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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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  1. Slow Na

    Jan 18, 2022 at 10:35 pm

    Well that didn’t end well

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TG2: Shooting Tiger Woods’ Clubs with Greg Moore, legendary GolfWRX PGA Tour photographer

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Greg Moore is the man who provides you with all the WITB photos from the PGA Tour on GolfWRX. He shares some stories about handling Tiger’s clubs and his relationship with Joe LaCava. He lets us in on who is the hardest to photograph and shooting prototype gear on Tour.

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Club Junkie: Building a Tiger 3-iron and the most comfortable golf shoes I have ever worn!

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Tiger’s new 3-iron is a P770 head with a Dynamic Gold Mid shaft! I have a P770 head laying around so I decided to build it up with a different shaft, but I was inspired by Tiger! Walk through a few clubs that are going into the bag this week for league. And finally review of what might be the most comfortable shoes in golf, The Asics Gel-Kayano Ace!

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The Wedge Guy: Do irons really need to go longer?

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At Edison Golf, we put high emphasis on getting the right lofts in our customers bags to deliver precision distance gapping where distance control matters most – in prime scoring range. Our proprietary WedgeFit® Scoring Range Analysis helps us get there, and one of the key questions we ask is the loft of your current 9-iron and pitching wedge.

Please understand I have been collecting this type of data from wedge-fitting profiles for over 20 years, and now have seen over 60,000 of these. What’s interesting is to watch the evolution of the answers to those two questions. Twenty years ago, for example, the 9-iron and PW lofts would typically be around 42-43 degrees and 46-47 degrees, respectively. By 2010, those lofts had migrated downward to 40-41 degrees for the 9-iron and 44-45 for the “P-club”. (I began to call it that, because it’s just not a true “wedge” at that low of a loft.)

But how far are the irons makers going to take that lunacy? I see WedgeFit profiles now with “P-clubs” as low as 42-43 degrees and 9-irons five degrees less than that – 37-38 degrees. The big companies are getting there by incorporating mid-iron technologies – i.e. fast faces, multi-material, ultra-low CG, etc. – into the clubs where precision distance control is imperative.

Fans, you just cannot get precision distance control with those technologies.

But the real problem is that golfers aren’t being told this is what’s happening, so they are still wanting to buy “gap wedges” of 50-52 degrees, and that is leaving a huge distance gap in prime scoring range for most golfers.

So, to get to the title of this post, “Do Irons Really Need To Go Longer?” let’s explore the truth for most golfers.

Your new set of irons features these technologies and the jacked-up lofts that go with them, so now your “P-club” flies 125-130 instead of the 115-120 it used to go (or whatever your personal numbers are). But your 50- to 52-degree gap wedge still goes 95-100, so you just lost a club in prime scoring range. How is that going to help your scores?

Please understand I’m not trying to talk anyone out of a new set of irons, but I strongly urge you to understand the lofts and lengths of those new irons and make sure the fitter or store lets you hit the 9-iron and “P-club” on the launch monitor, as well as the 7-iron demo. That way you can see what impact those irons are going to have on your prime scoring range gapping.

But here’s something that also needs to get your close attention. In many of the new big-brand line-ups, the companies also offer their “tour” or “pro” model . . . and they are usually at least two degrees weaker and ¼ to 3/8 inch shorter than the “game improvement” models you are considering.

But really, how much sense does that make? The tour player, who’s bigger and stronger than you, plays irons that are shorter and easier to control than the model they are selling you. Hmm.

It’s kind of like drivers actually. On Iron Byron, the 46” driver goes further than the 45, so that’s what the stores are full of. But tour bags are full of drivers shorter than that 46-inch “standard”. So, if the tour player only hits 55-60% of his fairways with a 45” driver, how many are you going to hit with a 46?

I’m just sayin…

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