Table of Contents
By Alex Lauzon from the “Course of Life” podcast
WAIALAE ABOUT A GOOD TIME?
As much of the country digs out from snow or storms and winter weather…the PGA is blissfully ignorant of your struggle. The Tour rolls into its second week in paradise for the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club, which has hosted the Hawaiian open…forever. I know this course inside and out from a dated N64 game that only featured THIS TRACK, appropriately titled “Waialae Country Club.” Let’s hope my course prowess leads to a winning week for us all.
The “winners and high performers” only Sentry Tournament of Champions produced a great (albeit predictable) start to our 2023 campaign. It’s always nice to get an outright winner under your belt, and the past history with Jon Rahm at Kapalua was too overpowering to ignore. With that thought let’s pluck guys from this week’s field for our picks that are overwhelmingly due to having big weeks at the Sony, the unofficial 2023 kickoff for “the rest of the PGA Tour.”
TURN UP THE WIND
If Sony is this week’s sponsor for the event, then this week’s sleep sounds are “Ocean Breeze.” It’s a persistent one too. Both the classic video game and real life accurately depict the whipping winds throughout Waialae CC, some of which are almost tunnel-like in their precise location. This obviously leads to unpredictability not only with the ball flight in the air for drives and irons but those 6-footers for par get pretty dicey when a gust hits your back. This week is all about wind-watching for the weather aficionados; if the wind dies down for a full day, this course is for the taking, and a recent slew of 59’s here in the last 10-15 years proves that.
It’s the first chock-full 156-man field of 2023, and it’s headlined by fan favorites Jordan Spieth, Tom Kim, and the defending champion Hideki Matsuyama. 2022 runner-up Russell Henley, Adam Scott, Sungjae Im, and a slew of vets and youngins are also set to tee it up for the first time this year as well. This year the Sony Open doesn’t quite attract as much of last week’s field as they would like, so it presents a prime opportunity for a new face to break through.
FORECASTING THE SONY OPEN
Waialae CC is a classic PGA Tour venue that because of its location and setting doesn’t have much room for expansion. It plays around 7200 yards and with no pr 5’s over 600 yards or 200+ yard par threes, it keeps any length driver in the game. This events’ past champions are a mashup of point-to-point precision golfers like Matt Kuchar and Kevin Na, to guys that just out-putted these greens like JT and Hideki. That 3 wood from Hideki here last year still lives in my memory and he’s obviously one to watch this week.
I’m prefacing my weekly picks based on exactly what I value the most. With every play I make, I’m always taking into account these factors and for the Sony Open in Hawaii, I’m going for some 2023 player debuts that will impress, and some past names from recent Sony Open leaderboards.
1. Who’s hot and trending – recent high finishes, top-10 streaks, and consistent play are never a bad thing.
2. Horses for courses – players love certain courses and course familiarity and experience are invaluable in a field of the world’s best.
3. What the numbers tell you this week – while I’m far from analytical, there’s always a tournament darling or two scattered across the golf talk stratosphere that stuns on paper.
4. Intangibles – while this allows for theater of the mind, there’s a mysterious optimism surrounding that feels “due” or if the price looks just right for buying.
At the Sentry TOC, I started off the way every golf bettor should start off 2023 – nailing the outright winner in a small-field event. I touted Jon Rahm all week and it came to fruition (thanks Collin!), but admittedly my picks outside of that were lackluster and all outside of the top ten. Because of that factor, it’s a B+ week.
(Wanna start a Pick-X pool with your friends? Learn more here! Or, if you’re looking to start your own PGA One-and-Done pool, check those out here) (Hint: the main difference between the two is how many players you’ll pick each week)
1: Russell Henley – Hard not to back last year’s runner-up. Using last week’s theory, he’s knocked on the door here and even won in 2013 – a ten-year reunion victory perhaps?
2: Corey Conners – A guy who has worked hard to have his short game complement amazing ball striking this offseason – 11th place here last year.
3: Taylor Montgomery – In case we haven’t crossed paths before, we stan Taylor Montgomery until proven otherwise. Five top 20’s for the rookie this fall and he’s back for more in 2023.
4: Billy Horschel – You’re getting great value with him here off of a poor week at Kapalua. Horschel has high finishes in this event under his belt and the analytics support him playing well on this track.
5: J.J. Spaun – Three top 20 finishes in a row dating back to last fall, if he keeps his shirt untucked this week he could be even more deadly. Fifth last week at the Sentry TOC.
6: Adam Svensson – Feeling frisky in the last spot so let’s take a Canadian who won last fall, has solid recent play under his belt, and finished 7th here in 2022.
RYP One and Done Pick: Russell Henley
Where to watch: Golf Channel all weekend – there’s never enough beach and surfing shots on this broadcast – feed me more.
Why to watch: It’s the first full-field event of the 2023 calendar and its golf in paradise, we’re fully BACK.
What to eat: Last week was Musubi, this week we went more mainstream – a nice poke bowl with extra sriracha and all the pineapple.
Purse: $7.9 million
Winner’s Share: $1.42 million