The PGA Tour makes its second stop in Hawaii to kick off the 2024 season with its first full field event in the Sony Open Hawaii this week.
This event has been staged since 1965 and has been held at the Waialae Country Club every year since its inception.
Although the Tour just played the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui at the Kapalua Plantation Course, the two event’s geography is the only thing they share in common.
As this is the first full field event of the 2024 PGA Tour season, 144 golfers will be teeing it up this week in hopes of claiming the Sony Open in Hawaii title.
This is arguably the best field we’ve seen at this event in some time and that is due to the Sentry Tournament of Champions taking place last week and featuring its largest field in tournament history.
There is an extensive list of PGA Tour stars making their Sony Open in Hawaii debut this week. That list includes Ludvig Aberg, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick, Will Zalatoris and Akshay Bhatia.
Robert MacIntyre will also be making his first start since earning his PGA Tour card via the new partnership with the DP World Tour.
Twenty of the top-50 of the Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) will be teeing it up this week. The field is headlined, outside of the names listed above making their debuts, by Russell Henley, Keegan Bradley, Brian Harman, JT Poston, and Sahith Theegala
Si Woo Kim comes in as the defending champion as he chased down Hayden Buckely in dramatic fashion a year ago to win by a stroke.
Other past Sony Open in Hawaii winners playing this week include Hideki Matsuyama (2022,) Matt Kuchar (2019,) Patton Kizzire (2018,) Russell Henley (2013,) Ryan Palmer (2010) and Zach Johnson (2009.)
As previously mentioned the Waialae Country Club has been the host of this event since its inception in 1965.
It plays as a par 70 at 7,020 yards.
It is a short resort course that was designed by Seth Raynor in 1927.
Of course, Waialae Country Club features wall-to-wall Bermuda grass.
This course typically plays firm and fast on both the fairways and the greens despite it being susceptible to coastal rainfall.
Although the Tour just made a stop in Hawaii in last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, the geography is the only thing last week’s venue and this week’s have in common.
Waialae Country Club is best described as a tight, claustrophobic and positional golf course that requires correct ball placement on each and every shot. In other words, long bombers off the tee won’t see an advantage this week.
This track features a multitude of doglegs and tight tree lined fairways.
The course features grown out rough that added the importance of finding the fairway off the tee. It previously measured 2.25 inches but in 2013, the rough was grown to three inches.
This helped keep scoring in check a season ago with Si Woo Kim reaching -18 in his victory and the field’s scoring average at -9, the lowest since 2018.
With the tight fairways and persistent doglegs, approach play from 125-200 yards will be of the utmost importance as the majority of approach shots will come from that distance.
Putting this week will be a premium as 12-of-the-last-14 winners ranked within the top ten in Strokes Gained: Putting (SG: PUTT) on the week.
Like what we saw last week, Waialae is exposed to the Hawaiian cost and the severity of the wind will play its hand in how the week will play out. Over the past few seasons, winds have been held in check, allowing the winning score to push -20. However, if the winds do become a factor, like they did in 2020, scoring could be much lower. Cameron Smith won that event at -11.
As of the time of writing this, winds may be a factor this week. They’re currently set at 14 miles-per-hour for Thursday and Saturday. Winds are set to be the highest on Friday at 18 miles-per-hour before dying out to five miles-per-hour on Sunday. There is little-to-no-chance for precipitation this week. Temperatures will be at the lowest on Friday with the increased winds at 72-degrees as Thursday, Saturday and Sunday will range from 76-to-77 degrees. If the winds they are calling for happen, we could see a higher scoring affair this week,
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Strokes Gained: Off the Tee (SG: OTT) / Driving Accuracy
Proximity to the hole from 125-200 Yards
Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda (SG: PUTT Bermuda)
Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%)
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Birdie or Better Percentage
Par 4 Average Scoring
With just four options in this price range, I’m going to suggest just one golfer here and two in the remaining price ranges. With that being said, my play in this price range is Tyrrell Hatton ($10,300.) Hatton had a strong showing at last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions that included a 62 on Friday, one off the course record. He finished last season 15th in both SG: OTT and par four average scoring, 19th in scrambling, 30th in SG: APP, 31st in birdie or better percentage, 42nd in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 50th in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards, 63rd in SG: ATG, 101st in driving accuracy and 124th in GIR%. I’m not over the moon about his driving figures or the GIR% number, but the rest of the game lines up. I’m playing two units on Hatton this week at +1600.
