|Cameron Champ To Win||25/1||Ladbrokes|
|Matt Kuchar For Top 10||9/2||Paddy Power|
|Ian Poulter For Top Euro||3/1||Bet 365|
The PGA Tour concludes it’s two-week vacation in Hawaii with the traditional visit to Waialae Country Club, a venue that was ripped to pieces by Justin Thomas’s 59 two years ago, but which typically rewards a canny golfer rather than an aggressive one. Here are five players to follow at the Sony Open:
When Cameron Champ thrashed his way to a thrilling breakthrough victory at the end of last year in the Sanderson Farms Championship it was easy to be fooled by his big-hitting and wonder just how he would cope with the tricky challenges which immediately followed.
However at El Camaleon and Sea Island (both tight tests by the sea, just like this week) he put the driver away when necessary and finished T10th and T6th. On both occasions he was second at halfway, adding vital experience to his learning swift curve and it’s easy to be encouraged by another factor: his coach Sean Foley likened his accuracy from the tee box to David Toms who won on this course by five strokes in 2006.
His T11th last week in the Tournament of Champions was a nice warm-up and he’s 25/1 with Ladbrokes.
Florida native Matt Kuchar broke a four-year win drought with victory in the Mayakoba Classic at the end of 2018 and now has the opportunity to become the fourth winner of that event to also take this title.
There’s good reasons why El Camaleon winners thrive here: both course are tree-lined, buffeted by sea breezes and feature grainy greens. Kuchar once had his trouble here missing the cut in six of his first eight starts, but one of the exceptions (fourth in 2002) hinted that he wasn’t totally adrift and he’s proved it in recent visits.
In fact he’s collected four top tens from his last five starts and was just the one shot from making it five-for-five in 2016. He knocked the winter rust off last week in the Tournament of Champions and is 9/2 with Paddy Power to land another Hawaiian top 10.
“Ball striking is great,” Englishman Ian Poulter tweeted after the third round at Plantation. “Hole some putts and we are good to go friends.” He ended the week ranked first for Greens in Regulation and you can be sure he’ll be focussed on rediscovering his touch on the greens ahead of Thursday’s first round.
In the Top European market he’s up against three youngsters still finding their feet (Sepp Straka, Seamus Power, Stephen Jaeger), two guys who’ve traditionally struggled on the course (Paul Casey, Jonas Blixt) and a man recovering from bad injury (Luke Donald).
His biggest threat is Russell Knox who missed his first three cuts at Waialae and in four starts since then has added three top 20s. But Poulter is bullish and a solid tee-to-green game will be in his favour this week. He’s 3/1 with Bet365 to be Top Euro.
Texan Kelly Kraft has a real boom or bust record on the PGA Tour because in 96 starts he’s reaped seven top tens but only two other top 20s. Where he has thrived suggests he’s an outside chance of adding to that top ten count this week: by the sea (Pebble Beach and Puerto Rico), short and tight (The Old White and Colonial), blustery and on Bermuda grass (PGA National).
His last four starts of 2018 had plenty of low scores, he just needs to find come consistency and his first trip to Waialae in 2018 offered hope with rounds of 69-67-65-68 for T27th. He’s 22/1 with 888 Sport to make the top 10.
New York native Dominic Bozzelli couldn’t match the four round consistency of Cameron Champ at El Camaleon and Sea Island, but at both venues he thrashed plenty of low scores.
At the former he opened 64-67 and the latter he closed with 64-65-66. Take the hint that he can go low in these conditions (and also note that he made a pair of 67s on his Waialae debut a year ago). He’s 100/1 with Paddy Power to grab the first round lead.