2024 Sony Open Preview: Everything You Need To Know About Waialae Country Club
The 2024 PGA TOUR season continues on to its second leg in Hawaii. Next stop, the 2024 Sony Open at Waialae Country Club. Find Sony Open odds at the best sports betting sites to increase your potential PGA TOUR golf betting payouts. Ludvig Aberg, Matt Fitzpatrick, and Tyrrell Hatton project as the top favorites for this upcoming tournament.
The Hawaii Swing continues as the PGA TOUR hops islands from Maui to Honolulu for the 2024 Sony Open at Waialae Country Club. We kicked off the year with a 45-1 Si Woo Kim outright win this time last year. We look to get off to another hot start by channeling the same research.
Geographic location is where the similarities begin and end between Kapalua and Waialae. In contrast to the gargantuan, undulated fairways and greens at last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions, Waialae CC falls on the other end of the spectrum. It’s a tight, claustrophobic, and positional golf course that rewards precision. Longer hitters in the field don’t have the same advantage as other courses.
Newly grown out rough on the Seth Raynor-designed property only accentuates the importance of players keeping their ball on the fairway. Approach play from 125-200 yards and Bermuda putting are consistent characteristics across contenders at this event.
Without further ado, let’s run through the key facts and info about Waialae Country Club ahead of the 2024 Sony Open in Hawaii.
2024 OPENING SONY OPEN ODDS: THE FAVORITES
Find players with odds shorter than 20-1 below. Scroll to the bottom to compare complete outright odds across major sportsbooks in your state.
THE FIELD AT A GLANCE
144 players make up the field for the Sony Open. It’s a more decorated list of headliners than the event has seen in recent years. Many players already find themselves in Hawaii for The Sentry, which expanded to its largest field in tournament history. Notable debutants this week include Ludvig Aberg, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick, Will Zalatoris, and Akshay Bhatia. That creates a very interesting dynamic from a betting perspective, as bettors need to decide whether to abandon course history in favor of recent form. The venue has proven to be very sticky for those who have cracked the code at Waialae in previous years.
Twenty OWGR top-50 players tee it up this week. In addition to those previously noted, Russell Henley, Keegan Bradley, Brian Harman, JT Poston, and Sahith Theegala project as top contenders at the Sony Open.
Si Woo Kim returns to defend his title after chasing down Hayden Buckley in a climactic finish last year. Other returning winners include Hideki Matsuyama, Russell Henley, Matt Kuchar, Patton Kizzire, Ryan Palmer, and Zach Johnson.
INTRODUCTION TO WAIALAE COUNTRY CLUB
Waialae Country Club is a short resort course originally designed by Seth Raynor in 1927. It features Bermuda grass throughout. Though susceptible to coastal rainfall, the course tends to play firm and fast in both the fairways and greens. Runouts contribute to lower-than-average Driving Accuracy and Greens-In-Regulation percentages. In 2023, the rough was grown out from its usual average of 2.25 inches up to 3 inches. As a result, low scoring trends were held in check, as the field median score (-9) was its lowest since 2018.
Waialae features persistent doglegs and tight tree lines, historically neutralizing any advantage for longer hitters off the tee. Instead, the course forces driving accuracy and class short game. It’s a stark 180 from the massive property and wide open fairways at Kapalua. These tightened grounds should breed a more reasonable winning score in the high-teens to low-20s under par.
Like Kapalua, Waialae is exposed to the Hawaiian coast and the severity of the wind will be worth monitoring throughout the week. If the weather continues to stay as calm as we’ve seen the last few years, it will be easy to see scores push beyond -20. However, if sustained winds pick up like they did for Smith’s playoff win over Brendan Steele in 2020, this course can become a grind quickly.
For Waialae CC course specs, hole-by-hole breakdown with yardages, and past Sony Open winners with their pre-tournament odds, visit our Sony Open odds page.
COURSE HISTORY AND COURSE COMPS
According to Data Golf, Waialae CC is second to only Augusta National in terms of predictive course history. This is as good a week as any to factor past results into your research process. Similar to the trends noticed at Kapalua last week, it’s fair to connect repeated history at the Sony Open with players’ preparation. Many players will be shaking off the rust in their first competitive rounds since November.
