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2022 Sony Open Outright Selections: Kevin Kisner primed for big week in Honolulu

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The PGA Tour moves to Honolulu as we stay in Hawaii for another week to play the 2021 Sony Open at Waialae Country Club. Waialae is a 7,044-yard par 70 that was built in 1927 and has annually featured a Tour event since 1965. The Sony Open is the first full-field event of the calendar year.

The 2021 Sony Open field is comprised of 144 golfers. Some notable names in the field include Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson, Sungjae Im, Corey Conners, Marc Leishman, and Cameron Smith.

The Sony Open typically produces a low scoring affair, and with soft conditions in Hawaii, this season could provide even more birdies. Wind is about all the course has in terms of defence, so it may prove wise to keep an eye on the forecast this week.

2022 Sony Open Outright Selections

Marc Leishman (+2900) (FanDuel):

In 2021, I bet Marc Leishman at the Sony Open and have been waiting patiently for another chance to do so in 2022.

Leishman has two top-five finishes in his past three starts at Waialae and is coming off of a week where he played some pretty good golf. Seven of the past eight winners at Sony have played the previous week at Sentry TOC, so his appearance last week could prove important. The 38-year-old was solid statistically in his 2022 debut, gaining 2.1 strokes on approach. 

 Last season at this event, the Aussie gained 6.1 strokes on approach, which was good for third-best in the field, trailing only Collin Morikawa and Hideki Matsuyama for the week.

In addition to the fantastic course history at Waialae, Leishman has been excellent in Hawaii in his career, having two top-five finishes at Kapalua in his past five tries. After round two of the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Leishman spoke about how similar Hawaii golf was to playing golf in Australia, which may explain the incredible success Aussies have had both at Kapalua and Waialae. Ranking third in the field in birdies or better, he should have the firepower to keep up in a low scoring event. 

After a solid swing season, with three top 20s in four starts, Leishman has a great shot to carry some momentum into 2022. 

Kevin Kisner (+3500) (DraftKings):

Kevin Kisner is a golfer who has his courses that he plays well almost every year. Those courses include Sedgefield Country Club, Sea Island, Harbour Town Golf Links, and yes: Waialae Country Club. “Kiz” will be the first to tell you he can’t compete with the long hitters on every course on Tour, but Waialae is definitely among the courses he has a real shot. The 37-year-old has three top five’s in his past six appearances at the event and hasn’t missed the cut in that time frame.

Kisner also fits the trend of golfers who played in the Sentry Tournament of Champions last week, and surprisingly he played very well at Kapalua. He gained 2.7 strokes on approach en route to an 8th place finish in a loaded field. Perhaps more importantly, Kisner gained 5.4 strokes putting which was the most he’s gained since June of 2021. During his rough stretch last year, the former Georgia Bulldog went through a slump with the flatstick, which was extremely uncharacteristic.

“Kiz” has managed to come away with a win in his career at most of “his” courses, with Waialae being one that he has yet to completely concur. That could change this week as he is clearly comfortable and in good form.

Billy Horschel (+4500) (DraftKings):

Billy Horschel is another golfer who teed it up last week at Kapalua, which could be important for his chances this week. While his statistics weren’t very good at the Tournament of Champions, history tells us that even golfers who hadn’t played all that well the prior week have still benefited greatly from being in the field.

“Bermuda Billy” showed us last season that Waialae is a comfortable spot for him as he finished in 7th place while gaining 8.0 strokes putting. That may be a concern for most players, but Horschel isn’t the type of player who wins with an immaculate tee to green performance. He wins by lighting it up with the putter on bermudagrass, and that has consistently been the recipe for winners at Waialae in the past. Cameron Smith took a similar approach in 2020, where he gained 8.2 strokes putting and lost to the field on Strokes Gained: Approach. It is plausible to envision getting it done on a shorter par 70 track this week in Honolulu.

Sahith Theegala (+20000) (DraftKings):

I wrote a story last month identifying Theegala as a breakout candidate for 2022. With intentions of betting him often this year at long odds, the Sony Open seems like a great place to start. Having just earned his Tour card by playing his way in via the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, Theegala should be kicking off his 2022 season with confidence.

The 24-year-old certainly has the talent to get his breakout win on the PGA Tour, and a weaker field event like we will see this week gives him a shot to get it done if he gets himself in the mix. The former Haskins award winner has had a bit of difficulty with driving accuracy, and that shouldn’t be as costly at Waialae as it is at a typical Tour stop.

It may be a longshot for Theegala to actually win, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented. In 2013, another former Haskins award winner Russell Henley won the event for his first win on the PGA Tour. Following suit could create a necessary jumpstart for Sahith’s career.

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Sony Open prop bets: Why Kevin Na is the man to back in Hawaii

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Across the bay this week to Waialae and, as always, the idea behind the prop bets column is to highlight some of the side bets available away from the win market, covered by colleague Matt Vincenzi. 

Here are the three players for you to take a look at this week on some side markets in Hawaii.

