Prize Fund – $5,600,000
Winner’s Share – $1,008,000
Course – Waialae Country Club (7,044 yards par 70)
Our 2014 Picks – Zach Johnson (T8), Chris Kirk (2nd), Charles Howell III (T8)
2014 begins for us and most of the PGA Tour this week as a strong fields heads (or just stays from last week) to Hawaii for the Sony Open.
Patrick Reed continued his rise to the top of golf with his win at the Hyundai last week – a victory that puts him in the elite category alongside Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia as the only players to have won 4 PGA titles before the age of 24 and a half. That’s one hell of a ssshhh to every doubter out there…
The course that hosts this tournament is the Waialae Country Club and we always feel that it’s a nice start for punters alike to get stuck into mainly because it’s been held there since 1965 so there’s plenty of form to feast our money-hunting eyes at.
The 7,044 yard par 70 has traditionally seen a complete variable in scores, usually depending on the conditions. Due to it being a coastal track, the wind can really get up and that’s where you see those low teens final scores. However this week we are expecting quite mild weather, so we should be in for a treat on the birdie front. We can see it being similar to last year, where Jimmy Walker won by a shot with -17. Basically, you have to be someone who has the ability of attacking pins and finding low scores – but you cannot look past the fact that it is a tight track with small greens and we’ve often seen those tee-to-green gurus play well here.
Admittedly in recent years the rough has been shortened therefore playing into the hands of longer hitters, but that hasn’t stopped the fact that finding fairways will without doubt help you in the following shot into the green.
The ranking in difficulty has decreased in recent years, falling 8 places since 2012 and that coincides with the irregularities we’ve seen in winners compared to usual – long hitter Jimmy Walker – although he started to come into some outrageous tee to green form – Russell Henley in 2012 who won with a score of -24 and had never even played here before!
Still we do feel it would be foolish to look away from players who’ve done well here and in fact tee’d it up recently. With it being the first ‘proper’ tournament back for many of the field, there will be rustiness with many of the players and that is to be expected. It is always useful to look into those that have not taken a long time off from the game, because the practicalities of them winning is very minimal.
Enough of the spiel though, let’s get to our 1st picks of 2015, hoping to continue what was a good year for us in 2014. Also read right to the bottom for news of a brand spanking new competition we are doing throughout the year with some well-known friends…
Don’t forget to follow us throughout the week on Twitter @downthe18th for the latest news, betting + banter. Please get in touch and let us know what you think of our picks and who you fancy as well!
Chris Kirk (18/1 various)
Got to admit we struggled to decide between Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson and Russell Henley. All three came in at similar odds and have pros and pluses against them. We opted out on Henley mainly for price but also because we felt he challenged too much last week and could have taken it out of him. Zach should have done much better than his 7th placed finish, but suffered in the 3rd round.
So, we decided upon Kirk. What a fine, fine player he has become over the past year – so much so that he nearly edged his way into the Ryder Cup team. But there were too many ticks against him and when you think the only negative is the fact he’s 18s, it just wasn’t enough to ignore him.
He looked highly impressive on Monday shooting a 62 with a new putter – so much so that he finished 6th for putting average for the whole week. It clearly worked absolute wonders for him and we know there was a couple of poor rounds at the weekend, but we’re putting that down to rustiness. You’re definitely hitting it well and happy with you’re all round game if your can shoot a score that low.
In fact after the game he stated how in tune he felt, especially with his short game and that is something that will be very important throughout the week here. He has also previously mentioned that Waialae (and Colonial) are his 2 favourites tracks and the ones he looks forward to playing the most in the calendar year. Now that is saying something. You cannot underestimate how important it is for a golfer to really enjoy and get a buzz when teeing it up on the 1st of a tournament.
He’s finished 2nd and 5th in the previous 2 outings here and we all know how impressive he is tee to green when his game is on. He ticks all the boxes for seaside golf as we’ve mentioned before, so don’t be put off by his price, he is definitely worth backing this week.
Luke Donald (40/1 Coral)
When you come across these shorter, tight tracks that require a really strong tee to green game, you do often look to see if a. Luke Donald is there and b. what sort of form he is in. We have to mention b because as it’s been widely mentioned, his 2014 was very, very forgettable.
He’s dropped outside the top 30 for the first time since climbing to the top of the rankings a couple of years back and has at times looked completely out of sorts. However as we all know he’s been working on a new swing and a new outlook, mainly to try and get some extra length off the tee. Understandable in some ways, but in the grand scheme of things, that shouldn’t halt the rest of your game.
We had him during his best performance at the RBC when he came 2nd and to be honest the main reasons it clicked were because he found more accuracy than most weeks – 25th in driving accuracy and 3rd for GIR – compared to 67th and 139th respectively across the season.