Over the last five years, 14 players recorded multiple top-15 finishes at the Sony Open. That list includes Corey Conners, Matt Kuchar, Hideki Matsuyama, Chris Kirk, Ryan Palmer, Andrew Putnam, Russell Henley, Kevin Kisner, Hayden Buckley, Keith Mitchell, Webb Simpson, Nick Taylor, Keegan Bradley, and Patton Kizzire.
Eight players avoided missing the cut over the last five years (min. three appearances): Corey Conners, Hideki Matsuyama, Ryan Palmer, Stewart Cink, Kevin Kisner, Adam Svensson, Brendon Todd, and Harris English.
Nobody loves beginning their year in Hawaii more than Matt Kuchar. He recorded eight top-13 finishes over his last 10 Sony Open starts. Finishing T7 each of the last two years, we should expect to see uncharacteristically short odds on the 2019 Sony Open champion when odds release Monday.
After Kuchar, the rest of the top 10 in terms of total strokes gained at Waialae Country Club includes: Corey Conners, Justin Rose, Chris Kirk, Webb Simpson, Hayden Buckley, Stewart Cink, Si Woo Kim, Russell Henley, and Keith Mitchell.
If you think of any courses where players like Webb Simpson or Kevin Kisner have played well, you’ve identified the top comp courses to Waialae CC.
Sedgefield CC, Sea Island, and Harbour Town are the best comp courses that come to mind. Each serve as shorter positional courses with Bermuda grass throughout and have favored shorter, more accurate hitters with strong short games.
El Camaleon, Port Royal, Innisbrook Resort, Colonial CC, and Pebble Beach also fit the bill, sharing a similar profile as wind-exposed coastal courses with relatively easy scoring.
The top players in comp course history over the last 36 rounds are: Russell Henley, Cam Davis, Corey Conners, Seamus Power, Brian Harman, Hideki Matsuyama, David Lipsky, Austin Eckroat, Alex Noren, and Andrew Putnam.
KEY STATS TO CONSIDER FOR 2023 SONY OPEN ODDS
- SG: APP / Prox 125-200
- Driving Accuracy / SG: OTT (<7,200 Yard Courses)
- Par-4 Scoring: 400-500
- GIRs Gained
- Birdies or Better Gained
- SG: ARG
- SG: P (Bermuda)
- Course & Comp Course History
Waialae CC’s concentration of 10 par-4s between 400-500 yards make for a repeatable list of contenders. The top 10 players from this range predominantly displayed strong showings at the Sony Open: Tyrrell Hatton, Denny McCarthy, Ludvig Aberg, Adam Svensson, Ryan Moore, Justin Rose, Cam Davis, Alex Noren, Brian Harman, and Russell Henley.
This concentration of par-4s brings about 67% of approach shots funneled between 125-200 yards. That’s also been a proven indicator for contenders at this event. The top-10 from this range are: Tom Hoge, Chris Kirk, Will Zalatoris, Eric Cole, Lucas Glover, Michael Kim, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Ryan Moore, and Justin Lower.
Short Game tends to be one of the more inconsequential stats on TOUR. However, it’s key here so I’ll be dialing up that stat category much higher in my model than most other weeks. Considering the more grown out rough, this is especially the case. The top 10 players in SG: Short Game are Alex Noren, Taylor Montgomery, Brendon Todd, Aaron Baddeley, Eric Cole, Justin Rose, Harry Hall, Sahith Theegala, Matt Fitzpatrick, and Tyrrell Hatton.
Driving Distance And Waialae Success
There’s been no correlation between driving distance and success at Waialae CC. Given the shorter layout, most players instead found success dialing it back off the tee to prioritize playing out of the fairway for controlled approaches. Players are hitting these fairways slightly below TOUR average, which gives an advantage to the more accurate players off the tee. The top 10 players in Driving Accuracy are Russell Henley, Aaron Rai, Brendon Todd, Si Woo Kim, Martin Laird, Zac Blair, Troy Merritt, Tyler Duncan, Lucas Glover, and Ryan Moore.
Moreover, players who rank towards the top in terms of SG: OTT on comp short courses under 7,200 yards should help simulate those who can best position themselves on Waialae’s layout. The top 10 in this category include Corey Conners, Keith Mitchell, Cam Davis, Paul Barjon, Cameron Champ, Brian Harman, Hayden Buckley, Kevin Yu, Russell Henley, and Austin Eckroat.
