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Sony Open Round 1 matchup, 2-Ball picks analysis from Andy Lack. Find out who to target in the matchup markets this Thursday. The PGA Tour is back in Hawaii this week and Andy is here to kick off the tournament with some early winners
ANALYSIS

Sony Open Thursday 2-Ball Picks and Predictions

Alas, after a two-plus month-long absence, we have finally reached the first full-field PGA TOUR event of the 2022 calendar year. Last week's Sentry Tournament of Champions was certainly an enjoyable warmup that saw scoring records tumble, but I am far more excited for this event, as there is a much wider range of players to target.

The Sony Open has been held at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu since 1965. The Seth Raynor design plays as a Par 70, and tips out to only 7,044 yards on the scorecard. Waialae is a much different test from what we saw at Kapalua last week, featuring narrow driving areas, and small, firm Bermuda-grass greens.

The one similarity that we can carry over from last week is that wind will largely dictate the difficulty of the course, and in benign conditions, Waialae is extremely gettable. The Raynor design has ranked inside the top-three in easiest par 70s in six of the last eight years. It's also worth noting that experience really helps on this track, as 15 of the last 16 winners of the Sony Open had already seen the course before. I'll primarily be looking for elite short to mid iron players who can keep the ball in play off the tee and have shown an affinity for putting on Bermuda-grass greens.

Let's dig into my round one matchup selections.

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Round 1 Matchup: Matt Jones (-130) vs. Matt Kuchar (+110)

Selection: Matt Kuchar (+110)

Never a thrilling play, but always a steady one, I expect a solid performance out of Matt Kuchar this week. The 9-time PGA Tour winner is a former winner at the Sony Open in 2019, and he boasts five other top-10s across 14 appearances. Similar to El Camaleon, Harbour Town, and Colonial, Waialae is one of the select courses on the schedule where Kuchar legitimately believes he can compete. The 43-year-old recorded a sneaky good fall-swing with top-40 performances in all four of his starts. I expect Kuchar to keep rolling on a track that suits his game to a tee.

Matt Jones, on the other hand, is the victim of a massive price overreaction from two rounds of golf. Jones' 23-under par performance last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions certainly turned heads, but I will gladly sell high on the Australian. Jones is normally a golfer found towards the bottom of the odds board, but two great rounds on an incredibly easy course suddenly has him priced as the 14th most likely golfer to win this tournament. Prior to last week, Jones had failed to finish in the top-10 in 18 straight tournaments. I'll bank on Jones regressing back to his baseline.

Round 1 Matchup: Abraham Ancer (-115) vs. Harris English (-105)

Selection: Abraham Ancer (-115)

Similar to Kuchar, Waialae is one of those tracks where I feel very comfortable rolling out Abraham Ancer. While the recent WGC- FedEx St. Jude's Invitational winner has yet to really pop in Honolulu, a sterling resume at Harbour Town, Innisbrook, and El Camaleon leads me to believe that Ancer is capable of success on short, positional golf courses. While Ancer struggled last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, I would have rather him played poorly than not have played at all. Kapalua was never going be to a course well suited for Ancer's game, and now that he has some recent reps in, I expect him to thrive in Honolulu.

Harris English, on the other hand, is a player that I predict will experience some serious regression this season. The 32-year-old recorded a banner 2021, which included two wins, a Ryder Cup appearance, and an ascent into the top-15 in the world rankings. While English was good last year, he was an average ball-striker who predominantly relied on a blistering flat-stick that saw him gain strokes putting in 12 of 17 of starts last season. This regression may have already began, as English missed both of his cuts this fall swing and finished towards the bottom of the field at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, losing 6.1 strokes putting across those three appearances. These are two players simply going in different directions.

Round 1 Matchup: Emiliano Grillo (-125) vs. Henrik Norlander (+105)

Selection: Henrik Norlander (+105)

Norlander is the type of player I am always looking to target, specifically in single round matchups, because of his ability to catch fire on approach. In 22 of his last 50 rounds, Norlander has gained over a stroke on approach, and on four separate occassions last season, he gained over four strokes with his irons for the tournament. I was able to identify a similar ability to spike on approach a year ago with Talor Gooch, and sure enough, the rest of his game came around. While I'm not suggesting Norlander is at that level yet, the ability to elevate in that specific skillset translates to a propensity for low rounds and long-term upside.

Emiliano Grillo is a player I am bullish on as well, and he is an excellent iron player is in own right. Yet what separates him from Norlander is a tendency to go completely ice cold with the flat-stick. The Argentinian has lost strokes putting in 19 of his last 26 rounds, and while his solid ball-striking typically helps him make cuts, a faulty putter prevents him from really going low with any consistency. Over those last 25 rounds, Grillo has only gained over two strokes on the field four times. You'll notice a theme in these matchup articles, and I will continue to harp on this. There is an incredible amount of variance in 18 holes of golf, which usually leads me to back underdogs and generally volatile players. Grillo may be a better overall player at a macro level than Norlander, but the Swede presents more upside.

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Article Author

ROI N/A
Golf
insightpicks

Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.

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