Welcome to Three Shots at the Green, where each week I’ll use my experience as a PGA Tour caddie and golf writer to identify the three best bets on the board.
The Sony Open, the PGA Tour’s first full-field extravaganza of 2023, returns once again to the venerable Waialae Country Club, a Seth Raynor gem on Oahu.
It’s basically the opposite of last week’s layout at Kapalua: many dogleg par-4s; tight fairways bordered by dense trees and thick rough; smallish greens surrounded by bunkers; and while the greens are also Bermuda, they’re relatively flat yielding great birdie opportunities for pros dialed on approach shots from 125-200 yards.
The par-70, 7,044-yard layout features only two par-5s, the pushover 9th and the tricky 18th, which bends sharply left in the tee shot landing area. Russell Henley’s fade couldn’t find the fairway when he needed it most a year ago while Hideki Matsuyama hit one of the best shots of the year, a towering 3-wood within tap-in range to claim the title.
Veterans have fared well here through the years, which makes sense. The course requires patience, precision and understanding the safe miss on each tee shot and approach.
Winning in style 💪
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 10, 2023
Scoring conditions should be ideal with high temperatures in the mid-70s and a light breeze each day.
We targeted golfers who have enjoyed success at Waialae, reliable fairway finders who thrive with mid to short-iron approach shots.
Let’s take Three Shots at the Green.
Keith Mitchell – Top 20 +180
One of two Georgia Bulldogs on our card this week, Mitchell thrives on his trips to Hawaii, finishing in the top-25 four of the last five years. He’s comfortable in the Bermduagrass and can use his driver judiciously.
Mitchell posted one top-10 in four fall starts and enters the tournament eighth in the field in scrambling and 25th in fairways hit over the last 50 rounds.
Russell Henley – Top 10 +250
Henley crushed the dreams of many a backer last year on Sunday, squandering a hefty lead on the final nine and losing to Matsuyama on the first hole of sudden death. But he won at Mayakoba in the fall and has the ideal skill set to continue his run of strong finishes at Waialae, ranking third in the field in fairways hit and greens in regulation over the last 50 rounds and slotting sixth in SG: Tee-to-Green.
Henley also chipped off the rust last week at Kapalua, gaining 3.5 shots on approach.
Adam Svensson – Top 20 +320
When he arrived in Hawaii last year, Svensson was just another talented rookie, trying to grow comfortable on the PGA Tour, learning a new course each week, fighting to earn a path to the FedEx Cup playoffs. He returns this year as a Tour winner, sitting on a fat 2-year exemption and poised to strike again.
Svensson is top 25 in the field in SG: Approach and SG: Putting over the last 50 rounds, buoyed by his winning effort at Sea Island to end the fall. Look for him to continue his string of rounds of 67 or better at Waialae.
Last week: 1-2, hitting the Collin Morikawa +155 Top-10 ticket to turn a small profit.
YTD: +0.2 units