2023 Sony Open in Hawaii Preview

Golf fans know exactly where they are when they see this iconic photo!

Via @SonyOpenHawaii

The first full field event of the 2023 calendar is this week at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

2023 Sony Open in Hawaii

Waialae Country Club

Honolulu

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Pour One Out:

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NOW PLAYING:

Since 1965 Waialae CC and only Waialae CC has hosted the Sony Open. When Kapalua joined the rotation in 1999 only Justin Thomas (2017) and Ernie Els (2003) have completed the back to back. … The last nine winners played at the Plantation Course the week prior and 17 of the last 24. … First full field event of 2023. … The only multiple winner in the field is Jimmy Walker (2014-15). … Walkman, don’t run!

Yards (per official scorecard):7,044
Par:70 (35-35)
Greens:TifDwarf Bermuda; 7,100 square feet on average.
Stimpmeter:11.5 feet.
Rough:Celebration Bermuda at 2.25 inches.
Bunkers/Water Hazards/In Play83/4/5
Architects:Seth Raynor (1927).
Purse:$7.9 million; $1.422 winner plus 500 FedExCup points.
Tournament Record:253 (-27); Justin Thomas, 2017.
Course Record:59 (-11); Justin Thomas Round 1, 2017.
Defending Champion:Hideki Matsuyama (-23; playoff).
Multiple Champion(s) Entered:Jimmy Walker (2014-15).
Fact of the Week:The winning score has been worse than 17-under ONCE in the last 10 years (-11, 2020 – wind/rain).
Fact of the Week II:Two of the last three winners have been in their 20s. Only four total since 1999.

Notes:

  • Field of 144.
  • Stroke play, 72 holes, cut after two rounds.
  • Top 65 and ties play the final 36 holes.
  • No course changes from 2022.

Waialae Country Club will open its doors to all shapes and sizes this week. Shootouts have a way of doing that and shootouts on courses barely over 7,000 yards will have the first full field of the season licking their chops.

Like most events in the January scoring is at the top of the list again this week. Big Bermuda greens will catch plenty of marginal approach shots but elite putting will cause the separation. Playing out of the Bermuda rough isn’t easy greenside so grinding out pars is a must as well. Contenders this week will make their pars and move on.

Rounds in the 70s need not apply again so there’s no time to knock the rust off this week!

Mahalo!

Season Winners

2022-2023 Season Winners

EventWinner
Fortinet ChampionshipMax Homa
Sanderson Farms ChampionshipMackenzie Holmes
Shriners Children’s OpenTom Kim
ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIPKeegan Bradley
CJ CUP at CONGAREERory McIlroy
Butterfield Bermuda ChampionshipSeamus Power
Mayakoba ChampionshipRussell Henley
Cadence Bank Houston OpenTony Finau
The RSM ClassicAdam Svensson (first TOUR win)
Sentry Tournament of ChampionsJon Rahm

Recent Event Winners

Italics – not entered this week

YearWinnerNotes
2022Hideki Matsuyama   (-23)Led the field in SG: Putting as he chased down and defeated 2013 winner Russell Henley in a playoff.
2021Kevin Na (-21)Closed 61-65 and birdied the last to win.
2020Cam Smith (-11)Posted the highest winning total since 2005 after winning a playoff as wind and rain factored significantly.
2019Matt Kuchar (-22)Opened 63-63 and cruised home by four.
2018Patton Kizzire (-17)Finally knocked out James Hahn in a six hole playoff.
2017Justin Thomas (-27)Backed up his win at Kapalua with a record setting performance in Honolulu.
2016Fabian Gomez (-20)Not entered this week and neither is Brandt Snedeker, who he defeated in a playoff.
2015Jimmy Walker (-23)Won by nine in his title defense!

This Week – Sony Open in Hawaii

Chalk (via BetMGM)

Tom Kim (+1100): Only Russell Henley has won here on debut. Confidence supreme should carry over again this week after another successful debut last week. It’s obvious he loves Bermuda (Sedgefield, Kapalua) and there’s nothing to “learn” this week. See ball, hit ball, and make more birdies!

Sungjae Im (+1200): Four starts and nothing better than T16. Flashed last week with 24 birdies so he should be ready to improve on his record at Waialae.

Jordan Spieth (+1800): Bought a motor home last year. Wonder how he got it to Honolulu? First visit since 2019. Co-led the field in Putting last week and that won’t hurt again this week.

Brian Harman (+1800): Six straight T23 or better in the new season including 18-under last week. Making his 12th visit so it’s obvious he’s comfortable here. Last top 10 was 2018 though. I’ll take the HEAT and the experience.

Hideki Matsuyama (+2000): Just whisper in his ear that this is TPC Scottsdale and watch him go! Should be excited to return to the scene of his greatest putting week of TOUR life!

Corey Conners (+2200): Never missed in four tries and his stroke average is barely over 67. Great combo! Three straight T12 or better suggests another big week this year.

Russell Henley (+2200): Led after 36 and 54 last year before he was filleted by Matsuyama’s 3W in the playoff. Obviously a big fan here! Busted the rust last week but will need the putter to catch up.

