Why lie, I’m excited for the first full field event of 2022, as stop No. 2 of the Hawaii swing brings us to Waialae Country Club for the Sony Open. We’ll go over the bets, odds and what to look for when handicapping the 2022 Sony Open.
If the grounds look familiar this time around, that’s because the Waialae Four Seasons on property is where the immaculately marketed hit summer HBO Comedy, “The White Lotus” was filmed.
“Short” is the buzz word this week. Short course for short-game specialists and short hitters. Uncomfortably short odds inbound for Webb Simpson and Cam Smith that may actually be hard to pass up. Shorts weather in Hawaii as I continue to re-evaluate my life choices shoveling snow out of my Jersey City parking lot.
Last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions didn’t require a ton of in-depth research, given the small field and uncertain form of many of the best players in the world. This week, while it’s still the first event after a long layoff for most of the players in the field, there’s no question everyone who’s playing is here to win and vying for FedEx Cup points early in the year, so there’s plenty of edge to gain by modeling course key stats once again.
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2022 Sony Open Odds: The Favorites
Here are the favorites after Bryson DeChambeau withdrew from the tournament. These odds are as of Monday, Jan. 10 at 2:30 p.m. EST. For the full odds board and latest live outright odds, scroll to the bottom of the article.
THE FIELD AT A GLANCE
Not quite the star-studded affair we just saw at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, but this week’s field is much more formidable than Sony Opens of the past. Bryson DeChambeau withdrew this week with wrist soreness.
There are 16 OWGR top-50 players in the field this week. Simpson, Smith, Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Harris English, and Abraham Ancer enter as presumptive favorites.
The 2021 champion Kevin Na is back to defend his title. Other past winners in this week’s field include Smith, Matt Kuchar, Patton Kizzire, Jimmy Walker, Russell Henley, Ryan Palmer, and Zach Johnson.
INTRODUCTION TO WAIALAE COUNTRY CLUB
Waialae Country Club is one of the shorter courses on TOUR as a 7,044 yard Par-70. Naturally, it has historically neutralized any advantage for longer hitters off the tee. Instead, the course emphasizes driving accuracy and class short game. It’s a stark 180 from the massive property and wide open fairways we just saw 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 saw in Maui, 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.
A look down the list of past winners and consistent past contenders at this event shows a strong pattern of success from short-game specialists. Last season, this event was top-three easiest in Par-3 and Par-5 Scoring. It was also the third-easiest course to gain on approach and fifth easiest to gain around the greens. That puts an emphasis on Par-4 Scoring and Driving Accuracy, and should continue to favor the most skilled putters.
Let’s dive into the stats and storylines that matter most in 2022 Sony Open odds.
WAIALAE COUNTRY CLUB COURSE SPECS
- Yards: 7,044
- Par: 70 (4x 3s / 12x 4s / 2x 5s)
- Greens: Bermuda
- Architect: Seth Raynor (with renovations/input from Robert Trent Jones, Desmond Muirhead, Rick Smith, and Tom Doak)
- Historical Cut Line: -1 to -2
- Median 4-round Score: -12 (’21), -3 (’20), -8 (’19), -9 (’18), -10 (’17)
- Comp Courses: Port Royal, Pebble Beach, Harbour Town, Coco Beach, El Camaleon, Sea Island GC, Sedgefield CC
- Past Winners: Kevin Na (’21), Cam Smith (’20), Matt Kuchar (’19), Patton Kizzire (’18), Justin Thomas (’17)
At 7,044 yards this course sets up below TOUR average in distance for a Par-70 with just two Par-5s, four Par-3s, and 12 Par-4s. Par-5 Scoring at the Sony Open is ranked as the easiest on TOUR, and both holes should be reachable in two for virtually all players in the field, regardless of their distance off the tee. That puts a particular emphasis on Par-4 Scoring this week, with 10 holes falling between 400-500 yards. The top-10 players in Par-4 Scoring 400-500 this week are Ancer, Brendon Todd, Seamus Power, Chris Kirk, Corey Conners, Keegan Bradley, Smith, Christiaan Bezhuidenhout, Simpson, and Sung Kang.
