10:55 - January 16, 2021
The halfway leader of the Sony Open, Russell Henley, began his third round slowly and by the time he'd hit his tee-shot on the par three seventh, his three-stroke advantage had been wiped out.
Having dropped a shot at the par three fourth, Henley was one-over par for the day as he stood on the tee at seven, but he bounced back admirably, playing the remaining 12 holes in four-under-par, thanks largely to birdies at the remaining par threes - holes seven, 11 & 17, and he remains in front with his lead reduced by just a stroke. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:45.
Russell Henley -18 2.186/5
Hideki Matsuyama -16 3.55
Seamus Power -14 17.016/1
Matt Kuchar -14 24.023/1
Adam Svensson -14 32.031/1
Haotong Li -14 38.037/1
Kevin Kisner -13 38.037/1
Lucas Glover -13 60.059/1
-12 and 80.079/1 bar
Punters today need to ask themselves the exact same question as yesterday - can Henley be trusted in front?
I looked at his record when leading at halfway yesterday morning so it makes sense to outline his record when leading through 54 holes and it's not brilliant.
Since winning this event on debut in 2013, when tied for the lead with Scott Langley with 18 to play, Henley has led four times on the PGA Tour and he's failed to convert on every occasion.
He finished runner-up to Chris Kirk at the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2014 (beaten by two), having led by a stroke with a round to go, he finished third at the CJ Cup in 2020 (beaten by three) having led by three and he finished tied for 13th (beaten by six) at last year's US Open, having been tied for the lead through rounds one, two and three.
And finally, Henley finished seventh, beaten by just a stroke, at the Wyndham Championship in August having led by four at halfway and by three through 54 holes. On that occasion, Kevin Kisner won a six-man playoff, so he'll be hoping that history repeats itself today.
Since winning the Sony Open in 2013 when tied for the lead through three rounds, on the four occasions that Henley's led or co-led he's shot fourth rounds scores of 70, 70, 76 and 71.
Henley looks opposable and the most obvious candidate is the man in second - Hideki Matsuyama - who's found his touch on the greens.
Matsuyama ranked only 23rd for Putting Average and 27th for Strokes Gained Putting when finishing 13th in the Sentry last week but after three rounds here he ranks second for those two flat-stick metrics.
Having been a general 21.020/1 chance before the off, Matsuyama was matched at a high of 50.049/1 after a relatively slow start but with rounds of 66, 65 and 63, he's improved day on day and he's the biggest threat to the leader with a round to go.
In the last six years, we've seen Justin Thomas convert a seven-stroke 54-hole lead and Matt Kuchar winning by four, having led by two but four of the last six winners came form off the pace and we nearly witnessed a huge comeback four years ago...
Fabian Gomez won from four adrift in 2016, giving hope to the chasing pack today, and James Hahn was beaten in a protracted playoff 12 months later having trailed by seven in a tie for 14th!
Pre-event pick, Kevin Kisner, is still in touch so I'll be shouting him on, but I've also added a wager on Matsuyama, who looks a very fair price, and I've also layed the leader at 1.182/11 in the Top 5 Finish market.
I'll be back tomorrow with the De-Brief.
10:45 - January 15, 2021
After a fairly pedestrian start to round two, pre-event 40.039/1 chance, and 2013 Sony Open winner, Russell Henley, finished his round brilliantly, playing the final six holes in six-under-par and he heads into the weekend with a three-stroke lead. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:40.
Russell Henley -15 2.466/4
Haotong Li -12 20.019/1
Matt Kuchar -11 18.017/1
Michael Thompson -10 34.033/1
Hideki Matsuyama -9 17.016/1
Corey Conners -9 23.022/1
Seamus Power -9 29.028/1
-9 and 40.039/1 bar
Henley's fantastic finish will be a cause of frustration for many - myself included.
I have a couple of pre-event picks (Billy Horschel and Kevin Kisner) tied for 16th on eight-under-par and one of the Find Me a 100 Winner picks, Stewart Cink, is tied for fifth on -9 alongside one of Dave Tindall's each-way picks - Seamus Power.
Take Henley out of the picture and we'd have a wide-open event to survey this morning, but we may yet see a bunched finish if Henley performs like he has done recently when under the gun...
Henley burst on the scene eight years ago when he converted from the front at Waialae - winning the first of his three PGA Tour titles. Having opened with back-to-back 63s to lead the 2013 edition by two at halfway, he shot 67 on Saturday and he was caught by Scott Langley but another 63 on Sunday saw him scoot three clear of the field.