Kevin Na Top 5/Top 10 +550/+275

It was extremely tempting to get with Marc Leishman, but his price has now disappeared and Kevin Na rates better value to nab a place on the front page of the leaderboard.

Both played well last week with world number 27, Na, continuing a season of excellent results that started when winning here last year and concluding with his fifth win in four years at the season-ending Tour Championship.

That win from a high-class field came via a top-15 at Augusta, and a pair of tied-second placings at the John Deere and, more significantly, at Sedgefield amongst a top-10 that included winner Kevin Kisner, Webb Simpson and Russell Henley, two of those being past winners at this event.

Looking down the list of best finishes, the 38-year-old repeats form at the same places, winning twice at the Shriners and medalling at the FBR (Pheonix) Open, no surprises given the skill set required – forget driving distance, get it on the fairway, and give yourself a chance.

Figures at the Plantation course read well given the length of the track, and he comes here having improved his 2021 finish by 25 places.

With a victory and three top-10 finishes at Waialae already in the bag, he can go very close to joining Ernie Els and Jimmy Walker as two-time winners.

Aaron Rai Top 10/Top 20 +700/+330

It’s nearly five years since the 26-year-old took the Challenge Tour apart with three victories before the middle of Summer and he hasn’t stopped since, justifying his lofty reputation.

Like many of the more tactical players in the game (Simpson, Kisner, Na et al. ) Rai is far more a thinker than a bomber, his win in the horrendous conditions of the Scottish Open a testament to the patience and game-play he shows from week to week.

Whilst he, perhaps, should have won the Irish Open the week before, he succumbed only to another accurate short game wizard in John Catlin before ending the year high in the lists of everything that involves accuracy over strength.

It’s taken a short while for Rai to settle on the PGA tour via a runner-up on the Korn Ferry tour and the finals, but results at the end of 2021 suggest if he gets the right conditions, he can compete in this grade.

Three consecutive top-20 finishes read well – at Mayakoba (where four players have won there and at this week’s track), Houston and at the RSM Classic, the Sea Island track giving form links with Kisner and Simpson again as well as Charles Howell III, winner at the coastal track and with ten top-10 finishes here.

Rai is tidy off the tee, rarely ranking outside of the top-20 for accuracy, thinks hard when calculating his approach shots, and this is almost a perfect course for him. As discussed on the Across The Pond podcast, it’s doubtful that he will hole enough to get to the winning number, but he is young and ambitious enough to continue to improve, and any repeat of results over the last couple of months of last season will see him land the wager.

Aaron Rai to be Top English player +120

I make the case for Rai above, and surely anything near his better play will be enough to see off David Skinns, Callum Tarren and Luke Donald at a generous odds-against.

As with Leishman last week, it is not only the strength of one but the weakness of the opposition that makes a valid play, and I see no reason or how there is any evidence to support any of the other three combatants.

Consider that 44-year-old Donald has seen much better days, with just a couple of top-10 finishes in four years and little to speak of since a top-20 at the 3M Open. Het he looks the only real alternative given the zero encouragements from the remaining pair. That isn’t saying much.

Skinns is a PGA rookie at 39 years of age, lost strokes everywhere from tee-to-green in all four PGA starts at the end of last season, has never played here and simply can’t hold a candle to Rai’s standard level of form, whether that be top-15 at Wentworth or 26th at the WGC St Jude. Cross him out.

Tarren at least may have a semblance of improvement there but has failed to win anywhere as a professional.

Winless at a much lower level, he missed the cut at the KFT finals before starting his PGA career with three missed-cuts. In between those, the Englishman was disqualified at the Bermuda Championship for incorrectly signing his card at halfway, although he was almost certain to miss the weekend, anyway.

Odds against? Yummy. Bet of the week.

Brian Stuard – Top 10/Top 20/Top-40 +1000/+400/+150

A tad more speculative, take the 39-year-old to be ready enough to make a profit at one of his favourite courses.

Looking over his history, Stuard has appeared on the upper echelons of the leaderboard at Mayakoba, Sea Island, at Riviera and at the Pheonix Open. All courses that link to players that have placed at Waialae over the past few years.

In amongst a series of missed cuts in 2021, Stuard finished tied-6th at the 3M but more significantly, top-15 at Sedgefield and in the top-10 at the John Deere, surrounded by Kevin Na, Patton Kizzire and Russell Henley, all winners here at the Sony.

Returning at a course on which he has four top-10 finishes from nine starts, expect to prove better than his outright odds show. 

Finally, I won’t put the bet up as it is odds-on but with Abraham Ancer playing some of the worst golf of recent years at last week’s event, course specialist Russell Henley is well worth a look in a pick-em betting heat.

Finishing his season with a couple of top-7 finishes in a run of eight cuts made, he also boasts three top-20 finishes alongside the win here, a figure that far outstrips his opponent’s best of 29th and two missed-cuts in four tries.

Your choice, but I’d have made the older man a touch shorter in the market.

