2023 Sony Open Sleeper Picks and Predictions: Russell Knox, Mark Hubbard Showing Value
Via Raj Mehta/Getty Images. Pictured: Mark Hubbard of the United States walks on the 12th green during the final round of the Sanderson Farms Championship at The Country Club of Jackson on October 02, 2022 in Jackson, Mississippi.
The PGA Tour spends its second consecutive week in Hawaii as it moves from Maui to Honolulu this week for the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club.
I don’t love any players with current odds of 60/1 or more to win the tournament, so I’ve included a pair of sleeper picks on players to finish in the top 10 and top 20 at +1200 and +400, respectively. Find out why Russell Knox and Mark Hubbard’s strong approach play and driving accuracy give them a chance to exceed expectations this week.
Sony Open in Hawaii Sleeper Picks
Russell Knox – Top 20 +400 (DraftKings) or Top 30 +210 (bet365)
I like Russell Knox this week because he should be a strong fit for Waialae given his above-average driving accuracy and approach play, specifically from 125-200 yards.
Hitting fairways will be at a premium over driving distance this week, and that suits Knox’s game off the tee. He’s a short-knocker who finished outside the top 150 in Driving Distance last year, which limits him on most tracks, but his rank of 19th in Driving Accuracy last season will play here and give him a chance to capitalize on his strong iron play.
He ranked 25th overall in SG: Approach last season, and his ball striking from 125-200 yards this week will be key, as this accounted for 66.1% of approach shots at last year’s Sony Open. He ranked among the top 58 in approach shot proximity from each of these three ranges last season: 125-150 yards, 150-175 yards and 175-200 yards.
If Knox can avoid disaster on the greens, his course history shows that he should have success this week. In his last six starts at Waialae, he has gained strokes on approach all six times (and has done so in 10 of 11 starts here). He has finished inside the top 11 in three of his last six starts — and all three times when he has gained strokes with his putter.
Knox ranks below Tour averages with his putter and around the greens, but if he can hold it together in these two areas, he’s worth a shot to finish in the top 20 at +400 at DraftKings. If you want to play it more conservatively because you don’t trust his short game, I see value on Knox to finish in the top 30 at +210 or in the top 40 at +130 at bet365.
Mark Hubbard – Top 10 +1200 (bet365)
Mark Hubbard intrigues me this week thanks to his above-average driving accuracy and approach play from 125-200 yards.
His splits on approach proximity from this distance was impressive last season: 13th from 125-150 yards, 27th from 150-175 yards and T33rd from 175-200 yards. While his proximities from these distances are slightly exaggerated because of the easier courses he tends to play (which is smart for him given his strengths and weaknesses), they are still impressive and relevant for the course at Waialae this week.
While Knox presents value to finish in the top 20-40, Hubbard’s stronger short game lends him more value to cash a top 10 or top 20 this week. In his last 19 starts on Tour, he has three top 10s (all top-five finishes). Each of these top-fives came at courses where driving accuracy was more important than driving distance and there was a relative premium put on putting and approach play.
He is an above-average putter who has found a way to marry his strong tournaments on approach with above-average play on the putting surfaces. In his seven tournaments since May where he gained over 0.5 strokes on approach per round, he gained over 0.5 strokes on the greens five times.
He’s worth a sprinkle at either +1200 for a top 10 or +475 for a top 20 at bet365, with slightly more value on the top-10 play.