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PGA Tour: Sony Open -- Preview and Picks
by Matt Fargo - 01/11/2012
The PGA Tour officially got underway last week with Steve Stricker bringing home the Hyundai Tournament of Champions which was a winners only event. This week, the Sony Open in Hawaii takes center stage with it being the first full-field event on the PGA Tour this season. You won't see many big names this week and you will see a lot of rookies, 24 in all, but it doesn't matter as the golf season is officially here.
Waialae Country Club in Honolulu plays host once again and we should see some better weather this year after inclement weather forced a 36-hole finish on Sunday last January. Mark Wilson won by two strokes over Tim Clark and Steve Marino, the first of his two wins in 2011. The par 70 layout is known for narrow fairways and despite finishing 12th last year in fairways hit, it has finished third or tougher over the last seven years.
Five of the top six finishers from Kapalua Resort, including Stricker, will be in the field this week so momentum from last week could play a factor. While hitting fairways is essential, scrambling comes into play for those who can't hit the short grass. Also further proving that experience here is key, rookies have not had much success as only one first timer finished in the top 30 last year.
Stricker (+700) looks like a valid option to win but taking back-to-back events right out of the gate is extremely rare as the last time it happened was 2003 when Ernie Els won the Mercedes Championship and Sony Open in consecutive weeks. Stricker is fifth in the world and is the best player in the field this week but something says the Hawaii letdown will come into play.
Webb Simpson (+1,000) was phenomenal in 2011 as he had 12 top ten finishes including two wins and three solo second place finishes. He is coming off a T3 last week so he was in the running and looks to have not lost much from the winter break. He led the PGA Tour in All-Around ranking last year so he has the game to win anywhere and his T9 at Waialae shows that includes here.
David Toms (+3,000) made a big comeback last year as he had eight top tens including a win at Colonial. He is coming a pretty lousy finish last week at Kapalua Resort but we have seen a similar setup before. He finished 13th at the Mercedes back in 2006 and came back to win the Sony the next week. He has had great success here as in his past six starts at Waialae, only once did he finish worse than T13.
Take note of one of the runner-ups from last year in this event, Steve Marino (+4,000). He has yet to win on tour but this has been one of his favorite stops. Besides his T2 last year, he finished T7 in 2009 and T4 in 2008. While his overall 2011 season was inconsistent, he did have two other top five finishes and he has played better early in the season than late in the season the last two years.
Jerry Kelly (+4,000) did not win last year so he did not play last week but he still had a good 2011 season with four top ten finishes and his game fits this course well. He finished T9 here last year, solo third in 2008 and T13 in both 2007 and 2006. Not counting 2010 when he had to withdraw from this event, 18 of his past 20 rounds at Waialae have been in the 60's.
For a longshot we will take a look at Chris Kirk (+5,000). As mentioned earlier, only one rookie last year finished in the top 30 and it happened to be Kirk who finished T30. While that may not inspire a ton of confidence, he won on tour last year, taking home the Viking Classic to go along with three other tops tens. He took advantage of his invite last week with a T7.
Recommended Tournament Win Five Pack at the Sony Open in Hawaii
Webb Simpson (+1,000)
David Toms (+3,000)
Steve Marino (+4,000)
Jerry Kelly (+4,000)
Chris Kirk (+5,000)