 

 

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Be the Number

Be The Number: 2022 Sony Open fantasy, betting, and preview

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Stats and strategy guru Spencer Aguiar (@teeoffsports) and guest Brian Mull @BGMull (former caddie on tour and writer for the Athletic & Caddie Network). Also features Drew Matthews from 4ball Fantasy.

Tune in for picks, predictions, DFS, GPP, draws, fades, bets, and more!

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Opinion & Analysis

2022 Sony Open: Best DraftKings plays from each price range

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The PGA Tour moves to Honolulu as we stay in Hawaii for another week to play the 2021 Sony Open at Waialae Country Club. Waialae is a 7,044-yard par 70 that was built in 1927 and has annually featured a Tour event since 1965. The Sony Open is the first full-field event of the calendar year.

The 2021 Sony Open field is comprised of 144 golfers. Some notable names in the field include Bryson DeChambeau, Hideki Matsuyama, Webb Simpson, Sungjae Im, Corey Conners, Marc Leishman and Cameron Smith.

The Sony Open typically produces a low scoring affair, and with soft conditions in Hawaii, this season could provide even more birdies. Wind is about all the course has in terms of defense, so it may prove wise to keep an eye on the forecast this week.

Let’s take a look at each DraftKings price range and identify the best plays for each in GPP’s.

10,000+

Cameron Smith $11,200

Two players have won the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open in back-to-back weeks (Ernie Els and Justin Thomas), and I believe Cameron Smith has a real chance at being the third. As the favorite on the odds board to win the event, I wouldn’t advise making an outright bet for it to happen, but I love it as a DFS play.

Something about Hawaii helps Smith play his best golf, and Aussies have had success at both Kapalua and Waialae. Cam now has wins at both, and there is no reason to think he will slow down. When he won the Sony Open in 2020, he gained 8.2 strokes putting and showed that he loves these Hawaii bermudagrass greens once again last week by gaining 6.5 strokes on the field.

Webb Simpson will be the most popular player from this range on DraftKings so pivoting to Smith and eating the extra salary makes a lot of sense in GPP’s.

9,000+

Marc Leishman $10,000:

Leishman has two top-five finishes in his past three starts at Waialae and is coming off of a week where he played some pretty good golf. Seven of the past eight winners at Sony have played the previous week at Sentry TOC, so his appearance last week could prove important. The 38-year-old was solid statistically in his 2022 debut, gaining 2.1 strokes on approach. 

 Last season at this event, the Aussie gained 6.1 strokes on approach, which was good for third-best in the field, trailing only Collin Morikawa and Hideki Matsuyama for the week.

In addition to the fantastic course history at Waialae, Leishman has been excellent in Hawaii in his career, having two top-five finishes at Kapalua in his past five tries. After round two of the Sentry Tournament of Champions, Leishman spoke about how similar Hawaii golf was to playing golf in Australia, which may explain the incredible success Aussies have had both at Kapalua and Waialae. Ranking third in the field in birdies or better, he should have the firepower to keep up in a low scoring event. 

8,000+

Billy Horschel $8,700:

Billy Horschel is another golfer who teed it up last week at Kapalua, which could be important for his chances this week. While his statistics weren’t very good at the Tournament of Champions, history tells us that even golfers who hadn’t played all that well the prior week have still benefited greatly from being in the field.

“Bermuda Billy” showed us last season that Waialae is a comfortable spot for him as he finished in 7th place while gaining 8.0 strokes putting. That may be a concern for most players, but Horschel isn’t the type of player who wins with an immaculate tee to green performance. He wins by lighting it up with the putter on bermudagrass, and that has consistently been the recipe for winners at Waialae in the past. Cameron Smith took a similar approach in 2020, where he gained 8.2 strokes putting and lost to the field on Strokes Gained: Approach. It is plausible to envision getting it done on a shorter par 70 track this week in Honolulu.

7,000+

Matt Kuchar $7,500:

Matt Kuchar has been a disappointment for the better part of eighteen months, but if there is a course on Tour where he can put together a solid performance, it’s Waialae Country Club. In his past seven starts at the course, he has three top-ten finishes in addition to winning the Sony Open in 2019. Despite not playing his best golf of late, Kuchar tends to find some form on courses that he is comfortable at. In November, he finished 22nd at Mayakoba (a course that he has won in the past) despite being in poor form. A short Bermuda track where Kuchar doesn’t have to try to keep up with big hitters off of the tee is still the best possible situation for the 43-year-old.

6,000+

Sahith Theegala $6,500:

I wrote a story last month identifying Theegala as a breakout candidate for 2022. With intentions of betting him often this year at long odds, the Sony Open seems like a great place to start. Having just earned his Tour card by playing his way in via the Korn Ferry Tour Championship, Theegala should be kicking off his 2022 season with confidence.

The 24-year-old certainly has the talent to get his breakout win on the PGA Tour, and a weaker field event like we will see this week gives him a shot to get it done if he gets himself in the mix. The former Haskins award winner has had a bit of difficulty with driving accuracy, and that shouldn’t be as costly at Waialae as it is at a typical Tour stop.

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