Wednesday, January 13, 2021

What To Look For: 2021 Sony Open

 Last week, Harris English won at Kapalua at 33/1 odds.

I had English ranked 8th most likely to win, but only selected 6 picks due to a limited field (really, I did :) )

This week the Tour heads to Waialae for the Sony Open

I've always been a fan of the Sony Open. Maybe it's my fascination of Hawaii, it being the first full field Tour event of the year or the unknown Tour pros that pop up and make money at the event, The Sony Open is one of my favorite events on Tour.

Waialae CC is a private club on the Eastern shore of Honolulu.  It was built in 1927 with Seth Raynor as the architect.  

Despite my love for The Sony Open, it's not a favorite of most Tour players.  It's an expensive trip over to Hawaii and the purse size of $6.6 million is in line with the Sanderson Farms Classic.  The course design is not all that well liked either.  Typically, Waialae gets a few votes for 'worst course on Tour' by Tour players.

Raynor's designs usually feature a lot of lay-up tee shots and he has that at Waialae due to sharp turning doglegs.

A few years ago they widened the fairways a bit as Waialae would usually yield one of the lowest hit fairway percentages on Tour, usually less than 50%. However the field hit 65% of their fairways last year due to the widening of the fairways.  This should likely help out the better drivers of the ball. Prior to the widening of the fairways, finding the fairway often boiled down to luck and the standard deviation in both driving distance and fairways hit was low.  Now the deviation in hit fairways is slightly higher and that projects to help out the superior skilled drivers to a small degree.

Most of the shots gained/lost should come off the tee and on mid-range and short-wedge range shots.  

The last Critical Hole on the course is the par-5 18th hole.

The 18th is the easiest driving hole on the course and should play well under par for the event (think of a scoring average ~4.3 strokes).  And if a player can hit a tee shot of 290+ yards that finds the fairway, they are highly like to make at least birdie.

I suspect the target for most players on 18 will be on the right edge of the first left fairway bunker.

If the wind is in their face, they'll need to move the target to the right of the first left fairway bunker.

What makes this an easy driving hole is that typically it's playing with a tailwind off the shore from the east.   The general shot dispersion for a Tour player has then hitting it further on misses to the left than to the right.  So in this case shots that miss the target to the left play nicely into the dogleg and should carry the left fairway bunkers, easily.



Webb Simpson +1,200
Collin Morikawa +1,400
Harris English +1,600
Joaquin Niemann +2,500
Ryan Palmer +3,300
Russell Henley +3,300


Emiliano Grillo +6,600
Scott Piercy +10,000
Henrik Norlander +15,000
Harry Higgs +22,500


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