They really say, "Life comes at you fast." I've never felt that statement more true after Collin Morikawa lost his massive lead on Sunday at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. When Morikawa started his round, he was an overwhelming -1500 favorite. By the time he hit the turn, he was as high as a -20000 favorite. After a mixture of untimely mistakes and an unearthly round from Jon Rahm, his title hopes diminished within the blink of an eye. While I feel bad for Morikawa, that is exactly how I wanted the golf season to start in 2023. We are in for a great season if every tournament can produce that same drama at the finish.
This week the PGA Tour makes the short trip from Maui to Honolulu for the Sony Open, an event won by Hideki Matsuaya last season. The 7,044-yard par-70 Waialae Country Club delivers spectacular events year in and year out. The course is short and puts a premium on driving accuracy, giving everyone in the field an equal opportunity to go low. It's generally mid to long shots which end up winning this event. Before I saw the pricing, I knew two golfers were must plays.
Here is a look at the players I am betting this week:
Tom Hoge: +3000
Tom Hoge was an interesting play this week, given his recent success and familiarity with Waialae. He's seen a mixed bag in terms of results here. He's missed three cuts and has a T-12 and a solo third. Hoge's game throughout the season has been up and down, but the fact remains that at a course that requires hitting fairways and greens in regulation, he's a threat. Waialae reminds me of Pebble Beach, a course where Hoge picked up his lone PGA Tour win. He's also third in my primary model. He's hitting fairways at a 63% clip and greens in regulation at 68%. His putter is generally his strength and has been dynamite in his last five events.
There are some concerns about him traveling to California for the National Championship game and then returning to Hawaii for the Sony Open. I'm not overly concerned. It's about a five-hour flight, which he took Sunday, and a five-hour flight back on Tuesday morning. If he can't shake off his hangover by Wednesday for a practice round, I don't believe he went to TCU.
Culp's Corner: Course preview, player power rankings for the Sony Open
Tom Kim: +1200
There are a few guys on Tour who can become absolute studs. Guys who are more likely to win than they are to miss a cut. Tom Kim is one of them. He's already a multiple Tour winner and has shown he can compete with anyone. His fifth-place finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions shouldn't go unnoticed. I left him off my outright card because I felt Kapalua would play too long for him to compete. He probed that he could excel even at longer courses.
He is known for his accurate driving and his strong approach play. At a course that rewards those attributes, there's no surprise that he's the betting favorite. His putting hasn't been up to his high standard, but he's the type of golfer who can get hot with his putter and take over a tournament.
Looking at his tournament finishes since he broke onto the scene at the Scottish Open, he's been a beast. He has two wins in 11 tournaments, and he's picked up five top-10s in such time. In those tournaments, Kim has gained, on average, +3.9 strokes on approach, +0.7 off-the-tee, and another +0.4 putting.
Kim is second in my primary, only behind Sungjae Im. I'm a big Kim fan this week, and I'll be betting on him as such.
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Keegan Bradley (+3500):
There were questions as to if Keegan Bradley would win on Tour again. In October, he silenced the doubters with his win at the Zozo Championship. Things haven't quite gone his way since then, with a T-21 at the CJ Cup and a 34th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. I don't think anyone on Tour could've putt worse than Bradley did last week. He lost 5.4 strokes putting, and at no point did it look like he was in a rhythm. Generally, when good putters have poor performances, they bounce back sooner than later. If Bradley can quickly put his putting woes behind him, he could be in for a big week. He's relatively accurate off the tee, and his putting is typically pretty strong. He knows this course well and has shown he can compete here.
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