Sony Open Preview
January 8, 2020
What a great finish to the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Does it get any better than having 3 of the top 12 in the world battling it out in a playoff? I may have been off with the score (it was more blustery than I expected), but our pick, Justin Thomas, prevailed. Now we are hopping islands and headed to Oahu for the Sony Open at the Seth Raynor designed Waialae Country Club. Here’s what to expect this week.
There will be a few more players this week as the first full event of 2020 will have 144 players competing for a piece of the $6.6 million prize purse and early FedEx Cup points. Even tough only one player inside the top 10 in the world is playing this week, expect to see some great golf in what is expected to be blustery conditions
The defending champion, Matt Kuchar, will look to be the first golfer since Jimmy Walker in ’14 and ’15. We also look to see if Justin Thomas can repeat his performance in ’17 and win both the ToC and Sony Open in the same year. The only other player to do this was Ernie Els back in ’03.
You can see this weeks pairings for the first two rounds here.
We have gone from the par 73 Plantation Course at Kapalua to the 7,044 yard, par 70 Waialae Country Club. This Seth Raynor designed course has hosted the PGA Tour since 1965. With a reachable par 5 finishing hole, this course will give golfers opportunity to finish strong. We have witnessed Justin Thomas shoot 59 in 2017 and are in store for another great week in Hawaii.
Predictions and Players to Watch
Last week I talked about Brendon Todd and he struggled dealing with the winds. Well here is his opportunity to test his ballstriking again. He has a favorable pairing of Justin Thomas and Matt Kuchar, but I think he will struggle again this week.
I am really interested in watching the 2019 Korn Ferry Tour Graduates Doug Ghim, Matthew NeSmith, Robby Shelton and Harry Higgs. This is their first year on the PGA Tour and will look to find a way to keep their tour cards. In 2018, Doug Ghim was the low amateur at the Masters and was named the best male college golfer. Let’s see if any of these players will make a run this week.
I swear I won’t keep telling you to watch Justin Thomas, but he is looking to become the first golfer to win both the ToC and Sony Open in the same year twice. The highest ranked player in the field has played this course well so it would not be surprising for him to continue his stellar play. I don’t think he will win, but he will be high up on the leaderboard come Sunday.
The weather looks to be blustery all week so I am looking for a player that can play the par 4’s well as there are only two par 5’s on the course. Scoring at this event has been everywhere in recent years but I am not expecting to see the winner get to -20. I like -16 to win this week.
As for my player this week, I think this is the week Sungjae Im gets his first tour victory. He had a great week at the President’s Cup and was one of the most consistent rookies on tour last year becoming only the 13th rookie to qualify for the Tour Championship. He had seven top-10s and finished inside the top 15 at this event last year. Im joined Stewart Cink as the only players to be named Korn Ferry Tour Player of Year and PGA Tour Rookie of the Year in consecutive seasons. This is the week he gets into the winner’s circle.