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2023 Sony Open Picks: Outright Bets, Long-Shot Props on Brian Harman, More

2023 Sony Open Picks: Outright Bets, Long-Shot Props on Brian Harman, More article feature image
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Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images. Pictured: Brian Harman

Read more of Derek’s content at RotoGrinders.


Wow, what a way to start off the new year.

All I can say after last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions is that golf is extremely hard. Even for the best in the world, golf is a brutal game.

Collin Morikawa was a massive favorite all Sunday and was on complete cruise control until he sat in the greenside bunker of the 14th hole. He hit it way over the green and was unable to get up and down from there. It was his first bogey of the week.

At almost the exact same time, Jon Rahm made an eagle on the hole ahead of Morikawa. You could feel the momentum shift and you could see what was coming. Morikawa hit a good drive on the par five, but missed right on his second shot into the green and had it roll well back. He chunked his first chip and wasn’t able to get up and down from there. Another bogey.

On his next hole, he didn’t carry his approach shot far enough onto the green and the false front brought the ball way back. Once again, he couldn’t get up and down and had to settle for another bogey. After 67 holes of perfect golf, Morikawa made three bogeys in a row on the easiest stretch of holes on the course.

It was hard to watch and you certainly feel for Morikawa. He’s won two majors and knows what it takes to win at the highest level, but you could tell it was a shock to his system. Rahm deserves all the credit for firing a 63 on Sunday to steal the win.

Personally, I couldn’t believe how many people were victory-lapping their Morikawa tickets on Twitter before the event ended. If you have ever bet on golf, you know not to count your chickens before they hatch. Do not tempt fate, my friends.

Now, let’s turn our attention to this week’s event. We stay in Hawaii for the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club. While the two courses are fairly close in proximity, they are extremely different layouts.

The Plantation Course at Kapalua features massive fairways and greens that are easy to hit for everyone in the field, while Waialae Country Club features tree-lined fairways that are some of the toughest to hit on tour. Last week was a driver-heavy course, while this week is more of a positional less-than-drive course.

Golfers will face a much different test on approach as well. We saw a lot of long irons and wedges last week at Kapalua, while over 70% of approach shots hit at Waialae are from 125-200 yards.

The attributes that the courses share are the need for scoring and putting. With little wind in the forecast this week, we can expect another winning score to be in the 25-under range. Much like last week, golfers will have to putt well in order to contend. Winners here have gained more strokes on the greens than in any other event on the PGA Tour.

There are two narratives that are getting a lot of buzz in the betting world this week:

1. Seventeen of the last 24 winners of this event played in the Tournament of Champions the prior week

While this statistic is certainly true, we have to think about it logically. The best players in the field each year at the Sony usually qualified to play in the TOC the week before. For this week, the top 10 golfers on the odds board at the Sony all played at Kapalua last week.

So while it seems like there is a trend, it’s really just because the best golfers in the Sony field usually play in the TOC as well. I’m betting on the golfers that I like this week, regardless of whether or not they teed it up last week.

2. Sixteen of the last 17 winners of this event had played in the Sony Open prior to holding up the trophy

To me, this narrative makes a little more sense to run with. Many golfers have talked about this being more of a strategic golf course and that you can’t come out and play well without a game plan. The greens can be very tricky and there are quite a few dog legs that require you to hit your tee shot on the right side of the hole.

Now, let’s get to the picks.

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Outright Bets

Brian Harman +1800 (BetMGM)

There were some +2500 numbers out there early Monday morning, but those are long gone now. Even at +1800, I still like the spot for Harman. He hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since 2017, but has racked up 14 top five finishes during that stretch.

I’m a firm believer that if golfers are in the mix enough, they will eventually break through and win. Harman played fairly well last week at the Tournament of Champions and finished his 2022 year off with second place finishes at the RSM Classic and the World Wide Technology Championship.

This is a good course fit for him, as he’s made eight of his last nine cuts here with three top 15 finishes.

Billy Horschel +3500 (PointsBet)

Horschel seems to be the only golfer who played last week whose odds are dropping leading up to the start of this event. Perhaps everyone is seeing that he finished 30th out of 38 golfers and that he lost 6.6 strokes off the tee.

The numbers are a bit misleading, as he certainly found something on the weekend. He was 13-under par on Saturday and Sunday. He’s known as an accurate driver, a good iron player, and a good Bermuda putter. All three of those will come in handy this week at Waialae.

This is a good number on a golfer that could be +2000 if he didn’t get off to a shaky start last week.

Andrew Putnam +5000 (FanDuel)

On a per-point basis, Putnam is my favorite bet of the week. He’s not a golfer who gets a lot of attention, but he has rattled off 16 straight made cuts. During that stretch, he’s been terrific on approach, around the green and on the green.

His only weakness is off the tee and that’s somewhat negated here since distance doesn’t play a big factor. He’s playing the most consistent golf of his career and he has a second place finish at this event back in 2019.

I plan to add a top five bet on him as well.

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Placement Bets

Russell Knox — Top 5 (+2800, PointsBet)

This number feels off to me. Most books have Knox between +1400 and +1600 to finish in the top five and he’s sitting at +2800 on PointsBet.

Approach play is critical at this venue and over the last 12 months, Knox is in the top 10 in this field in strokes gained approach, greens in regulation, and proximity from 125-200 yards. He showed some signs of life at the end of the swing season and has three top 15 finishes at this course in his last six appearances.

We didn’t have anyone in contention last week, but that’s how it goes sometimes when you bet on golf. Let’s hope to have a name or two in the mix this Sunday.

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