This article is part of our Golf Picks series.
Sony Open in Hawaii Betting Preview
The PGA Tour stays in Hawaii for one more week, hopping over from Maui to Honolulu for this week's Sony Open.
Cameron Smith, at 8-1 odds to win and coming off a blistering 34-under performance at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, headlines the seven top-25 players in the Official World Golf Ranking teeing it up this week. An annual spot on the PGA Tour's calendar, the Sony Open has been played at Waialae Country Club every year since the first edition in 1965. Last year, Kevin Na, at 66-1, edged out Joaquin Niemann and Chris Kirk for his fifth PGA Tour victory.
Waialae plays as one of the shortest courses on Tour as a par-70 at just over 7,000 yards, and the course doesn't offer much of a defense – even with only two par-5s – unless weather becomes a factor, which doesn't appear to be the case this week. Both par-5s are reachable in two for the entire field, and with only three par-4s over 460 yards, distance isn't much of a necessity. In fact, the champion lost strokes off the tee two of the last four years. As such, golfers will need to approach it well from 125-175 yards, and putting will be more of a factor than it is in other events.
All odds via DraftKings Sportsbook as of 4:00 PM ET Tuesday.
Charting the Right Course
The following golfers, with a minimum of three appearances, have averaged the most birdies/eagles per round at Waialae Country Club since 2017.
Simpson and last year's champion, Na, top the list. Simpson, at 12-1, is the oddsmakers' top choice after Smith. Bettors will have to determine if they prefer the course history angle over Simpson's form entering the new year after he failed to make the TOUR Championship for the first time since 2016 and is coming off a poor showing at the Hero World Challenge. If there's a place for him to find his form, though, it's at Waialae, where he has recorded a top-5 finish in each of his last three starts. Na, on the other hand, is coming off one of his best seasons on Tour, one in which he posted a pair of runner-ups late in the summer and tied for the lowest on-course score at the TOUR Championship. Although defending champions tend to have a hard time going back-to-back, Na is priced affordably at 25-1, and there aren't many reasons to think he won't be in the mix.
The Right Approach
These five players, on a per-round basis, gained the most strokes on approach over their last five tournaments.
There are some under-the-radar players in great form with their irons, including Hoge who comes in playing some of the best golf of his career. A bit of a late bloomer, he held the 54-hole lead at Waialae back in 2018 before settling for third. He's certainly a longshot at 90-1 but this is certainly a place where an unlikely winner in plausible. The only player to make both lists is Smith, who doesn't need much of an introduction as both of his individual stroke play wins have come in Hawaii. The main question will be how much motivation does he have after winning last week and considering he comes in as the favorite, he's probably better left as a cash game daily fantasy sports option this week.
Corey Conners (18-1)
Looking to make it two weeks in a row after winning with Smith at similar odds, I'll go with Conners. The Canadian has a nice track record at Waialae, making the cut in all three of his appearances, finishing over par in only one round and recording a best finish of T3 in 2019. He was as consistent as they come last year, missing only three cuts, and was in contention to win numerous times even if he didn't quite close the deal. Conners is one of the best ball strikers on Tour, having ranked top-10 in both Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Approach last season.
Maverick McNealy (45-1)
I like McNealy to break through with his first victory at some point this year. The question is simply, when? He doesn't have any course history to draw from, but at a place where we've seen great putters come away with the trophy, it would be fitting for McNealy to join the list here. He's off to a great start to the season, gaining shots in the primary four Strokes Gained categories.
Chris Kirk (70-1)
Kirk's four rounds of 65 weren't good enough to win last year, as he missed out on a playoff by a single shot at Waialae for the second time in his career. He did still notch his fourth top-10 in this event, and that's good enough for me to take a chance on him, particularly when you factor in the fact he recorded three other top-10s last year. Kirk may lack an elite still, but he makes up for it with a strong all-around game.
Erik van Rooyen (7-1)
van Rooyen didn't show much last week at the Tournament of Champions with a T25 finish, but he does have an advantage over most of the field having been able to get the rust off. Plus, we saw Na win last year after finishing T38 at Kapalua. van Rooyen was one of the hottest golfers on Tour at the end of last season and is underpriced in this field.
Alex Smalley (9-1)
Smalley is a Korn Ferry Tour grad that I have my eye on this year. The 25-year-old's PGA Tour career is off to a good start, with four made cuts and a pair of top-15s in six appearances. He has slightly above-average length off the tee and is gaining over half a shot per round from tee to green this season. He's a dark horse to be Rookie of the Year by season's end.
John Huh (12-1)
A deep dive into long shots and cheap DFS options brings me to Huh, who has fared well at Waialae, making the cut six times in eight appearances. He's starting to regain some of the form we saw when he first joined the Tour several years ago, and he finished ranked 62nd in SG: Tee-to-Green last season. His precision game will suit him well here.
These are two guys trending in opposite directions, and I'm going to go with the player in much better form in Henley. Ancer showed very little over his last three appearances, all no-cut events in which he finished in the bottom half of the field. Meanwhile, Henley is a former winner here and fired four rounds of 68 or better last year.
Steele is getting the respect from the oddsmakers after losing in a playoff here a couple years ago, but that was also in a rare year in which scores were not as low as usual, and that will not be the case this time around. Last season, Steele ranked ahead of Bradley in only SG: Putting – both lost strokes to the field – and Bradley's ball striking advantage makes me lean towards the underdog.