2021 Sony Open Picks: Our Favorite Outright Bets at Waialae
Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images. Pictured: Sungjae Im
The 2021 Sony Open, the first full-field PGA TOUR event of 2021, tees off on Thursday, Jan. 14 at Waialae Country Club in Hawaii. It is also is the venue of one of the most well-known betting trends in golf. The ol’ TOC-Sony Open correlation.
Seven of the last nine winners at the Sony have played the week before at the Tournament of Champions. Cameron Smith threw a wrench into that run last season, but Smith had been playing some of the higher-profile events in Australia along with the President’s Cup so he definitely didn’t arrive rusty.
Should bettors expect the TOC-Sony Trend to continue? Here are our four favorite bets to win The 2021 Sony Open:
Abraham Ancer (+2500)
It’s one thing to play the week before; it’s quite another to play well. Ancer’s T-17 finish at Kapalua shouldn’t have left us too excited about the short-term future, but we have to look beyond the result itself for proof of promise. There are no foolproof predictive stats in the prognostication game, but one which often holds water is final-round ball-striking numbers from the previous week.
If I see a player found something on Sunday and is teeing it up again Thursday, I’m usually inclined to favor him over some others. In this particular circumstance, Ancer ranked second in strokes gained tee-to-green and first in strokes gained on approach shots in his most recent round, suggesting his already-elite ball-striking talents are currently peaking.
Regular readers of this column know that I don’t usually like backing a zero-time winner at fairly short odds, but we’ve been waiting a while for that first Ancer victory and signs point to some success coming very soon.
Kevin Kisner (+3000)
Kisner is always a go-to for me on these short, Bermuda courses. He’s finished inside the top-5 here in three of the last five years, including fourth last season.
Kisner closed the Fall Swing out with a playoff loss at the RSM Classic, which is played on another shorter Bermuda course that favors strong iron play and putting. Kisner lost strokes on approach last week at the TOC, but his irons improved as the week went along.
Kevin Kisner (+3000)
I had my eyes on the players coming over from Kapalua since the tournament ended and there were a few that caught my eye as picks for the week. I am going with Kevin Kisner because he seems to be the player that held value even after some of the higher-end players, like Viktor Hovland and Patrick Reed, withdrew.
Kisner has a great track record at Waialae and mentioned last year how he knows this is one of the few courses left on TOUR that still fits his game. He also mentioned what a benefit it is to have played the week prior to shake off some rust and he certainly did that as he improved his tee-to-green play with each round he played.
Sungjae Im (+1800)
Sungjae Im is primed for a second PGA TOUR victory and the Sony Open in Honolulu is the perfect event for him to get it done. The South Korean has thrived on shorter Par 70 courses with Bermudagrass greens making Waialae Country Club an ideal track for him to get back in the winner’s circle.
Sungjae’s previous win came at PGA National (2020 Honda Classic) which is a similar set up to what we will see in Hawaii this week. Aside from the obvious course fit, the 22-year-old comes into the week playing some excellent golf.
Last week in Maui he gained 9.5 strokes tee to green including an impressive 5.2 strokes on approach. Sungjae finished in fifth-place in the star-studded field despite losing 3.2 strokes on the greens. Being that Bermuda is his best statistical putting surface by a large margin and he is a career positive putter, I don’t expect a repeat poor performance this week.