Long-term readers will probably spot many similarities with previous Sony Open betting guides, as this really is one course where we should know what to expect. Waialae CC has hosted the Sony Open since 1965 and hasn’t changed dramatically in that time. At just over 7,000 yards, its short by modern standards, but the small, fast greens and usually-present wind ensure it still provides a tough examination.
Ranking the various stats in order of importance is less straightforward though. Most obviously due to the size of the putting surfaces, hitting a high percentage of greens in regulation is imperative. However, while first impressions might suggest driving distance is irrelevant, some very big hitters have made the frame in recent years, showing that an ultra-attacking strategy can pay just as good dividends as a cautious, positional approach. Equally, because several greens will inevitably be missed, the most significant stat is arguably scrambling. Nevertheless, while this course can be conquered by players with different skills-sets, the common feature of winners here is quality. Every winner this century has played in either a Ryder or Presidents Cup, and five were Major champions.
Numerous course specialists have emerged over the years, most of whom are towards the head of the betting. Tournament favourite STEVE STRICKER has four top sevens at Waialae, and the next man on the list is the defending champion, Zach Johnson. Ernie Els has won twice, and missed the top five only once in six visits. Last week’s runner-up Rory Sabbatini has also filled that position twice here. Only one of the leading ten in the betting, Sean O’Hair, has yet to make a top ten at this venue.
It is these course specialists, plus a few others, that interest me. Stricker’s chance is blindingly obvious. The world’s third best player can boast a far superior set of form figures than anyone else here, and has a perfectly legitimate reason for not challenging seriously last week as he’d had no preparation due to the weather. Once he’d worked off any rust, Stricker stormed through the field with a tally of -14 over the weekend, looking back to the outstanding form of 2009.
It’s almost equally hard to pierce Johnson’s claims, and the only valid reason I can find to oppose him is the possible extra pressure as defending champion. Els at 25/1 is tempting, because on his day there is probably no player in the world better suited to this venue. Generally Els looks a player in decline, especially in the bottle department, but he still produces very high-class golf on occasions. It would be no shock to see him recapture some form here, but after so many final-day failures, I’m looking elsewhere. Despite Sunday’s amazing final round, Rory Sabbatini remains a very hard player to catch right, and his odds more than adequately reflect his chance.