Long installed as the first full-field PGA Tour fixture in January, the Sony Open has produced many an outsider winner. Two of the last three champions - Patton Kizzire and Fabian Gomez - were off the scale pricewise but, in fact, not unbackable if following the trends.
There are numerous angles to explore here - detailed in Steve Rawlings' comprehensive preview. Critically, he notes a batch of courses which correlate well with Waialae CC. That strategy, plus a vast bank of course form, lie behind these three selections.
Trust Perez to start the season strongly
Back Pat Perez 2u @ 140.00 Place order to lay 20u @ 10.00
First a player with a tendency for starting seasons well. Perez opened his last two campaigns with top-four finishes in elite company in Hawaii - albeit at Kapalua. He's also shown plenty in January at the La Quinta pro-am and Torrey Pines.
He's can also boast decent numbers at this Hawaii track, making eight top-20s including a quartet of top-tens. He closed 2018 well with sixth at El Camaleon - the course Steve reckons correlates best and where he has also won before.
Course master Kelly to go well again
Back Jerry Kelly 1u e/w @ 200/1 (1/5 odds, seven places)
Among numerous course specialists at Waialae, Jerry Kelly deserves special attention. Pound for pound, it is hard to think of a player to so consistently punch above their weight on a specific course. Champion here in 2002, he's landed nine top-tens this century - six times earning a place payout with a top-six finishes.
Is he past it at 52? Far from it - he may even be sharper. Since joining the Seniors he's become a prolific winner and frequent contender. Kelly made the top-15 in two of the last three renewals which implies plenty of value in these each-way odds.
Waialae is Gay's perfect set-up
Back Brian Gay 2u @ 300.00 Place order to lay 10u @ 25.00 Place order to lay 25u @ 8.00
The point about these correlating layouts is they offer short-straight types a much better chance than usual. The key to success is accurate iron play to set up birdie chances, rather than hitting it miles off the tee.
It is the ideal opportunity for Brian Gay - who has given this column some good runs at huge odds in recent years in precisely tests of this nature. He made his last 11 cuts in 2018, twice finishing sixth in birdie fests - as this is expected to be.
Gay's portfolio at these courses is outstanding. He's finished top-25 seven times here, has won at both El Camaleon and Southwind and twice contended at Sea Island.
Three alternatives also made the shortlist. Chez Reavie140.00 is another short-hitter with a good record here and related courses. He started last year strongly too, twice finishing runner-up.
Rory Sabbatini ticked a lot of boxes and has had plenty of decent results over the past two years. He is huge at 470.00 given a decent course record. Finally, having finished top-13 on three out of five visits, 380.00 about Hudson Swafford caught the eye.