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PGA TOUR: Mike Glasscott's Sony Open preview

The second gathering of the PGA TOUR for the 2024 season features the first full-field event at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Since 1965, Waialae Country Club has welcomed the TOUR to Honolulu on the island of Oahu. The annual event follows The Sentry each January as the second of two events to start the month of January in the Hawaiian Islands.

The field of 144 players includes 38 who participated in The Sentry last week at The Plantation Course on Maui. The field will also contain 15 of the 30 KFT graduates and five players from the top 10 on the DP World Tour.

This week provides the first opportunity to earn FedExCup points for the Aon Next 10 and Aon Swing 5 for entrance into the next Signature Events. 

The purse is $8.3 million, with the winner earning $1.494 million, 500 FedExCup points, the 2025 Sentry, and the Masters in April.

PGA TOUR

Top of the Board  

Matt Fitzpatrick (16/1) didn’t begin the week as the favourite, but he’s now a co-first choice. The Englishman, winner at the Alfred Dunhill Links in October and at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town in April, is the highest-ranked player from the Official World Golf Ranking in the field this week. Making his first start at Waialae, the 2022 U.S. Open winner cashed T14 on Maui last week. Knocking off the rust, he circled 24 birdies and two eagles against just four bogeys. He will look to join Russell Henley as the only player to win on debut this century.

For the first time in months, Ludvig Åberg (16/1) looked like a human being on a golf course during the first three rounds of The Sentry. Closing with a bogey-free 63 (-10), the Swedish sensation vaulted to the top of the odds board on Monday morning. The winner at The RSM Classic in November closed that Par-70 seaside course 61-61, posted a record-setting total of 29-under, and won for the first time on TOUR.

Lurking as the third choice, Tyrrell Hatton (18/1) is making his debut this week with the two players above him. The highlight of his week on Maui was posting 11-under 62 in Round 2 before cashing T14. The Englishman has cashed 37 of his last 40 on TOUR and ranks in the top 30 in all Strokes-Gained categories minus Around the Green. The last time he was in the winner’s circle was in the winter of 2021 in Dubai.

Russell Henley (20/1) provides the most bang for the horse-for-course buck among the favourites. The debut winner in 2013 set the tournament scoring record at the time by four shots. Leading after 54 holes in 2022, he fell to Hideki Matsuyama (+5000) in a playoff. Posting superb results on Bermuda throughout his career and as recently as last year pushes him up this list. 

Brian Harman (20/1) will enjoy the reduction from 7,596 yards to 7,044 yards after T5 last week at Kapalua. The 2023 Open champion doesn’t rely on length and will work it around Waialae for the 13th time in his career. Although he’s cashed in his last four visits, he has not landed in the top 10 since T4 in 2018.

Chris Kirk (25/1) kicked off the new season in-style as a triple-digit winner at The Sentry. Without a top-10 payday since the Valero Texas Open last April, he mowed down the field at Kapalua with 30 birdies against just one solitary bogey for a winning total of 29-under. Following his victory, he tees it up at a track where he’s been a runner-up twice and third once. Posting 47-under over the last three editions, he was solo third last year and T2 in 2021. From the players in the field this week, only Matt Kuchar has won more money here.

Speaking of the Valero Texas Open, the 2023 winner is in the field this week. Corey Conners (25/1) will look to add to four consecutive T12 or better paydays at Waialae. Turning up the heat last weekend with his iron play, he was second in SG: Approach on Saturday before leading the field on Sunday. At the end of the week, he registered in the top 10 in both Fairways and GIR. I’ll start my card this week with his name at the top. Players carrying odds of 20/1 or less have only produced three victories since 2010.

Angles 

Waialae Country Club stretches to just 7,044 yards, one of the shortest courses on TOUR, and plays to Par-70. 

The last 10 victors have produced winning scores of 17-under or better nine times.

Of the last 10 winners, eight played the week prior at Kapalua.

Bermudagrass fairways, rough, and greens are in play again this week.

With greens averaging 7,100 square feet, Waialae ranks near the top of the largest putting surfaces on TOUR. 

Bermuda rough is approaching three inches this week after a deluge on Monday. 

Experienced players flourished in this event from 1997 through 2019. All but three winners were under the age of 30. Over the last four years, only one winner has eclipsed that mark. If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.    

The course record, 59, was set in 2017 by Justin Thomas (not entered), in Round 1. He would go on to win and smash the tournament scoring record by three shots as he posted 253 (-27).

The last four champions have represented the International team in the Presidents Cup.

The last five winners have needed four or more previous attempts.

The field of 144 contains 22 of the top 50 OWGR.

Players to consider for Top 10, Top 20, or Top 40 action:

Eric Cole: Doesn’t gain many strokes off the tee but sits 19th in SG: Approach and 13th in SG: Putting.

Matt Kuchar: The 2019 champ sits fourth on the all-time money list and was T7 the last two years. 

J.J. Spaun: Making 10 consecutive cuts, he’s produced T13 or better in three of his last five on TOUR.

Nick Taylor: I’m always looking to ride the trend, and the Canadian finished T32, T11, and T7 in 2023.

Taylor Montgomery: T8 last time out at The RSM Classic and T12 on debut here last year.

Austin Eckroat: The 54-hole leader last year finished second after T12 on debut in 2022.

Takumi Kanaya: Posting top-10 paydays in four of his last five on the Japan Tour, he will get another chance as a sponsor’s exemption this week.

Kevin Kisner: The television announcer try-out has ended. He returns to an event where he’s cashed T4-T32-T3 in his last three visits.

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