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Hideki Matsuyama watches his shot from the 9th tee during the final round of the BMW Championship on August 29, 2021, at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, MD. (Photo by Lee Coleman/Icon Sportswire)
January 12th, 2022
This week on the PGA Tour, we head to the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu for the 2022 Sony Open. Last week we saw Aussie Cameron Smith set a PGA record, as he carded a 34-under par on his way to winning the Tournament of Champions, which kick-started the Hawaii leg of the season.
It was a win that made me envious. Envious of Smith’s ability on the golf course. Envious that he was sunning it up in Hawaii. And of course, envious of his incredible mullet.
The best of the best from a week in Maui. 🌺Top shots from @Sentry_TOC. pic.twitter.com/Qq0XYcqHk0— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 10, 2022
The best of the best from a week in Maui. 🌺Top shots from @Sentry_TOC. pic.twitter.com/Qq0XYcqHk0
While I’ll never be able to pull off that hairstyle, I will hopefully be able to pick some profitable prop bets for the Sony Open. In contrast to last week, the Waialae Country Club is a narrow, tree-lined course with small Bermuda greens.
It’s not long, so the shorter hitters on Tour aren’t at a disadvantage, and players who have blown the rust off by competing last week have a good record around here.
It’s hard to look past Cameron Smith’s record-breaking efforts last week, but there were a few eye-catchers further down the field. One of them was Irishman Seamus Power, who shot a poor round of 71 on the opening day but bounced back to shoot 65-69-67 and finish inside the top 15.
Power has plenty of incentives to perform well early in the year, not least because he’s on the edge of the world’s top 50. He has climbed from outside the top 400 all the way to 63rd in the last 15 months, and now he can break the top 50 and reap all the rewards that brings — including a place in the Masters.
My first @Sentry_TOC was an incredible experience! Maui is beautiful. Massive motivation to earn my way back here again. 2022 is off and running @PGATOUR @PingTour @FootJoy @TRAVISMATHEW @PowerHRG @Foregolfcustom @simonkeelan59 pic.twitter.com/7t8e4w9DXp— Seamus Power (@Power4Seamus) January 10, 2022
My first @Sentry_TOC was an incredible experience! Maui is beautiful. Massive motivation to earn my way back here again. 2022 is off and running @PGATOUR @PingTour @FootJoy @TRAVISMATHEW @PowerHRG @Foregolfcustom @simonkeelan59 pic.twitter.com/7t8e4w9DXp
The Waterford native finished last year off in style, coming in fourth in the RSM Classic and 11th in the Worldwide Technology Championship in November. Last season, Seamus was fifth in shots gained around the green and first for par scoring average — two key stats in this short par 70.
I fancied Matsuyama to perform well last week and put him up in this column as Top Asian Player. Despite finishing 13th, he was three strokes behind Sungjae Im, which was a shame, but hasn’t put me off going in again.
That was Matsuyama’s first tournament since he won the Zozo Championship on October 24, and he admitted he’d only played three times since, so he likely needed to blow off some cobwebs.
His putter let him down last weekend, but that should hopefully be a bit warmer for this leg of Hawaii, and his short game is always in excellent shape. He ranked fifth last week in shots gained around the green and in shots gained approaching the green, so his short game is as hot as ever.
The emotion settles in for Hideki Matsuyama, Japan’s first major winner, as he walks off the 72nd green. Cool moment. https://t.co/vDkoROFZQM— Mark Harris (@itismarkharris) April 11, 2021
The emotion settles in for Hideki Matsuyama, Japan’s first major winner, as he walks off the 72nd green. Cool moment. https://t.co/vDkoROFZQM
Matsuyama’s early course form here was nothing short of abysmal — he missed three cuts in a row and then finished 78th between 2011 and 2015. However, he has upped his game since then and was 12th in 2020, before finishing 19th last year.
A big weekend for the Masters champ will come down to the putter, but he’s worth the chance that his flat-stick heats up and he excels on an Augusta-like course.
There’s a chance the wind could pick up this weekend on the seaside course, and that will suit a links specialist, which is why I’ve landed on Grace to finish in the top 30. Grace has been wildly inconsistent of late and tough to get right — all of which was summed up last week when he finished 33rd after looking fantastic in his short game on Thursday, but hopeless on Saturday.
In his last 12 tournaments, however, Grace has finished seventh in the Zozo Championship, second in the Wyndham Championship, seventh in the U.S. Open, and fourth in the Memorial Tournament. When it’s going right, Grace has no problems mixing it up at the top of the leader board, and this is a weaker event than last week.
Branden Grace's short game (Volume 1)@BrandenGrace #SAOpen pic.twitter.com/Dn3KZazwNZ— DP World Tour (@DPWorldTour) January 9, 2020
Branden Grace's short game (Volume 1)@BrandenGrace #SAOpen pic.twitter.com/Dn3KZazwNZ
A tree-lined course that emphasises his short game should hopefully play to Grace’s strengths, as we saw when he was 13th on his debut here. He missed the cut last year, but you can strike a line through that, as his father was seriously ill at the time and sadly passed away a few days later.
At +225, Grace looks value to finish in the top 30 at a course that suits his game. If the wind picks up, it only enhances his chances.
Another man worthy of inclusion in the Top 30 Finish market is Brendan Steele. The one flag that comes with him is that he did not play in the Tournament of Champions last week, and that concerns me, as 16 of the last 23 winners of this competition had blown the rust off the week before.
But that aside, Steele’s course form here is too good to ignore, given we are getting +188 on a top 30 play. He has led going into the final round of this event in both the last two renewals, finishing fourth last year and second 12 months previously. On both occasions, it was his first appearance back from a break, so that doesn’t seem to bother the American.
AROUND AND OUT! 😩@Brendan_Steele's tee shot touches every part of the cup but the bottom. He leads by two strokes @TheHondaClassic. pic.twitter.com/UsV9BiTF88— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 28, 2020
AROUND AND OUT! 😩@Brendan_Steele's tee shot touches every part of the cup but the bottom. He leads by two strokes @TheHondaClassic. pic.twitter.com/UsV9BiTF88
He has only made the top 30 twice in his last 15 tournaments, and that’s a clear concern, but one of those was when he finished runner-up just three starts back in the Zozo Championship. His game, like Grace’s, is clearly a match for this course, so despite the red flags, I’m happy to have him on side for another week in Hawaii.
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