According to Data Golf, Waialae CC is second to only Augusta National in terms of predictive course history, so this is as good a week as any to factor past results into your research process. Simpson leads the way with the most strokes gained at Waialae CC over the last 36 rounds, including top-five finishes in each of his last three appearances. It’s hard to believe he has never won here. But just like Sedgefield CC and Harbour Town, this is a bona fide Webb course to which he should be coming with expectations to win.
Other players rounding out the top-10 list of course history include Kuchar, Charles Howell III, Marc Leishman, Kevin Kisner, Hudson Swafford, Kizzire, Kirk, Conners and Luke Donald. The prevailing trend continues to be an absence of plus-distance and (with the exception of Conners) strong putting pedigree. Looking at more recent success, there are eight players with multiple T10 finishes over the last five years: Simpson, Howell III, Leishman, Kizzie, Kisner, Brian Stuard, Steele, and Kirk.
Steele has been excellent here recently, nearly winning each of the last two years. Watch where his odds open coming off of a great T2 showing at the ZOZO this past fall.
If you can think of any courses where Simpson or Kisner have played well, you’ve identified the top comp courses to Waialae CC. Sedgefield CC, Harbour Town, Pebble Beach, and Sea Island are all state-side shorter courses that have favored shorter, accurate hitters with strong short games. El Camaleon, Port Royal, and Coco Beach share a similar profile as coastal, wind exposed courses with relatively easy scoring as well. The top players in comp course history over the last 36 rounds are Simpson, Billy Horschel, Ancer, English, Na, Russell Henley, Conners and Howell III.
It’s worth noting just how significant the gap is at the top, as Webb has gained a staggering 24 more total strokes on these comp courses than the next nearest player. Webb will have very low odds and very high DFS ownership, as we’ve come to expect each year at the Sony Open.
KEY STATS To Consider For 2022 Sony Open Odds
- Driving Accuracy
- GIRs Gained
- Par-4 400-500 yards
- SG: Short Game / SG: ARG
- Prox 150-200
- SG: P (Bermuda)
- SG: TOT (<7,200 yards)
- Course & Comp Course History
Short Game tends to be one of the more inconsequential stats on TOUR, but it’s key here, so I’ll be dialing up that stat category much higher in my model than most other weeks. The top-10 players in SG: Short Game are Na, Martin Trainer, Kevin Tway, Hank Lebioda, Stephan Jaeger, Denny McCarthy, Harry Higgs, Kuchar, English and Smith.
There’s been no correlation between driving distance and success at Waialae CC. Given the shorter layout, most players have instead found success dialing it back off the tee to prioritize playing out of the fairway for controlled approaches.
Slight misses into the rough aren’t especially penal here as they might be at a more positional course like Colonial or Harbour Town. But, 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 Chez Reavie, Stuard, Brendon Todd, Ryan Moore, Tyler Duncan, Ancer, Conners, Russell Knox, Lucas Glover, and Michael Thompson.
In any case, players are still hitting greens in regulation at a higher clip than TOUR average here, so the ability to keep it in the fairway is not a foundational need. But I’m looking to weed out players who are below-average in driving accuracy.
Honing in on the key stats of the week, there are just six players in this week’s field who rank above average in Driving Accuracy, SG: Putting (Bermuda), SG: ARG, and Course & Comp Course History: English, Kuchar, Kramer Hickok, Denny McCarthy, Max McGreevy, and Stuard.
From a ball striking perspective, there are just eight players who rank above average in this week’s field in both Prox 150-200 and Par-4 Scoring 400-500: Talor Gooch, Simpson, Tom Hoge, Alex Smalley, Hayden Buckley, Knox, Chesson Hadley, and Bradley. Of that group, only Buckley, Smalley, Simpson and Hadley also rate out above average in Bermuda Putting.
