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Sony Open Preview: Ready to Break Through

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

The PGA Tour often fights an uphill battle against the nation's marquee sports, and perhaps never more than the first event of the season when it is up against the beast that is American football in all forms. Rounds two and three of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions were opposite NFL playoffs, and the final round was up against the BCS Championship game. Unfortunately for the PGA Tour, this past weekend of football might go down as one of the most exciting ever. It's tough to pull attention away from such events, and while the PGA Tour finished well behind in viewership last weekend, the saving grace was a great start to the 2014 portion of the season with none other than the hottest golfer on the planet winning yet again.

This is the point where I usually offer the question, "is this the year he finally breaks through??" The only problem is Zach Johnson has already "broken through." He's made a ton of money on the PGA Tour, won several times, even won the Masters a few years back, so what's left? Well, since you asked, there is one thing Zach hasn't done yet - top the money list. Could this be the year that Zach Johnson tops the money list?

This week:
Sony Open - Waialae CC, Honolulu, Hawaii

Last Year:
Russell Henley shot a final-round 63 on his way to a three-stroke victory over Tim Clark.


Tim Clark

I'm generally not fond of taking the guy who almost won the year prior, but in Clark's case I'll make an exception because he's been that guy the last two times he's played here. Clark has played here four times in all and never finished outside the top 25.

Zach Johnson

I avoided Johnson last week at the Hyundai because his track record at that event wasn't all that strong, and we all know how that turned out. Johnson is at a level now where his past results don't matter, he's simply locked in. If you need further encouragement, he's a past champion here.

Charles Howell III

One-and-done games are all about timing. Some guys you have to burn early in the season, and Howell III is certainly qualifies. Howell III's track record at this event is outstanding. He's finished in the top 5 here in four of the last five years.

Brian Gay

Gay is quite possibly the biggest hit-or-miss golfer on the PGA Tour, and there were some signs last week that he might be primed for a big hit this week. Gay carded only two bogies over his final two rounds at the Hyundai and 12 holes at birdie or better. His track record at the Sony isn't great, but it isn't bad either. He's finished in the top 31 the last five times here.

John Rollins

Rollins is another who's historically played his best golf early in the season. If you are going to take Rollins, this might be the spot. His track record here lacks high-end finishes, but he's placed no worse than T-20 in his past four tries here.


Russell Henley

Henley started his 2013 season in grand fashion with a win at this event, but he didn't show that form too often the rest of the way. A return to the Sony could kickstart his game once again, but it's always difficult defending your first title.

Sean O'Hair

O'Hair posted a runner-up finish at this event just a few years back, but we all know what's happened to his game the last few years. Bottom line, O'Hair is just too unpredictable. He's coming off a brutal season and is not worth taking in any format until he proves he's found his game again.

Paul Goydos

Goydos is one of those wildly inconsistent golfers who found the magic here one week back in 2007. With guys like Goydos, winning has less to do with an affinity for the venue and more to do with timing. He's either hot or not. As evidence, he's missed the cut here in four of his last five tries.

Robert Allenby

Once upon a time, Allenby was a hit-or-miss golfer here, alternating top-10s and missed cuts over a six-year stretch. Now, however, he's just a miss guy, missing the last three cuts. Allenby's game has fallen way off the last few seasons, and there's little reason to think he'll find his game this year.

Bo Van Pelt

I fully expect Van Pelt to bounce back from an off 2013 season, but I don't think the comeback starts this week at the Sony. Van Pelt has missed his previous four cuts at this event.


Last week:
Martin Laird (20th - $80,000); Season ($80,000).

This week:
Brian Gay - there are a handful of good "early-only" options this week, but I'm going for the home run with Gay. When he's on, he's nearly impossible to beat, and I'm hoping I spotted something last week.

Group A: Gay, Howell III. Group B: Dufner, Spieth, Zach, Rollins. Group C: Walker, T. Clark

Charles Howell III - while Gay is potentially a great one-and-done pick, he's not reliable enough to take in a survivor format. For that I'll go with Howell III, who's never missed a cut here in 12 starts.