2023 Sony Open First-Round Leader Picks: English, Woodland Have Value
Pictured: Harris English. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)
The first full-field event of the 2023 golf season is upon us as the PGA TOUR stays in Hawaii to play the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club. The short par 70 (7,054) sets up well for accurate players off the tee who can dial it in with their irons and catch a hot putter for the week. Since 2010, the winners at Waialae have gained 48.6% of their strokes against the field putting, which is the highest of any course on TOUR.
In the past six editions of the tournament, there have been nine first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the nine, four have come from the morning wave, and five have come from the afternoon wave. It appears there is no real advantage to either starting time depending on the weather. The wind looks to be fairly light (around 10 MPH) consistently, so I believe you can comfortably take both morning and afternoon starters as first-round-leaders this week.
Sony Open First-Round-Leader Selections
Harris English +5500 (DraftKings)
First-Round Tee Time: 7:50 a.m. Local Time
Harris English is a player who’s been struggling for the past 18 months or so on TOUR. However, he’s taken some early-round leads and just hasn’t been able to continue his strong play over the weekend, making him a logical fit for a first-round leader bet.
When he’s in form, which is questionable at the moment, Waialae is a perfect fit for English. He doesn’t have to keep up with the big drivers on TOUR at the course and can catch a hot putter with the best of them. He gained 6.0 strokes putting in the event last year, so he clearly likes the green complexes.
I don’t trust English to contend for four rounds, but I think he gets off to a fast start in Honolulu.
Gary Woodland +6000 (DraftKings)
First-Round Tee Time: 12:20 p.m. Local Time
Gary Woodland has an excellent history at Waialae. He finished seventh at the course in 2018, sixth in 2017, 13th in 2016 and third in 2015.
It’s been a rough few years for Woodland since winning the U.S. Open back in 2019, but he’s shown flashes of returning to form on a few occasions. In his most recent start at the Houston Open (November 2022), he gained 5.2 strokes on approach and finished in ninth place.
The 38-year-old typically plays well on shorter courses where he can club down off the tee, and he’ll have that opportunity this week in Honolulu. Since 2017, Woodland has gained more than 2.0 strokes putting at Waialae on three separate occasions. If he does so once again on Thursday, he should be in a position to contend for the first-round lead.