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2021 Sony Open Betting Preview: Which Stats Matter at Waialae?

2021 Sony Open Betting Preview: Which Stats Matter at Waialae? article feature image

Elsa/Getty Images. Pictured: Zach Johnson.

The PGA TOUR moves to Honolulu as we stay in Hawaii for another week to play the 2021 Sony Open at Waialae Country Club. Waialae is a 7,044-yard par 70 that was built in 1927 and has annually featured a TOUR event since 1965.  The Sony open is the first full-field event of the calendar year.

The 2021 Sony Open field is comprised of 144 golfers with 21 of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking among those competing for the trophy. Some notable names in the field include Daniel Berger, Harris English, Sergio Garcia, Sungjae Im, Hideki Matsuyama, Collin Morikawa, Joaquin Niemann, Patrick Reed, Adam Scott and Webb Simpson.

The Sony Open typically produces a low scoring affair, similar to what we saw last week in Maui. Last year’s winner Cameron Smith finished the event at 11-under, but winner’s typically score in the low to mid-20s under par. Strong winds created the difficult scoring conditions last year, but overall last year’s winning score should be considered an outlier.

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Past Winners at the Sony Open

  • 2020: Cameron Smith (-11)
  • 2019: Matt Kuchar (-22)
  • 2018: Patton Kizzire (-17)
  • 2017: Justin Thomas (-27)
  • 2016: Fabian Gomez (-20)
  • 2015: Jimmy Walker (-23)

Let’s take a look at several metrics for Waialae Country Club to determine which golfers boast top marks in each category over their last 24 rounds:

Strokes Gained: Approach

Green sizes are much smaller at Waialae than we saw last week at Kapalua. Green in Regulation numbers are far lower, therefore requiring iron play to be even more sharp in order to go low.

Total Strokes Gained: Approach in past 24 rounds:

  1. Russell Henley (+25.8) (+4000)
  2. Keegan Bradley (+24.6) (+6600)
  3. Wesley Bryan (+23.3) (+35000)
  4. Emiliano Grillo (+19.3) (+5000)
  5. Chez Reavie (+17.4) (+9000)

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Fairways Gained

Not only are the greens much smaller at Waialae than we saw at Kapalua, the fairways are a lot smaller, as well. Last week, golfers could spray some errant drives with little consequence; that won’t be the case this week. The golfers who split the middle on the narrow fairways will be rewarded with flat lies and straightforward approach shots.

Total Fairways Gained in past 24 rounds:

  1. Brendon Todd (+43.5) (+5000)
  2. Chez Reavie (+39.5) (+9000) 
  3. Jim Furyk (+38.4) (+15000)
  4. Ryan Armour (+38.1) (+35000)
  5. Matt Kuchar(+35.5.) (+4000)

Strokes Gained: Short Game

With small fairways and greens, it is to be expected that golfers will have to scramble around the green at one point or another. Strokes Gained: Short Game encompasses both chipping around the green and putting to account for tough par putts while scrambling. Historically, players with great hands and short games have had success here (Thomas, Kuchar, Kizzire, Smith).

Strokes Gained: Short Game in past 24 rounds:

  1. Brendon Todd (+27.2) (+5000)
  2. Charles Howell III (+24.7) (+5000)
  3. Mackenzie Hughes (+23.4) (+10000)
  4. Zach Johnson (+22.2) (+4000)
  5. Harris English (+21.7) (+1400)

Birdie or Better Gained

While Waialae presents it’s fair share of challenges, the winning score will likely be somewhere in the -20 to -25 range; therefore birdies are a must.  In an event where par isn’t good enough on most holes, golfers who can get hot and go low need to be targeted this week.

Total Strokes Gained: Par 5 in past 24 rounds

  1. Cameron Davis (+23.1) (+12500)
  2. Harris English (+21.1) (+1400)
  3. Patrick Reed(+20.9) (+1200)
  4. Patton Kizzire (+20.2) (+7000)
  5. Peter Malnati (+17.7) (+17500)

Course History

Course history seems to be particularly important at Waialae, as 14 of the past 15 winners have played the course previously before hoisting the trophy. It is also common to see similar players pop up on the leaderboard year after year in Honolulu, so a bit of course history should be factored in.

Total strokes gained in category in past 24 rounds:

  1. Matt Kuchar (+52.8) (+4000)
  2. Webb Simpson (+45.3) (+1100)
  3. Charles Howell III (+40.4) (+5000)
  4. Jimmy Walker (+37.8) (+35000)
  5. Brian Stuard (+35.3) (+20000)

Statistical Model

Below, I’ve reported overall model rankings using a combination of the five key statistical categories previously discussed.

These rankings are comprised of SG: App (27.5%) Fairways Gained (22.5%); SG: Short Game (18%); Course History (18%); and Birdie or Better Gained (14%)

  1. Zach Johnson (+4000)
  2. Webb Simpson (+1100)
  3. Harris English (+1400)
  4. Brian Stuard (+20000)
  5. Russell Henley (+4000)
  6. Kevin Kisner (+2800)
  7. Brian Harman (+5000)
  8. James Hahn (+10000)
  9. Sebastian Munoz (+5000)
  10. Sungjae Im (+2200)

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