With a strong finish to the HTOC in the past, let’s look ahead at the Sony Open with our weekly power rankings. Feel free to back and take a peek at the Preview from Sunday if you need a light refresher on Waialae Country Club and some notes on the event.
Two players in particular will be the wildcards to try and reconcile. It’s rare for a player to win in back-to-back starts in B2B weeks, but that’s what Zach Johnson will try and accomplish this week. He’s actually going for three consecutive wins if you count the unofficial Northwestern Mutual World Challenge (AKA Tiger and friends).
The other big mystery is Jordan Spieth. After finishing second in the HTOC in his first look, he comes to Waialae as a course rookie but white hot. As I’ll mention again below, when I ran my breakdown of relevant statistical categories, he finished first by a mile.
Here’s my best shot
1. Zach Johnson – A winner here in 2009, it was also the only time he played the Sony coming off a top 10 in the HTOC. That alone could translate into a big week. His game is seemingly much better suited for the tighter confines and short track at Waialae than it is the rolling hills of Kapalua, so his form indicates he is at his very peak in value and could win anywhere at any time. In formats other than a one-and-done, he is an absolute must. He must be strongly considered in the OAD.
2. Charles Howell III – Chucky’s eyes light up when he steps onto Waialae. In 12 tries, he’s never missed a cut and has enjoyed seven top 5s. Add to that, he had three top 10s in five starts back in the fall, so with what we have to go on, he’s in good form. A must in virtually every format, he’s probably the guy to tab if you don’t go ZJ in OAD.
3. Tim Clark – Clark’s lack of pop off the tee turns him into an assassin on certain courses and a terrible option on others. This is one of those green lights. He’s only played here four times, but they’ve all gone for top 25s and include two runners-up. How does he do it? He hit’s a ton of fairways and has excellent proximity numbers.
4. Jordan Spieth – Momma, there goes that man again! Looking back at last year’s stats, he ranked inside the top 10 in par 4 scoring (1), par breakers (8) and proximity (7). That is a lethal combination at this week’s par-70 layout. Top 10s last year at the RBC Heritage and Colonial (also Zach Johnson hot spots), make a compelling case for a Spieth play despite never having seen the course.
5. Jason Dufner – If he makes putts in Kapalua last week, he probably wins. There are others with better records in the Sony Open (2 top 25s in six starts), but his irons seem dialed in and that’s important this week. The concern would be his ability to convert enough birdies. Last year’s edition featured Russell Henley making everything, and I’m not sure Duff Daddy could keep up if it turns into a putting contest again.
6. Matt Kuchar – If there’s ever a poster child for stats not mattering, it’s Kuchar. He’s posted top fives in his last two trips to the Sony Open and is coming off a T6 at Kapalua. Form meets history in a solid way.
7. Harris English – This tight course seems like the kind of ballpark English could grow to love, and he’s trending in the right direction. After a T69 as a rookie in 2011, he returned to share ninth last year. That’s comforting coming off a T11 in his first trip to Kapalua. My guess is that he’ll be just below some people’s radar, so he could be a prudent buy in any format.
8. Chris Kirk – He faded after opening strong last week, but offers the right skills to contend at Waialae. Namely, incredible par 4 and proximity number to go with a great putter. Much like English, his returns are steady getting better as he is 3/3 with a T5 last year in this event.
9. Adam Scott – Relative to his ability, Scott drug his feet last week and still managed a tie for sixth that could have been a lot better had the fate of two or three holes changed slightly. I think back to his bogeys on the short par-4 16th in the first two rounds, a bogey on the par-5 15th in the third and a bogey on the par-5 18th in the finale, all from the fairway, and wonder what might have been. Not sure I saw enough out of his putter last week to believe he runs the tables and wins this week, but a solid option none the less.
10. Briny Baird – I went there. He almost won The McGladrey Classic in the fall, and there are traits of that course that remind me of Waialae. I’m not suggesting it’s a carbon copy. He’s also 9/11 with three top 10s and five top 25s in the event. When I broke down the relevant stats, he finished fourth on my spreadsheet.
11. Matt Every – Led this tournament (I believe the 54-hole leader) in 2011 but faded on Sunday. Somewhat similar to last year’s winner (Henley), Every is the streaky player that can get hot with the putter and run the tables on par 4s. Similar to Baird, he tied for seventh at The McGladrey Classic.
12. Rory Sabbatini – Good wind player should it start to blow and owns a pair of runners-up in this event. Ended the 2013 stretch of the 2013-14 season with a T3 in Mayakoba. Certainly some risk, but there always is; right?
Next 5: Ryo Ishikawa, Brendon de Jonge, Russell Henley, Jimmy Walker and Mark Wilson
We are also going to do a bit of cramming, and hit on the Yahoo! game in this feature. Here’s what I’m going with:
A-List – Charles Howell III starting and Matt Kuchar on the bench.
B-List – Jordan Spieth and Zach Johnson starting with Chris Kirk and Jason Dufner on the bench.
C-List – Tim Clark starting with Harris English on the bench.
I have not yet factored in weather or tee times to the Yahoo! lineup, so I will update tomorrow if changes are made.
I will also return with a deep dive into the one-and-done format as well.
Until then, best of luck to all!