Wrapping this altogether, the ideal player for this week should rank above-average in SG: APP, Prox: 125-200, Par-4: 400-500, Fairways Gained, SG: OTT (<7,200 Yard Courses), SG: ARG, and SG: P (Bermuda). Just six players fit each of those criteria: Justin Rose, Cam Davis, Brian Harman, JT Poston, Hideki Matsuyama, and Keegan Bradley.
Looking at the correlation charts, there is a notable drop-off in the importance of Par-5 Scoring at the Sony Open. There are only two on the scorecard and both are easily reachable in two for the full field. We also see the concentrated hole ranges of 400-450 and 450-500 make a notable jump into the top-10, and a corresponding jump in the importance of Proximity 150-175 & 175-200.
Distance stats like Driving Distance and Proximity 200+ have not correlated with success here in recent years.
Taking each of the above key categories into account, 10 players rate above average in all 15 top categories: Justin Rose, Brian Harman, Eric Cole, Adam Svensson, JT Poston, Tyrrell Hatton, Lucas Glover, Aaron Rai, Ryan Moore, Corey Conners, Adam Hadwin, JJ Spaun, Doug Ghim, Taylor Pendrith, and Callum Tarren.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: BRENDON TODD
I’m typically not one to overreact to a new player-caddie partnership, but heads turned across the golf landscape when Paul Tesori partnered up with Brendon Todd this year. Tesori had prior stints with Webb Simpson and Cameron Young. In their first start together at Kapalua, the two wasted no time gelling, as Todd came out the gates hot with a share of the 36-hole lead.
While it may seem puzzling to see one of the most sought-after caddies on TOUR opting for Todd, it does make sense for the type of player Tesori has worked best with. After all, Todd is a 38-year-old journeyman seeking his first win since 2019. Think of it like Phil Jackson coming back to the 2014 Knicks team laden with question marks to revive the triangle offense around Carmelo Anthony.
Tesori knows how to win with a player who has sub-160 mph ball speed and successfully game-planned a strategy on sub-7,200 yard Bermuda courses better than anyone alongside Simpson over the last decade. While Todd’s history at the Sony Open has been above-average to date (seven finishes between 20–50th in nine starts), the addition of Tesori on the bag may be enough to give him a boost into contention.
Caddie notes aside, it’s easy to see the fit for Todd at Waialae. He is elite in Driving Accuracy (No. 3), SG: ARG (No. 3), and Bermuda Putting (No. 14), an ideal stat makeup for the Sony Open. On an active streak of 10 consecutive cuts made and three top-10s over that span, Todd’s floor never looked higher. Hopefully the Tesori-Todd partnership is more fruitful and longer lasting than the Jackson experience in New York.
2024 SONY OPEN: DFS Player Pool
With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early toward the below player pool. Naturally, I’m looking their way in the 2024 Sony Open odds as well. I’ve broken the list down by actualized pricing/odds tier for DraftKings and rankings projections for Underdog Fantasy with odds and pricing released earlier this week.
UNDERDOG GOLF DRAFT RANKINGS TIERS
Si Woo Kim
Model Results & Breakdown
For my model in Fantasy National this week, I’m prioritizing SG: APP, Course & Comp Course History, and Prox: 125-200, followed by a more balanced mix of SG: ARG, Bogey Avoidance, SG: OTT (<7,200 Courses), Fairways Gained, SG: P (L36 + Bermuda), and Par 4: 400-500.
Not exactly the name I was expecting, but Justin Rose claimed top honors in my Sony Open model. A closer look through the data tells a clearer reason why – he finished top-15 in each of his last three appearances at Waialae CC and ranks top-10 across the key categories of SG: APP, Par-4: 400-500, SG: ARG, Prox: 125-200, and Birdies or Better Gained.
After Rose, my model’s top 10 is rounded out by Russell Henley, Cam Davis, Brian Harman, Eric Cole, Adam Svensson, JT Poston, Ludvig Aberg, Tyrrell Hatton, and Hideki Matsuyama.
When odds release Monday, I’ll look to start my card with Justin Rose, Brendon Todd, and JT Poston, depending on where there is value.
Thanks for reading, and good luck navigating 2024 Sony Open odds!