Looking at the correlation charts, there is a notable drop off in the importance of Par-5 Scoring at the Sony Open. Birdies or better will be attainable for the full field on both Par 5s. 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, there are ten players who rate out above average in all 10 top categories: Gooch, Smith, Im, Conners, Hoge, Smalley, Buckley, Joel Dahmen, Henley, and Moore.
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: DENNY MCCARTHY
We’ve seen the type of player who wins this event. Deficient in driving distance but above average in driving accuracy, average to above average on approach, and elite in short game, particularly Bermuda putting. That’s how I would describe Na, Smith, Kuchar, and Kizzire. McCarthy is on a fast track to fill that role in 2022.
He closed 2021 hot with three consecutive top-15 finishes at Mayakoba, the Houston Open, and the RSM Classic. Like many of the other successful shorter hitters on Tour, he has taken advantage of his opportunities on short course putting contests that emphasize prowess on and around the greens. His last four finishes on short comp courses to Waialae include a T10 at the RSM Classic, T15 at Mayakoba, T39 at the Bermuda Championship, and T15 at the Wyndham Championship.
While his streaky putting has helped him sustain a career on the PGA TOUR and mask some usually average ball striking numbers, McCarthy has quietly rounded out his game. He ranks first in Bogey Avoidance, second in GIRs Gained, and third in Par-4 Scoring. The putter remains hot, closing the year with 9.6 Strokes Gained Putting over his final two events on Bermuda greens. He ranks sixth in Bermuda Putting over the last 24 rounds, and surprisingly sneaks in as the eighth overall player in SG: TOT over the same L24 round span entering this tournament.
McCarthy is still searching for his first career PGA TOUR victory, but has been knocking on the door with 17 top-15 finishes since 2018. Nine of those have come on short, coastal comp courses to Waialae CC. This will be his debut at the Sony Open, but history shows us that success at other shorter courses translates. With his game clicking in all the right areas, he makes for an appealing Top 20 bet and outright flyer.
- More from John: 2022 Sony Open Longshots
WHAT TO LOOK OUT FOR AT THE 2022 SONY OPEN
It was an entertaining 2021 Sony Open to follow along as Joaquin Niemann, Simpson, Steele and Leishman jockeyed for position, only to be passed by a surging Na, who carried a white-hot putter to claim victory.
Kirk also needed a T2 finish to maintain his PGA TOUR card on extended medical exemption and did so. That made for an entertaining subplot as well.
The formula of backing good short game players who are so-so ball strikers hasn’t failed recently here. So, while it’s an inverted approach to typical golf handicapping strategy, I’m sticking to that playbook when handicapping 2022 Sony Open odds. I’m looking for short-game specialists in the middle-to-long range of the odds board this week.
With all the course-fit profiles in mind, I’m leaning early towards the below player pool. It’s broken out by projected pricing/odds tier.
For my model in Fantasy National this week, I’m using a mix of Course & Comp Course History, SG: T2G, SG: Short Game, and Fairways Gained, followed by a balanced mix of GIRs Gained, SG: P (Bermuda), P4: 400-500, and Prox 150-200.
Webb Simpson has come out as No. 1 in the model, ranking first in Course & Comp Course History and 2nd in SG: T2G as he comes off an impressive 10 strokes gained T2G at the RSM Classic in his previous start. After Simpson, my model’s top 10 is rounded out by Sungjae Im, Denny McCarthy, Seamus Power, Abraham Ancer, Brendon Todd, Marc Leishman, Cam Smith, Talor Gooch, and Corey Conners.
From a betting perspective, this has the makings of a longer card week. I’ll be looking to get exposure to a volume of short game specialists in the +5000 to +8000 range. I’m favoring Kramer Hickok, Tom Hoge, and Denny McCarthy as players to build my card around this week, but will have to check back here on Monday when odds are posted.
Thanks for reading, and good luck navigating 2022 Sony Open odds!
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