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Sony Open preview

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The PGA Tour stays in Hawaii this week, this time for the Sony Open. This is the first full-field event of 2017, with some big names headlining the field.

Jordan Spieth is joined by Hideki Matsuyama as well as last week’s winner, Justin Thomas. British trio, Paul Casey, Justin Rose and Russell Knox will also be vying for the title here in Hawaii.

Since its modern day inception in 1965, the Sony Open has only been won four times with a single-digit under-par score. This will be down to the course’s only major defence being the intermittent coastal wind.

The Course

Waialae Country Club, 7,044 yards, Par 70

This short and normally easy course is generally low scoring, year after year. In the last four renewals, the score has been -20 or lower and similar scoring must be expected this week.

Driver does not need to be used on this short tree-lined course, with accuracy being favoured over distance. Hitting these small Bermuda Greens is the most imperative factor this week, which in turn sets it up for a putting competition.

Any event that takes 20-30 birdies to win requires an excellent week with the short stick.

Course form v Current form

Of the last five winners, only Russell Henley won without at least three starts at this course. Not only did Henley win on first start at the course, but it was also his first start on the PGA Tour. Whilst this seems quite miraculous, this is the sort of course that can be picked apart, should a player get hot that week.

On the flipside, before his win in 2012, Johnson Wagner had missed his last three cuts at the course after finishing 34th on debut.  In short, whilst it is favourable to have had a look at Waialae, poor course form can be overcome.

Matsuyama comes into the week 2nd favourite, after winning four of his last six events. In that span, when not winning, Matsuyama came 2nd twice to Justin Thomas. Interestingly though, he doesn’t play well here. Matsuyama has played here four times, each time missing the cut. He did make the initial cut in 2015 before being a victim of the secondary cut, due to the amount of players making the weekend. He now has a few rounds under his belt here and given his current form, a change in fortune would seem probable. No one in the world is playing better than Matsuyama and a win here would be the icing on the cake.

Of the last five winners; Fabian Gomez (2016), Jimmy Walker (2015) and Johnson Wagner (2012) all had top-10’s in Hawaii the week before their win here. In 2014, Walker finished 21st the week before and Russell Henley (2013) hadn’t played for 11 weeks. With this in mind, it looks advantageous to have played recently, notably the week before at the Tournament of Champions.

Here are my selections for the 2017 Sony Open.

Pat Perez 40/1 (General) 1pt e/w

Pat Perez at 40/1 is one of those picks I struggle to make, but also find terribly difficult to ignore.

Perez returned to action last October at the CIMB Classic and finished T33. It was a limited field (78) but it was impressive week for Perez who had not played since the Honda Classic in late February.

He then went from strength-to-strength. After his T33 in Malaysia, he finished T7 at the Shriners in Vegas, before winning the OHL Classic of Mayakoba in Mexico. After much travelling, Perez deserved the eight-week lay-off.

On his first start of 2017, Perez continued his good form, finishing T3 at the Tournament of Champions. That finish last week should only work in his favour and he will look to contend again, after making the short trip.

The reason I struggle to pick him is the price. Pat Perez has won twice on the PGA Tour in 380 starts. This isn’t an impressive ratio, and given it was seven years between his two victories, Perez seems difficult to rely on. His form however cannot be ignored. We have seen before that some players become more prolific winners in their twilight years, so at 40/1 I am willing to chance that he will ride this good form for a bit longer and at least contend.

Perez has four top-10’s and a further two top-20’s here since 2005, so he has enjoyed relative success on this course. I have high hopes that he can match or better his 4th place finish here in 2008 and therefore do think he is worth having on side at 40/1.

Jamie Lovemark 100/1 (StanJames) 1pt e/w

Jamie Lovemark enjoyed a good year on the PGA Tour in 2016, coming close to victory at the Zurich Classic. He lost to Brian Stuard in a play-off, but his talent shone through nonetheless.

This time last year, he put together a string of three top-10 finishes in a row, starting at the RSM Classic (T9) followed by a T7 finish here and rounded off by a T6 at the Career Builder.

He has three previous starts here, missing the cut twice before that 7th last year and he will be hoping to build on that. With three looks at the course and a good finish under his belt, I am confident Lovemark can contend this week.

Lovemark has improved as a player in recent years, certainly since his first attempt here in 2011. With that in mind, last year’s result is definitely the one for me to focus on.

So far, Lovemark has made a steady start to the 2016/17 season, with a top-10 and a top-20 to his name already in his first five starts. He finished T20 at the Safeway Open, his first start of the season and on his most recent start, at the RSM Classic finished T6. Lovemark shot a final-round 65 to finish just three shots shy of the five players who made it to a sudden-death play-off.

If history repeats itself he’s in with a shot this week. As aforementioned he finished T7 here in 2016, after a T9 at the RSM Classic and now he’s bettered that RSM result, so hopefully he can do the same here.

At 100/1 I thought he was overpriced, given his play over the last year and his T7 finish here last season.

Points staked this week: 4

Profit/Loss for 2017 – N/A