Tom Hoge (+2500): MC in a shootout the last two seasons. Made the trip to LA to watch his alma mater get leathered in the CFB Playoff. IS IT ALL TOO MUCH???

Top 10

KH Lee (+275): I’ll always take a sniff in a shootout with him. T7 last week is his second in his last three starts.

Keith Mitchell (+300): Super history here and only made one bogey last year. Loves Bermuda as well.

JJ Spaun (+333): Too many good ones in a row, including five of his last six T25 or better highlighted by T5 last week. Cashed in nine straight on TOUR.

Russell Knox (+650): T27 or better in half of his events in the new season. Last five trending. Plenty of love here as well.

Cole Hammer (+1400): Rode him at the end of 2022 and in his last shootout he was T5 at RSM with rounds of 64, 65 and 66.

First Round Leader

Adam Svensson

Patton Kizzire

Christiaan Bezuidenhout

OAD

I’m back for another year of punishment, longing and second guessing.

Oh, and I’m in Spotter’s One and Done league again!

Each week I’ll throw five names in here who should or SHOULD NOT be looked upon when making your weekly suggestion.

With only 30-odd events in 2023 it will streamline our decision making quite a bit. Not going to want to roll into the final week with 3 or 4 premium players sitting on the bench!

1.) Tom Kim – got it, never played here before. WHERE HAS HE PLAYED BEFORE? He continues to play like this and his schedule will be tighter than my belt after Christmas dinner. He destroyed Sedgefield in a shootout on Bermuda with a marginal field on a short course. Why not again this week? He’s my selection.

2.) Jordan Spieth – NO. Can he win? Of course. I prefer him at Pebble, Colonial or the Masters where his track record and comfort levels are off the charts.

3.) Hideki Matsuyama – Perhaps. Gamers love the defending champion angle but I’ll point out Waialae, before last year, was a house of horrors for the Japanese star.

4.) Russell Henley – Course Horse. Loves Bermuda and this layout. Great play for those who like to get a bit FRISKY early.

5.) Sungjae Im – Already used him. Got him out of the way in a no cut event and wasn’t rewarded so I’m BITTER. Don’t pick angry my friends!

Just missed: Kurt Kitayama, Keith Mitchell, Brian Harman, Christiaan Bezuidenhout and KH Lee.

Long Shots

Alex Smalley (+5000)

Mackenzie Hughes (+6600)

Nick Hardy (+8000)

Keita Nakajima (+20000)

Kramer Hickok (+25000)

Jerry Kelly (+40000) to make the cut

Last Week – Sentry Tournament of Champions

Chalk

I’m not going out on a limb here but I’d be highly surprised if the winner came from worse than +2500 this week. Start there and dig out what you perceive as the best value. Appeared to have sussed that out properly, let’s see how the other projections fared!

Jon Rahm (+650): Hotter than the lava pouring out of Mauna Loa. Probably can find a better number during the live action. WINNER. I’d say a better number was found! Rahm was +8000 after bogeying the first! Closed with 73 and won by two. https://twitter.com/GolfBet/status/1612242389913186304?s=20&t=HCNPT_ARcHcAN8Szg94yQw

Scottie Scheffler (+900): Not many weaknesses here either! Cashing in his second visit would join Reed, Spieth, Thomas, Schauffele and English as recent winners in that category. Four more rounds of 70 or better for T7 to go with T13 from 2022.

Patrick Cantlay (+1000): Only made one start in the fall at another course he loves, TPC Summerlin (T2). Nothing worse than T15 in four starts with a pair of solo fourth place finishes. Posted 18-under but that’s only good for T16 around here. Club Free Agent picked up his worst finish in five starts.

Justin Thomas (+1100):  Can’t be ignored at fourth choice (BetMGM) as he’s logged the most rounds here of anyone and has the most victories. Loves this part of the world and is making his eighth consecutive start. Comfy. Only broke 70 once with 67 in Round 3 for T25. Making three doubles never helps in a shootout!

Xander Schauffele (+1100): Back to back top 10 finishes in limited field events last fall. 2019 winner , P2 in defense and T5 2021. His 22-under last year was only good for solo 12th hahaha. After missing the Pro-Am on Wednesday with back spasms, the alarm bells started to ring. Most everyone abandoned ship with such a deep field. Sorry for those of you who set it and forgot it. WD.

Tony Finau (+1400): Picked up third win of 2022 since July in Houston after MC in Mexico. Best round of his three visits was his last one, 65, last year (T19). Everything trending in his direction. Closed with 66 to stack all four rounds in the 60s for his first top 10 here with T7. Outstanding form continues!

Sungjae Im (+1800): Make all the birdies you can? Yes, please! Well, 24 of them wasn’t enough! Posted two bogey-free rounds but was one of only two players in the top 13 to have two rounds of 70 or worse. T13 for my OAD.

Cameron Young (+2000): First timer and has never won on TOUR. Book isn’t going to get burned it as he claimed solo third at Hero, and is trending nicely. T13 as his best two rounds were his last two, 69-64 to rocket into the top 15. Another first checked off his list and another very solid finish in a big field. T13.

