By Danny Carrington
Last Updated: 8th January 2020
The first full-field event of 2020 takes place on the PGA Tour this week, with the beautiful and scenic surroundings of Waialae Country Club in Hawaii hosting the Sony Open.
Justin Thomas, champion in 2017, heads the field and he’s very much the one to beat after his 12th tour victory at the Tournament of Champions last week. Here is our preview of the event, which gets under way on Thursday.
Thomas rightful favourite to scoop Hawaiian double
As touched on, Thomas is by far the most likely winner here and at just 5/1, his price reflects that. He was perhaps slightly fortunate to win the tournament at Kapalua, having outlasted both Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed in a play-off to win, considering he never really seemed to quite have his A-game. However, that’s the sign of a very good player and considering he did the Hawaiian double in 2017, he clearly knows what it takes to go back-to-back.
He also seems to have a knack of winning the same tournament on multiple occasions, having won the CIMB Classic, CJ Cup and last week’s event twice now, so all in all it would be no surprise to see him win again here. It wasn’t easy at Kapalua, however, and having played 75 holes in total, there must be a suspicion that Thomas will be slightly drained. As such, he looks worth passing up at 5/1.
Model of consistency Simpson can contend again
Of those towards the head of the market, Webb Simpson looks the one to be with. The 34-year-old has become one of the most consistent players on tour, missing just one cut in the 2018/19 season and notching up six top 10s, including three runner-ups and a third-place finish.
He has started the 2019/20 campaign in similar form with a tie for seventh at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, before losing in a play-off to Tyler Duncan at the RSM Classic. That near miss once again reminded critics that he doesn’t win as much as he should, and there’s perhaps substance to those claims given he’s only won five times on the PGA Tour. However, there were few saying that when he romped to a four-shot victory in the 2018 Players and he must surely go well at a course where he’s played well at in the past.
The North Carolina resident took a bit of time to get the hang of Waialae, with a tie for 20th his best finish in his four starts there. However, since 2015, he has finished in the top 13 in four consecutive years, with a tie for fourth his best effort two years ago. Looking back on the scores from that week, he probably would have won had he not shot an even-par 70 in round two which left him playing catch-up.
The trends don’t back up Simpson’s case, with 15 of the last 21 winners having played at the previous week’s Sentry TOC. He showed , however, at the RSM Classic, he’s more than capable of playing well after a break and the 12/1 on offer with William Hill’s six places looks more than worth snapping up.
Have a listen to our latest golf podcast where we preview the Sony Open as well as the South African Open.