My first suggestion in this price range is Russell Henley ($9,600.) Henley was the 2013 winner of this event so it’s obvious that his game lines up. This is a course that requires accuracy off the tee and no one on Tour does that better than Henley. He topped the Tour in driving accuracy a season ago. He also finished seventh in par four average scoring, 18th in both SG: APP and scrambling, 29th in both GIR% and SG: ATG, 63rd in SG: OTT, 65th in proximity to the hole from 125-150 yards and 72nd in birdie or better percentage. It’ll come down to the putter for Henley as he ranks 148th on Tour in SG: PUTT Bermuda. He had a poor putting week last week but does have the ability to get hot with the putter. With this course requiring driving accuracy and crisp iron play, I’m hanging my hat there for Henley. I’m playing two units on him at +2200. Also consider Corey Conners ($9,800.) Conners finished T33rd at last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions. He also finished last season 11th on Tour in SG: OTT, 19th in both proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards and GIR%, 21st in SG: APP, 36th in par four average scoring, 62nd in birdie or better percentage and 78th in hit fairway percentage. Now, he does come with some red flags in the form of a 135th placement in SG: ATG, 146th in scrambling and 163rd in SG: PUTT Bermuda. He’ll need his irons to carry him but being elite from 125-150 yards is what I’m really excited about with Conners.
My first play in this price range is Justin Rose ($8,200.) Rose didn’t have the best week last week but it could have been much worse. He finished last season eighth on Tour in proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 17th in SG: APP, 20th in SG: ATG, 35th in birdie or better percentage, 49th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 54th in both driving accuracy and scrambling, 74th in par four average scoring, 115th in SG: OTT and 136th in GIR%. The iron play here with Rose is what really excited me, especially being elite from 125-200 yards. Also consider Stephan Jaeger ($8,100.) Jaeger played in four events across the PGA Tour’s Fall Swing (Fortinet Championship, Sanderson Farms Championship, World Wide Technology Championship and The RSM Classic.) He made the cut in each of them, placing T25th at the Sanderson Farms Championship and T28th at The RSM Classic. He placed T45th at the other two events. He finished last season seventh on Tour in SG: ATG, 16th in GIR%, 24th in par four average scoring, 36th in birdie or better percentage, 39th in SG: OTT, 44th in scrambling, 62nd in SG: APP, 80th in proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 114th in SG: PUTT Bermuda and 126th in driving accuracy. Not a bad resume for someone at the bottom of this price range.
Both of my suggestions in this price range rank rather high in my model this week. First up we have Lucas Glover ($7,700.) Glover placed T29th at last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions and had a putting week he’d like to forget. I’ll attest that to knocking the rust off. We know what he’s capable of with his newish “belly” putter. Glover finished last season fifth in driving accuracy, seventh in proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 14th in GIR%, 15th in SG: APP, 24th in par four average scoring, 38th in scrambling, 40th in birdie or better percentage, 45th in SG: OTT, 133rd in SG: ATG and 165th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. Of course it’ll be the putter that is the difference for Glover as his irons are elite. I’m playing a unit on him as well at +7500. Also consider Aaron Rai ($7,500.) Rai split his time between the PGA Tour and the DP World Tour during the fall. He played two events on the PGA Tour placing T28th at the Shriners Children’s Open and T21st at the ZOZO Championship. He also placed T10th at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, T9th at the Qatar Masters and T2nd at the BMW PGA Championship on the DP World Tour. Rai finished last season sixth on Tour in driving accuracy, 15th in par four average scoring, 25th in GIR%, 35th in SG: APP, 38th in SG: OTT, 51st in proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 56th in SG: ATG, 85th in scrambling and 88th in birdie or better percentage. Like most, it’ll come down to his putter as he ranks 145th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. We can hope he finds a hot flat stick this week. I’m also playing a unit on Rai this week at +8000.
Leading off this price range is Ryan Moore ($6,700.) If your criteria for this week is straight off the tee with strong iron play, Moore is the guy. He finished last season fourth on Tour in driving accuracy, sixth in proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, ninth in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 21st in scrambling, 22nd in SG: APP, 24th in par four average scoring, 32nd in GIR%, 98th in birdie or better percentage, 124th in SG: OTT and 160th in SG: ATG. Obviously the guys in these deeper price ranges are going to have red flags but the good definitely outweighs the bad in this situation. Moore also had one heck of a Fall Swing. He placed T5th at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship, T8th at The RSM Classic and T13th at the Shriners Children’s Open. He also made the cut at the World Wide Technology Championship and Fortinet Championship along the way. I’m playing a unit on Moore at +15000 this week. All of me wants to play Kevin Yu here but I’m opting for Doug Ghim ($6,800.) Ghim has been so hit-or-miss during the Fall Swing, missing the cut in four-of-six events. However, in the events he did make the cut, he did very well, placing T15th at the World Wide Technology Championship and T17th at the Fortinet Championship. He finished last season sixth on Tour in GIR%, tenth in driving accuracy, 26th in scrambling, 50th in SG: OTT, 52nd in par four average scoring, 70th in SG: APP, 79th in SG: ATG, 82nd in proximity to the hole from 125-200 yards, 99th in birdie or better percentage and 154th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. Not a bad resume for someone in this price range.
Tyrrell Hatton (+1600) - 2u
Russell Henley (+2200) - 2u
Lucas Glover (+7500) - 1u
Aaron Rai (+8000) - 1u
Ryan Moore (+15000) - 1u