Sam Eaton brings us his predictions for First Round Leader at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
- Sam Eaton landed profit last week with Justin Thomas finishing T1 in his first FRL article for oddschecker.
- All of Sam's tips are based on statistics and models built on the course requirements and he's picked out three selections for the Sony Open in Hawaii.
This course couldn’t be more different to the easy outing the PGA stars faced last week. Instead of wide open fairways and huge greens this weeks field have the exact opposite, smaller trickier fairways and some of the smaller greens they’ll encounter this season.
As expected with the course setup, driving accuracy is a key stat to focus in on this week, alongside approach play and par four scoring.
Like last week the greens are Bermuda, but the length of the course (Waialae Country Club) is considerable smaller, only measuring at 7,044 yards.
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Sony Open in Hawaii - First Round Leader
Webb Simpson at 25/1 (6 places 1/5)
This is hardly the most inspirational pick given the course setup, but it’s impossible to look past Webb Simpson. Webb was 5th in terms of shots gained approach last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, and 6th on the PGA tour last season.
Simpson’s not a big driver but he’s accurate, and Bermuda is his preferred surface. Webb has three top six first round placing in 2020, including a couple of thirds.
Webb Simpson 25/1 1pt e/w (6 places 1/5)
Sergio Garcia at 50/1 (6 places 1/5)
Sergio Garcia has been fantastic off the tee recently, in his last five tournaments he’s averaging 4.4 shots gained off the tee. Last week, there was only Bryson DeChambeau who could better him in this department.
My only concern with Garcia is his putting, the Spaniard was pretty poor last week which was the main contributing factor for him missing out on a top ten finish. There were only three others in the field who putted worse than Garcia.
Garcia was 3rd after the first round last week, and he had three top ten first round placing in 2020, so he is no stranger to a quick start.
Sergio Garcia 50/1 1pt e/w (6 places 1/5)
Brendon Todd at 60/1 (5 places 1/4)
Brendon Todd’s a bit of first round leader darling, even though he only led after the opening round on one occasion in 2020, he placed on multiple occasions.
Todd was completely out of sorts near the backend of 2020, but he’s shown much more in his last three events including the T13 last week on a course which wouldn’t necessarily benefit him.
The American gains shots on the Bermuda grass and he was 4th on the PGA Tour for driving accuracy in 2020. Todd’s approach play can be very hit and miss, but hopefully a shorter course will improve this.
Todd’s dropped shots in all proximities in the last five round apart from the prox: 100-125 range. Todd’s price is still aligned to his form a few months ago.
Brendon Todd 60/1 1pt e/w (5 places 1/4)
Russell Henley at 50/1 (6 places 1/5)
Like Webb Simpson, Bermuda greens are a huge positive for Russell Henley. Henley’s pretty accurate off the tee and really excels when it comes to approach play. He was third on the PGA Tour for SG: Approach behind Justin Thomas and Colin Morikawa.
Henley has four top four first round finishes in 2020, which includes a win at The Northern Trust.
His form wasn’t great before the Christmas break, but with the stats aligning I’m more than happy to take the 50/1.
Russell Henley 50/1 1pt e/w (6 places 1/5)
Kyle Stanley at 100/1 (5 places 1/4)
I was trying to keep my picks down to four, but I just couldn’t resist the temptation of Kyle Stanley.
Unlike the players above, due to his putting, Stanley has very little chance of winning the competition overall. However, if he can just hold the putting together for one round he’s got every chance in the first round leader market.
Stanley’s an excellent driver of the ball, he was 5th on the PGA Tour in 2020 for driving accuracy percentage. His approach play can also get very hot, which was shown at the RSM Classic.
Kyle Stanley 100/1 1pt e/w (5 places 1/4)