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Sony Open Preview and Picks
by Matt Fargo - 01/07/2014
While we are just in our second tournament of 2014, we are actually in the eighth tournament of the season with the new wrap around schedule. Zach Johnson shot a final round 66 to win the Hyundai Tournament of Champions by one stroke over Jordan Spieth, his third win worldwide in his last six starts. The tour remains on the island for the second leg of the Hawaii swing with the Sony Open from Waialae Golf Course in Honolulu.
Waialae Country Club is a 7,044-yard, par 70 track that was opened in 1927 as a way to get more tourism to Hawaii and has hosted the Hawaii Open since its inception in 1965. While the course is short in length, it get its toughness from very narrow fairways and winds that can be troublesome. The wind was not an issue last year though as rookie Russell Henley won going away as his 256 (-24) broke the tournament record by four shots.
You won't see many big names and you will see a lot of rookies, 24 in all, who will all be out trying to do what Henley did - win in their first start on tour. Of the 30 champions from last season who played last week, only 18 are making the trip from Kapalua, all for various reasons. The biggest being the west coast swing starts next week and flying back after this event gives little time for prep for the Humana Challenge which involves three courses. Six of the top 25 players in this week's world rankings are in play this week.
Matt Kuchar (+1,400) is one of the favorites and I think he has the best chance over Adam Scott and Zach Johnson. Kuchar finished T6 at Kapalua as a third round 75 did him in but it was a good tuneup for this week. He has been one of the most consistent golfers the last few years and last season was a microcosm of that as he won twice, had eight top tens and didn't miss a cut in 23 starts. He had a T5 here in both 2013 and 2011.
Charles Howell III (+2,000) is still in search of his first ever PGA Tour victory and he came close a few times early last year including here. He finished T3 which came after a T2 in 2012 and those two finishes are part of seven career top fives. He was also a runner up in 2007. He has already been busy in the 2014 tour schedule as he has not missed a cut in five starts and has three top sevens to his credit.
Tim Clark (+2,200) has already played in five events with a T2 at The McGladrey Classic showing he is in good form. He is coming off an average 2013 but his track record here is solid with a T12 in 2009, a T25 in 2010 and a T2 in 2011. His best though was last year with a solo second behind Henley as his final round 63 wasn't good enough. Long known for a short but accurate driver off the tee, it makes sense that he has thrived at Waialae.
Chris Kirk (+2,800) won The McGladrey Classic in November, his second tour win, which got him into the field at the Hyundai last week. He was tied for the lead after the first day but a second round 75 knocked him out of contention. He had a very solid 2013 season with a runner up at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am and overall he had 11 top 25's in 24 events with just four missed cuts. Finished T5 here last year.
A longshot won it last year but backing another rookie is not a good option so we will go with Chris Stroud (+5,000). He already has a pair of T3 finishes this year, one at the CIMB Classic and one at the OHL Classic at Mayakoba. While he did miss the cut at the Sony last year, he finished T13 in 2012 so he has clearly played well here and now that he is in good early form, his first PGA Tour win could be here.
Recommended Tournament Win Five Pack at the Sony Open in Hawaii - All for 1 Unit
Matt Kuchar (+1,400)
Charles Howell III (+2,000)
Tim Clark (+2,200)
Chris Kirk (+2,800)
Chris Stroud (+5,000)
2014 Record to date after 0 events: +0 Units