The Betting.Betfair editors cast their eye over the Sony Open field and give their thoughts on who can make a fast start at Waialae recommending the following trio as each-way wagers...
"Waialae is clearly a comfortable course for Henley, having recorded two top-20 finishes there in five attempts, not to mention his victory in 2013 when he opened up with a round of 63. He would go on to finish the year tied eighth for Round 1 Scoring Average at 69.58."
*EW Terms: 1/5 Odds | 7 Places
Monday night saw the Alabama Crimson Tide defeat the Georgia Bulldogs in the College Football National Championship game, the result was more a case of a Georgia collapse than an Alabama triumph, with the Bulldogs going into half-time with a 13 point lead. It was in fact somewhat reminiscent of former Georgia man Russell Henley's fall from grace in last year's Sony Open.
While we were all pre-occupied with Justin Thomas shooting a historic round of 59, Henley quietly went about his business to finish T4 with a round of 64 behind the imperious FedEx champ. From there, things went slightly awry over the weekend, eventually finishing up T13.
Waialae is clearly a comfortable course for Henley though, having recorded two top-20 finishes there in five attempts, not to mention his victory in 2013 when he opened up with a round of 63. He would go on to finish the year tied eighth for Round 1 Scoring Average at 69.58.
The Bermuda greens here are a key component to his armoury, having grown up playing on the Seaside and Plantation courses used at the RSM hundreds of times. The current forecast for Thursday shows very little wind on the horizon so he can really make that experience count.
I'm happy to overlook a choppy start at Kapalua last week in tough conditions - and expect him to make amends for the Georgia Bulldogs defeat with a fast start on Thursday.
Perhaps one of the keys to finding a winner in various markets this week is to side with a player that showed he is in good form last week at Kapalua. As Steve Rawlings points out in his comprehensive preview of the Sony Open, players that have done well here down the years have usually had a warm up the week before, thus getting any rustiness due to about six weeks of inactivity out of their system.
For that reason I'm happy to back Brian Harman at an industry best 40/1 - and by some distance an industry best - to go well in the first round, just as he did seven days ago. Harman sat second after round one in Kapalua before playing well all week to eventually finish third behind runaway winner Dustin Johnson.
The one negative of course is that Harman has an afternoon tee time, and as we know, generally players that are out in the morning wave tend to score better. But that's the only negative, and one that I'm more than happy to ignore given the current weather forecast which shows that the early morning winds will die down considerably on the afternoon, so as it turns out Harman could have a perfect tee time to go well on a course where he's finished inside the top 20 on his last three visits.
The 2016 Zurich Classic winner, Brian Stuard, has been playing some decent stuff of late and he's been starting tournaments well too. His fourth-placed finish at the Safeway Open in October, where he sat just a stroke off the lead after round one, is the highlight of a decent spell of play and it would be no surprise to see him put in a similar performance at Waialae this week, if his past form there is anything to go by.
Stuard's Sony Open form figures read 25-5-6-MC-45 and his first round finishing position numbers read 7-7-3-111-21. His missed cut in 2015, when he opened with a 72, is his only poor effort in five starts here and it's worth bearing in mind that when he sat tied seventh after the opening round on debut in 2010, he was only one stroke off the lead.
His five first round scores have been 66, 66, 65, 72 and 66 and he looks worth chancing at an industry-best price of 90/1.