BUT and here is the big but, there’s something brewing from his camp in recent weeks and we just have a sneaky feeling (and we don’t think we’re the only ones) that there is a revival on the horizon. He shot a scintillating 63 the Nedbank Challenge a few weeks back to finish 3rd and he said that he was extremely pleased with where his game was and is feeling as confident as he’s done for a long while. It may all be a load of hock, but we do feel that is a positive vibe from the Englishman.
As for the Sony Open, this is a track that clearly fits the bill for Donald when he’s playing well and should suit his eye perfectly. He hasn’t played here for a while, but did finish 2nd in 2007, which should give him plenty of hope.
A big season is needed and what a time and place this would be start.
Tim Clark (40/1 PaddyPower)
Another absolute guru tee to green, Tim Clark has found some long lost form over the past few months and will be coming into the 2015 season with high hopes.
He finished superbly in a tie for 2nd at the HSBC during the back end of 2014 and he was 7th at the Nedbank a few weeks later. Admittedly he didn’t have the greatest week in his finish of 25th last week, but his positives completely out way that sort of negative.
He started putting well whilst playing on his own on Monday (having found himself stone cold bottom!) and he is a fantastic bermuda greens player. He has a wonderful record here – taking out the withdrawal last year, he finished 2nd twice in a row – and has top 5s on the comparative Sea Island and PGA West courses.
He has the 4th best scoring average at Waialae in the field and simply loves it here, never finishing outside the top 25, so when you think how impressive he can be tee to green, the South African is cracking value at 40s.
Jerry Kelly (75/1 Bet365)
Now, we are expecting quite a few to be jumping on Jerry Kelly and understandably so. He represents cracking value, has insane course form and is playing well at the moment. Basically the perfect pick.
In fact since the name and sponsor change in 1999, Kelly has found 9 top 13s, including a win in 2002 and two T3 finishes. He simply loves this track. But he finished 2014 very strongly, coming T5 in the franklin Templeton shootout with Steve Stricker and 5th at Mayakoba the week before.
He seems to be putting well at the moment and there are few better tee to green players than Kelly Stateside – however ridiculous that statement sounds, if you’ve seen him you will only be able to agree.
Robert Allenby (150/1 various) and Boo Weekley (90/1 StanJames)
Our first two outsiders of the year come in the form of Robert Allenby and Boo Weekley. Both have been playing well in the close season and with their tee to green abilities could upset the applecart come Sunday in Hawaii.
Firstly Allenby. He is an absolute stalwart in the world of golf and has a very decent record here. 2nd in 2010, 8th in 07′ and 4th in 2003. He has been playing superbly tee to green so far this season on the PGA Tour – 32nd in strokes gained tee to green, 23rd driving accuracy and 15th GIR. The sort of stats you would expect from a seasoned pro. Plus the trip back to his native Australia ended with 3 finishes inside the top 13 – T13 at the Australia PGA, T7 at the Australian Open and T9 at the BetEasy Masters.
We aren’t denying the standard is nowhere near that of the PGA Tour but you have to be encouraged by his form and you would be a fool to think he hasn’t got a chance.
Secondly the bizarre talent of Weekley. We all know his prowess tee to green on his day – currently 8th for strokes gained tee to green – but we also know how poor he can be with the putter. That has shown signs of improvement in recent outings though which gave us encouragement for a tournament where he has finished T9 before in 2009.
He finished T15 at the Australian Open and 6th at the Australian PGA whilst most interestingly he was 2nd at the Sanderson Farms Championship before the New Year and on those Bermuda greens, he was 6th for strokes gained putting. Food for thought.
Now, as we mentioned earlier, we will be running a weekly betting competition on both Tours with esteemed magazine Golf Monthly. It is a bit of fun between us and them to see who has the better tipsters! We have £10 to put on each tournament and will write up a weekly post for their site detailing the horrors we are sure to endure throughout the year – so do keep an eye out.
It will also (for the first time from us at DownThe18th) show some sort of staking plan we have for out bets. Obviously, this isn’t the exact stakes we will put on our players, some weeks we won’t even enter a couple of our picks, but at least it can be shown roughly where our thoughts are money wise.
So, for this Sony Open our £10 against Golf Monthly will be as follows –
£3 win on Chris Kirk at 18/1
£1 e/w on Luke Donald at 40/1
£1 e/w on Tim Clark at 40/1
£0.75 e/w on Jerry Kelly at 75/1
£0.75 e/w on Robert Allenby at 150/1
Find the Golf Monthly Preview and their £10 picks here – (Golf Monthly Betting Preview)
Current Standings after 0 weeks
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