Collin Morikawa (+2000): We’ll see the progress he’s made with his new putting coach! T6 at Hero suggests he’s moving back into the proper direction.  Nothing outside of T7 here in three visits. No bogeys for 67 holes and then three straight to lose his six shot lead. Solo second in a tough beat but that’s four straight top 10s just like Rahm had to start his career here!

Matt Fitzpatrick (+2000): Another first timer but also a major champion. His advantage is on tight driving layouts and that’s not what’s playing this week. Has the full bag to give it a sniff tho. Sniff given as the Englishman hit the top 10 with T7 as he co-led the field in Putting.

Viktor Hovland (+2000): Two visits, T30 and T31 sounds impossible but it’s true. Winner at Hero last time out suggests the streak of T30 or worse ends this week. Bold prediction, I know! Other two wins are on a resort course as well. Interesting. Flirting with another T30 or worse as he was T25 after 54 holes. Closed with 66 to hit T18 but made nine bogeys and a double on the week. Just might not be his favorite track.

Jordan Spieth (+2500): Just begging all of us to play him at this number! Recent results suggest it might not be enough to consider. Knocked off the rust here last year for the first time since 2018. I’d expect a sharper performance this time around. No problem in the breeze either. Sat just three back in fourth after 36 holes before T13. Hit it all over the Plantation Course but co-led the field in Putting.

Sam Burns (+2500): Nothing jumping off the page in the fall but has the EXPLOSIVE gene that can pop birdies at any time. Last three rounds here on debut were all in the 60s including 64 in his second loop. Aware. Can’t have a round above par here and contend! Opened 70-75 and that was that. 32nd.

Tom Kim (+2500): I’ve learned my lesson but this field on this tract gives me pause in the win department. Circled birdies on five of his last seven holes to cash T5 on his debut. Fantastic talent.

Will Zalatoris (+2500): Same number as Tom Kim yet hasn’t played since an injury forced him to close the door on the 2022 season at the BMW? And his first time? Would to have loved to see a rust buster. Four rounds in the 60s on his return from injury suggests he’s healed and roaring to go! T11 included closing round 65.

33-1 and up

Might sneak one or two in the top five or top 10. Leader boards over the years suggest not too many outside of the elite end up here.

Max Homa (+3300): Only player on this number! Playing as Dad for the first time in his third visit here (best T15). T3 as he closed 63-66. Top five Fairways, GIR and Putting will do that!

Aaron Wise (+4000): Second trip but nothing better than 71 from his first visit. Made 10 straight cuts but only one top 10 in that streak. T18.

Adam Scott (+4000): Should have the taste of blood after failing to slam the door at the Australian Open. Eight appearance and a bit of breeze? Yes, please. Nothing better than 68 for 29th.

Brian Harman (+4000): No love for solo second and T2 in his final two events of 2022? T16.

Corey Conners (+4000): Too many putts need to be holed this week to contend. 32nd of 39 in Putting. T18.

Hideki Matsuyama (+4000):  Four fall events, no top 10 but did have WD in Houston with neck deal. Lovely long shot, if he’s healthy, as he’s hit the top five three previous times here. T21.

Keegan Bradley (+4000): Closed T21-WIN-T5 but hasn’t played since CJ CUP. Fourth visit here. Didn’t break 70. 34th.

Russell Henley (+4000): Went crazy to win Mayakoba to interrupt an otherwise awful fall.  T30.

Longer Shots/Funny Money

Billy Horschel (+5000): Jet setter pinged T13 or better in four of five fall starts. T22 or WORSE in four of five starts career here. Conflicting. Make it T22 or worse in five of six after T30.

Sahith Theegala (+5000): NO LOVE even with three of six events in the fall T6 or better? I’m going to push him into a top 10 play just in case. Putted worse than Conners. 33rd.

Tom Hoge (+6600): No chance as he’ll be too worried about TCU in the CFB Playoff. Lesson learned. Never underestimate the power of College Football! Only Rahm went lower on Sunday as his 64 moved him up 10 spots to T3.

KH Lee(+6600): Has won two shootouts in Dallas. Hasn’t translated here yet. Closed 67-67 for T7 as it’s starting to translate!

Scott Stallings (+9000): A pair of top 15 finishes in the last 10 years. T25.

Adam Svensson (+10000): Number reflects the step up in class. 2nd to last.

JT Poston (+10000): Quiet fall didn’t produce any big finishes. T11 on debut in the elements in 2020. T21 as he hit the most fairways.

Mackenzie Hughes (+10000): Third visit but only one round in the 60s from previous two. T21 as he doubled his rounds in the 60s this year with two.

JJ Spaun (+12500): Didn’t miss in the fall in six attempts and his last two were inside T15. Debut here. Shared the first round lead and cashed T5. In form.

Sepp Straka (+12500): I’m going to sneak him in somewhere. Big hitter/Ball-Striker got a taste at Hero. Interesting.T21 and only made five bogeys.

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