Wilson not having anything higher than a 20th place between them before they won the event and of course Henley was making his course debut.
As was the case at the Kapalua resort last week the wind can be a factor at Waialae, however as I write the forecast doesn’t call for anything more than 5-10MPH.
Another dry week is forecast so again like last week I would look for the course to play fairly firm and fast.
I have gone with 5 players this week as follows;
SI WOO KIM – 66-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/4 odds 1st 5 FINISH 58th
I mentioned above that the winner of this event usually comes from the T of C field from the week before.
When pricing up the event in my mind I had Si Woo as a 40-1 shot and the 66-1 really leapt of the page at me. [Infact there was 70s earlier].
Si Woo’s 10th place at the Sentry T of C caught the eye and he is undoubtedly a man to follow when he has had a nice steady finish the week before.
His ‘out of the blue’ win at Sawgrass came on the back of a 22nd place finish in his previous individual start and his first win at the Wyndham came after a 25th in his previous start.
Throw in the fact that he has a 4th place here in his only previous start and his form at similar style events/courses such as OHL Mayakoba and of course Sawgrass and I’m more than happy to take the 60-1 about a proven winner who is not afraid to win with the likes of Spieth and JT in the field.
Finally and for what it’s worth I mentioned the Texas connection to this event above and Si Woo like previous Korean winner KJ Choi makes his US home in Texas.
ZACH JOHNSON – 35-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/4 odds 1st 5 FINISH 14th
It’s been a lean time on the ‘win front’ for Zach over the past couple of years with nothing in the W column since his memorable victory at St Andrews.
Now 41yrs old Zach is at that crossroads time of his career where unless he’s careful he could gradually start drifting away from the games main spotlight.
Fortunately Zach seems to have realised this and there were signs that he had rededicated himself towards the end of last year with three solid performances at the start of the 2017-18 campaign including an 8th place finish last time out.
Whilst he has defied logic many times over the years by producing the goods on many courses which in theory should not suit his game [most notably Augusta of course], Waialae Country club is most definitely a course right up his ally. This has been shown with 5 top 12 finishes including a win in his last 10 starts in the event and I can see Zach getting of to a flying start here in 2018.
RUSSELL HENLEY – 33-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISH M/C
Henley is a fairly obvious pick this week which doesn’t need too much explaining and I felt the 33-1 more than fair compared to the other market leaders. [The 40-1 shown for Betfair on oddschecker as I type is not correct]
His record at the course speaks for itself and after a solid tune up last week at Kapalua I fancy his putter to warm up on what is forecast to be a fairly calm week.
CAMERON SMITH – 40-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISH 18th
I was on Cam last week and after his poor start on Thursday saw him +5 through his first 8 holes he bounced back nicely to have a pretty decent week in the end.
Moving on as those who read my Blog will know I picked Cam as a player to follow for 2018 and having highlighted this event as one I felt would suit his game I can’t really abandon him now!
My reasoning behind choosing this event for Cam was fairly simple in that his best form in the US has been shown on shorter links type courses such as Hilton Head and Pebble Beach as well as at Chambers Bay in the US Open, another links course.
This of course would be expected from a man who grew up in Brisbane on the Australian Coast and I’m optimistic for a big week ahead.
BRIAN GAY – 125-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/4 odds 1st 5 FINISH 58th
I will finish this weeks picks by going for another player I backed in the last full field event of 2017.
2017 was a fantastic year for Gay with him regaining his full playing privileges when on a Major Medical Extension and he racked up four top 10 finishes in the process.
Considering that you can rule out Brian from seriously contending in about 50% of events that he plays in due to his lack of length of the tee that’s a great strike return from him.
Waialae country club is though one of his favourite stomping grounds and he must be chomping at the bit to get out there after his 3rd place finish last time out at the RSM when we were on.
Finally as a native of Texas Gay also ticks that box and as an added good measure he is a course specialist at Southwind the home of the Fedex St Jude, which is linked to Waialae by Fabien Gomez' two PGA tour wins.
UPDATE 10th JAN
Those of you who have been following me for a while will be aware that as well as giving my main selections each week I also pick one player a week in the full field events as a 'trader'.
The criteria I have for this player is that they are priced at 200+ on the betting exchanges.
The aim of the trader is not to necassarily find a player who I think will win the event or even a player who I think will place in the event but to find someone who I think will start well for the first round or two and potentially get in the hunt. If they do go on to win [which has happened on a couple of ocassions!] that is obviously a bonus.
My target after backing the trader is to then lay them at 1/4 of the price I backed them at for 3x the initial stake, thus giving a guaranteed 200% profit should they reach the target price whilst leaving a decent profit running on the player to let ride or trade further should you wish.
So, for example lets say I have £10 on a player at 200 this gives a 'green' of £2000. I then set up a lay of £30 at 50 meaning I have a £20 field profit if the player is matched at this price but also still have a £500 'green' on the player I have backed, which I can then let ride or trade further if they get right in the hunt.
On this basis I need 1 trader in every 3 to hit the target price to break even.
I hope that all makes sense. Please let me know if you have any questions.
So, on to this weeks trader...
SONY OPEN TRADER
BEAU HOSSLER FINISH M/C BEST PRICE TRADED 120
Beau is another of my 'players to follow' for 2018 and I would not be at all surprised if he wins this year.
Obviously he has no course experience at Waialae but I suspect with no wind in the forecast of note this may well turn in to a putting contest and this is one of his great strengths.
In addition as Beau is a highly touted player if he does start well his price will crash very quickly which is obviously what we want from a trader.
Beau had a great start to his PGA tour career last fall and I am hopeful he can at least start well this week.
Current Exchange Price Available 300+