2016 Sony Open Picks, Including the Driver-Off-The-Deck BOLD Play of the Week #isitThursdayyet

Is 30-under for four rounds any good?  Yeah, it’s insane.  I specifically remember when Ernie Els shot that Hyundai TOC tourney record 31-under at Kapalua in 2003, when he was absolutely bombing it off the tee with his new Titleist 983E driver and I thought that the game of golf had changed forever.  Now, Spieth comes within one stroke of that record in shooting 30-under and it’s just another week for him.  Unbelievable.  Jordan Spieth, we all bow down to you!  Well anyway, onward we roll to this week’s Sony Open, which is the annual endcap to the PGA Tour’s two event Aloha-state Hawaiian swing.

Host course for the Sony Open is Waialae Country Club, which in comparison to last week’s Hyundai TOC’s Kapalua Plantation track is pretty much a polar opposite, as instead of massively wide fairways and heavily undulating terrain, Waialae is a twisty, windy, quirky and “dogleggy” 7,044 yards, which is 400 yards shorter than last week.

Specifically on the “dogleggy” label, Waialae is one of the few remaining courses on the PGA Tour circuit where excessive distance off the tee actually can be a negative, as blasting shots through corners of doglegs and continually short-siding oneself will lead to a weekend off.  Bomb and gouge, think not.  Precision, accuracy and being able to work the ball both ways off the tee is the ticket to success here.  Just ask those recent past champion pea-shooters David Toms, Paul Goydos, Mark Wilson, Johnson Wager and Russell Henley how important distance off the tee is to their games.  Exactly.

Last week at the Hyundai TOC at Kapalua my picks got off to a raging start, only to crumble down the stretch in finishing: Kisner 9th, DJ t-10th and D Lee t-15th.  Also, my BUST pick on Padraig was a miss as he played surprisingly well in finishing t-6th.

Now, let’s hop into some picks for this week:

LOCKZILLA (Last week: Dustin Johnson t-10th)

Marc Leishman
Marc Leishman
– Start buying that Leishman stock now folks before it’s too high, as the 32-year-old Aussie is poised for a big season.  With his wife’s health scare no longer a concern, he’ll be free-wheeling it all season long as his 26 OWGR ranking gets him into every big event.  Let’s start this week with the Sony, where he’s a perfect 6/6 cuts made, with a solo 5th in 2014 and a t-9th the year prior.  Add in that in his last worldwide start he won the Nedbank Challenge in early December, which should just be an extra boost of confidence heading into 2016.  Lock and load lots of Leishman this week (and enjoy the alliteration).

SEMI-FLIER (Last week: Kisner 9th)

Ryan Palmer
Ryan Palmer
– Let’s see—past champion (2010), other recent success here (t-8th and t-17th last two years) and certainly will be somewhat overlooked this week with other bigger names in the field also making their first starts of the season.  What’s not to like?  Love me some Ryan Palmer this week.

HOSEL-ROCKET BUST (Last week: Padraig t-6th)

Jimmy Walker
Jimmy Walker
– Zing!  The two-time defending Sony Open champ is the king of Hawaii golf and the West Coast swing to be sure, but I’m telling you right now this is a different Jimmy Walker here in 2016 than in year’s past.  Before last year’s runaway victory, he had the Hyundai TOC tournament trophy almost fully in his grasp, only to melt down the stretch and lose in a playoff to Patrick Reed.  This meant that he came into last year’s tourney in top form, then carried that over into victory.  Some might look at Jimmy’s t-21st at Hyundai TOC in 2014 and then ask how he was able follow that up with a victory at the Sony the following week, well I’m looking right through that and am telling you that his game right now is nowhere near at the level that it was the past two years.  His swing instructor Butch Harmon said on the Golf Channel telecast during the Hyundai TOC last week that Jimmy is working on a new move with his swing, which is eye-opening as Jimmy’s ball-striking is usually rock solid.  Couple that with the fact that his putting was absolutely atrocious for 3 of the 4 rounds last week at Kapalua and I simply don’t see how he shakes that from one week to the next on surfaces with nearly identical grass.  No 3-peat coming this week, in I’m flat out calling for a MC.  Boom!

DRIVER-OFF-THE-DECK BOLD PLAY OF THE WEEK (Last week: Danny Lee t-15th)

Cameron Smith
Cameron Smith
– Lots of young talent on Tour these days, so it’s easy to miss some solid potential when young studs like Jordan Spieth are shooting 30-under.  But, don’t make the mistake of overlooking Cam, as this 22-year-old Aussie can really play.  Cam notched 5 top 25s on the PGA Tour last year in just 13 starts, including a t-4th at the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay.  He stayed active in the fall as well, struggling a bit on the PGA Tour (1/3 cuts made, plus a t-64th in the WGC-HSBC Champions), but faring decently in both the Australian Open and Australian Masters before a solo 5th at the Australian PGA Championship.  Simply put, there’s lots of potential here and even without course history at Waialae I’m still very high on his chances this week.

#isitThursdayyet

Joel Harrington
@joel4deepgolf

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