While the Sony Open is also played in Hawaii, just like last week’s Tournament of Champions, it represents a complete shift from how the first tournament of 2021 was played. That one was about length, while this one is one of the shorter tracks on the PGA Tour. That field was elite, while this one is merely solid. That tournament was all driving and ball-striking, while this one favors great putters more than most. Still, there’s plenty of intrigue surrounding the first full-field event of 2021.
Let’s take a closer look at this week’s contest, with odds and prop bets provided via William Hill Sportsbook.
What: Sony Open
When: Jan. 14-17
Where: Waialae Country Club — Honolulu, Hawaii
Three things to know
1. Niemann’s next: I wrote on Monday about Joaquin Niemann, who finished runner-up to Harris English last week at the Tournament of Champions, and he is one of the handful of biggest stories entering this event. Not even necessarily for how he’ll play this week, but more broadly for what his start to 2021 means for his career arc. There’s a decent chance that we’re watching him make the leap to become a top-15 or top-10 player in the world.
2. Morikawa, star? You could make the argument — and I probably would — that Collin Morikawa is the biggest star in this field. He’s a reigning major champ, is leading off the press conferences on Tuesday and is the highest-ranked player in the field. Throw in the fact that he started with a top 10 last week at the Tournament of Champions, and excitement for where his career could go remains sky-high.
3. Horses for courses: There are a few horses for this course that might not make sense unless you understand the course. Matt Kuchar, Webb Simpson and Charles Howell III — all average drivers of the ball — have absolutely thrived here because distance is so neutered at a course that’s barely 7,000 yards. The distance debate will rage on, and the first two weeks of 2021 — length at Kapalua and lack of it here — are an interesting juxtaposition.
Grading the field
It’s not bad, but it’s also not great. What it lacks in star power — (which is a lot — it makes up for in depth. This year’s field includes top-20 players like Collin Morikawa, Webb Simpson and Harris English, but it also seems deeper. The numbers back this up, too, as it has a higher strength-of-field number than each of the last five events here. Grade: A-
1. Jerry Kelly top 20 (+1100): There are about three courses where a 54-year-old can compete on the PGA Tour, and this is one of them. Kelly has finished in the top 20 in four of his last seven starts here.
2. Charles Howell III top 20 (+200): This feels like stealing. As Jack Nicklaus was to Augusta National, Charles Howell III is to Waialae Country Club.
3. Joaquin Niemann top 10 (+200): I’m all the way in (see below), and think he carries the momentum from Kapalua to Honolulu.