That was an impressive victory and he'd also won from the front on the Korn Ferry Tour a year earlier but he's not been as convincing in-contention since. Both his subsequent victories were from slightly off the pace and he's zero from five when leading or tied for the lead at halfway on the PGA Tour since he won here in 2013.
On the last three occasions that he's been in front at halfway he's finished 11th, 13th and seventh. He finished 11th at the Travelers Championship in 2016, and that was disappointing, but I'm not sure how harsh on him we can be about last year's two defeats.
He was tied for the lead at the US Open at halfway and after round three before wilting late on to tumble out of the top-ten and he was beaten by just a stroke at the Wyndham Championship in August in agonising fashion.
Henley had led by two after round one, four at halfway and he was still three in front with a round to go. He was matched in-running at a low of just 1.341/3 but he couldn't hold on and Kevin Kisner went on to win a six-man playoff.
Henley clearly loves the track. He's the only maiden winner at Waialae since Jerry Kelly won on his first visit here in 2002, but can he be trusted?
Henley was sitting second at halfway last year (trailing by two) but could only finish 11th (his best finish here since he won in 2013) so all things considered, he looks like one to swerve.
I'm going to leave the event alone for now as I'm not keen on any of Henley's nearest pursuers at the prices they're trading at this morning and I can see one or two coming from out of the pack on moving day.
Last year's winner, Kevin Na, was tied for 19th and five of the lead at this stage before a 61 in round three saw him close to within two of Brendan Steele and something similar occurring this time around looks possible.
There are as many as 23 players within seven of Henley's lead so if he stutters today, we could be looking at a very different picture tomorrow.
10:25 - January 14, 2021
With an opening nine-under-par 61, the defending champ, Kevin Na, shot his 11th career round of 62 or lower on the PGA Tour yesterday afternoon to lead the Sony Open by a stroke but he threatened to go even lower.
Na found every single fairway and he was matched at a low of just 4.1 after he'd raced to eight-under-par through just 12 holes but he slowed up a bit after that, parring five-in-a-row before picking up his ninth birdie of the day at the straightforward par five 18th.
So well did he play, that Na was disappointed with his score after the round and it was an ominous performance that could and should have been better given he ranked third for Putting Average but only 55th for Strokes Gained Putting. The longest putt he made all day was from inside seven feet so the frustration was understandable.
With the 2013 winner, Russell Henley, tied for second alongside the 1996 champ, Jim Furyk, (who aced the par three 16th), and with the 2018 winner, Patton Kizzire, one of five men tied for fourth and two off Na's lead, it's fair to say that course form is holding up well again at Waialae!
Defending titles is tough, which is one of the reasons I overlooked Na before the off, despite backing him last week at 120.0119/1, but they have a very good record in this event.
Hubert Green went back-to-back in 1978 and '79, Corey Pavin made a successful defence in 1987 and two players have won consecutive Sony Opens this century. Ernie Els won here in 2003 and 2004 and Jimmy Walker won back-to-back in 2014 and 2015.
With the rough up this year, Na's arrow-straight long game is going to stand him in good stead but he's fractionally short for me now given he's led or co-led after the opening round six times previously on the PGA Tour and he's never gone on to win.
In fact, he's only once managed to finish inside the top-five and that was on the last occasion that he led after the opening day, at the 2018 Charles Schwab Challenge. Interestingly, he returned 12 months later to win that title and it would be remiss of me not to mention that on the only occasion that he led after round one on the Korn Ferry Tour (at the Mark Christopher Charity Classic way back in 2006) he went on to win.
Playing early today is a plus given yesterday's early starters averaged almost half a stroke less than the PM starters (0.43) so that's another thing in Na's favour but I'm plumping for another former Charles Schwab winner with an early start today - Jason Kokrak.
Kokrak took his time to get going yesterday, but he played his last 11 holes in six-under-par, and I thought 22.021/1 was a reasonable price given his recent form.
He won his second PGA Tour title, the Charles Schwab Challenge, in May last year and he finished 2021 really well, coming from just off the pace to claim the Houston Open in November before pairing up with Na to win the QBE Shootout in December.
He was on the shortlist before the off so I was happy to get him onside this morning at 22.021/1. I'll be back tomorrow to take another look at the halfway stage.
Kevin Kisner @ 46.045/1
Billy Horschel @ 65.064/1
Brendan Steele @ 90.089/1
Jason Kokrak @ [22.0]
Hideki Matsuyama @ 3.613/5
Russell Henley - Top 5 Finish @ 1.182/11
Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Back 2 u Stewart Cink @ 110.0109/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back 2u Branden Grace @ 120.0119/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter