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2024 PGA Tour Preview: Sony Open in Hawaii

A week ago, the PGA Tour began its 2024 season with the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua. The field was designed to host the winners from last year's season, and the top 50 in the FedExCup points standings. Ultimately captured by Chris Kirk, the 38-year-old carded a final round 65 to edge out Sahith Theegala by one stroke.

Set to stay on the islands for one more week, the Tour heads to Waialae Country Club for the Sony Open in Hawaii. This will mark the season debut for many golfers as the championship returns to a regular 144-man field. Furthermore, it will also mark the introduction of the swing 5 qualifying system in which the top five golfers in terms of FedEx Cup points in the Sony Open, The American Express, and the Farmers Insurance Open will earn an automatic entry into the next signature event, the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.


The Course

Founded nearly 100 years ago in 1927, Waialae Country Club is located in East Honolulu, Hawaii. The fourth longest-tenured host venue, it trails only Augusta National, Colonial Country Club, and Pebble Beach Golf Links. The track measures 7,125 yards from the Championship tees in a traditional par 72 layout. Along with this, unlike the wide fairways at Kapalua, Waialae Country Club presents players with a much more difficult challenge due to the narrower landing areas and a significant amount of doglegs. The course demands accuracy and strategic shot-making, giving an edge to players who have participated in the event before. 16 of the last 17 winners at the Sony Open have competed in the championship before capturing the victory.


The Field

The first full-field event on the 2024 calendar, the Sony Open will host a field of 144 of the world's top golfers. This includes last year's winner, Sii Woo Kim, who edged out Hayden Buckley by one stroke. Along with this, Gary Woodland is set to return after undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumor in September. Furthermore, Will Zalatoris will also tee it up for the first time since the 2023 WGC-Dell Match Play. After withdrawing from the Masters Tournament in April, he underwent back surgery, leading to a prolonged absence from the sport. As a result, while the field at the Sony Open lacks the star power present at the larger events on the Tour calendar, it still features no shortage of big names, with players like Ludvig Åberg, Tyrrell Hatton, and Matt Fitzpatrick set to compete for the crown.


Chris Gallagher and Everett Davidson contributed to this article.


Chris’ Sony Open Picks

Favorite: Brian Harman

The reigning Open Champion, Harman, enters this week in good form. Coming off a fifth-place finish at the Sentry, the 36-year-old carded four straight rounds under par, including a final round of 64. He now owns four top-ten finishes in his last seven starts, going back to his victory at Royal Liverpool in July. Setting up well to score on the shorter seaside course at Waialae Country Club, he remains deadly accurate with his driver by hitting over 63 percent of his fairways in regulation. Along with this, the Savannah, Georgia native also ranks 15th on tour in strokes gained: approach the green (0.556) and has putted well on Bermuda surfaces throughout his career.


Favorite: Corey Conners

Conners has a strong track record at the Sony Open. The Canadian owns four straight top-12 finishes at the event, including a 3rd place finish in 2019. Moreover, he comes into the weekend in good form, dating back to last season after placing T-6 at the FedEx St. Jude Championship and T-10 at the BMW Championship. One of the best ball strikers on the Tour, while the current world number 38 stumbled at the Sentry a week ago, he still ranked ninth in accuracy off the tee and in approach play. Still struggling around the greens and with his putter, the layout at Waialae Country Club should help mitigate some of his short game deficiencies. Currently listed at 25/1 odds, count on Conners to be among the final groups on Sunday.


Sleeper: Cameron Davis

Searching for his first victory since the 2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic, Davis came close on multiple occasions last year. He finished T-4 at the PGA Championship before placing third at the Fortinet Championship. Along with this, like Conners, Davis owns a strong track record at this event, including a T-9 in 2020. One of the longest players off the tee in the field, he is averaging over 292 yards per drive. Moreover, the Sydney, Australia native has played well on comparable shorter courses during his seven-year career. He was top ten at the 2022 RBC Heritage and the 2023 Wyndham Championship. A solid short-game player who is one of the best birdie makers on Tour; if Davis can get off to a hot start on Thursday, he has an excellent chance to get back in the winner's circle.


Everett's Sony Open Picks

Favorite: Chris Kirk

Kirk is coming off of a victory at The Sentry, where he ended up at -29 and won by one shot over Theegala. He only had one bogey all week, which came in the third round as part of a 7-under round of 66; he went 67-65-66-65 for the weekend on the Par 73 Kapalua course. The Sony Open likely won't end with as low of a winning score, but he finished in solo third at -15, three shots behind winner Kim. He comes into the week at 25-1 odds to win, and given that they don't have to travel too far to get to Waialae, he stands as a favorite with solid and potentially underwhelming odds.


Favorite: Matt Fitzpatrick

The current World No. 8 enters the week tied with Aberg for the best odds at 16-1, and it makes sense. Fitzpatrick finished tied for 14th last week at -22, and he went 69-64-69-68, never really getting going on a course that rewarded players who played aggressively. This week, short irons and wedges will be tested, and that bodes well for Fitzpatrick, who has traditionally been a solid iron player and won the U.S. Open in 2022, largely off the back of his excellent iron play and putting. He has a tendency to spray his long irons recently, but in his three most recent starts before The Sentry, he won the Alfred Dunhill Links, finished tied for 27th in the DP World Tour Championship, and tied for 4th in the Hero World Challenge.


Sleeper: Will Zalatoris

Zalatoris is making his first start of the year on Tour, and only his second since he withdrew from The Masters last April and missed the rest of the season due to back surgery. In the Hero World Challenge, his first start post-surgery, he looked rusty, finishing at +11 and last out of the 20-player field, nine strokes behind 19th-place finisher Wyndham Clark. However, he has changed his swing and has picked up a new putter, which looks like it has helped his putting if the Hero is anything to go by. He has lost a bit of power (he now tops out at a ball speed of 178 MPH instead of averaging in the 180 range), but he has gained a lot more accuracy, and his ever-present insane iron play and improved putting will make him a force to be reckoned with this week. With all he has been through in the past year, making the cut would probably seem like a win for him, but don't be surprised if he's in contention going into Sunday.


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