Betting Analysis

Sony Open picks 2024: Watch out for this wily veteran at Waialae

January 09, 2024
KAPALUA, HAWAII - JANUARY 07: Justin Rose of England plays his shot from the 13th tee during the final round of The Sentry at Plantation Course at Kapalua Golf Club on January 07, 2024 in Kapalua, Hawaii. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

The Sentry was a nice little appetizer, but the Sony Open is the first full meal of the 2024 season. And while it may not be a signature event like Kapalua had, a number of stars, and soon-to-be stars, are showing up to make their '24 debuts at Waialae. Will Zalatoris, Ludvig Aberg, Matt Fitzpatrick and last week's runner-up, Sahith Theegala, are all in the field, as is Sentry winner Chris Kirk.

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While the winner could very well come from that group, Kirk's name is the only one that shows up in our expert panel's outright selections this week. A certain former major champion, and a couple of premium ball-strikers, are garnering much more attention from this group of handicappers, which nearly had a clean sweep on matchup bets last week and cashed in on two top 10s. We're just getting started. 

Scroll down to see who we like this week at the 2024 Sony Open. 

Sony Open picks 2024: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions

Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Russell Henley (22-1, FanDuel) — This is a place Russell loves. It’s all about positional golf and taking advantage of scoring opportunities, and few people can get as hot when they’re sticking wedges tight as Russell. His putter doesn’t vibe with every course, but it clearly does with Waialae and the Bermuda greens. He’ll make it back-to-back Ws for the Dawgs to start 2024.

Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Justin Rose (35-1, DraftKings) — I had been eyeing Rose before the season as an excellent fit at Waialae and when I saw a -10 next to his name at one point in Sunday’s round at Kapalua, I couldn’t unsee it. Rose has possessed the upside to win essentially anywhere in his career, but now, as a 43-year-old, the short, strategic tracks are going to be his wheelhouse. Places where his savvy, combined with elite wedge play and a hot putter, can propel him to the top of the leaderboard. Just look at where his best results materialized in 2023: Oakdale, Colonial, Sawgrass, and a win at Pebble Beach. All shorter courses.

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Russell Henley (22-1, FanDuel)  While Henley got to knock off some rust last week at the Sentry, he finished only 58th and didn’t play particularly well with the irons. That’s a blip for Henley, who consistently has some of the best approach play of anyone in the field he’s in. He does have a win at Waialae back in 2013, too, but the current form is there for Henley this week.

Keith Stewart, Read The Line: J.T. Poston (33-1, FanDuel) — While everyone picks Matt Kuchar on their outright card, I recommend Matt 2.0. J.T. Poston is a fellow Sea Island resident with the same skill set and younger. A top-five putter in the field, Poston’s last six months have been fueled by a much-improved approach game. He’s first in the field for creating birdie opportunities and third in birdie or better percentage. Take J.T. and watch the Postman deliver your first win of the year.

Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Chris Kirk (28-1, BetMGM) — A lot has been made of Corey Conners’ course history, which is superb, but last week’s champ has an equally immaculate record at Waialae: He’s got a runner-ups in 2021 and 2014, plus top-fives last year and in 2013. His elite short-iron play bagged him the win at Kapalua, and I think you have to go back to him at a place he loves.

Christopher Powers, Golf Digest staff writer: Harris English (40-1, BetMGM) — English began returning to his peak 2021 form late last summer, then the season ended just as he was heating up. But he picked up where he left off with a top-30 finish at the RSM in the fall and then with a top-15 finish last week at The Sentry, where he gained just over three strokes on approach. I fear it’s probably still soon to expect a win out of him, but with top 8s to his name at the U.S. Open and the Wells Fargo last summer, he’s already proven he can still find his way into contention on occasion. He’s done that in his career at the Sony, too, where he owns three top 10s in 11 career appearances.

Andy Lack, Run Pure Sports and Inside Golf podcast: Corey Conners (28-1, BetMGM) — The two main keys to success at Waialae Country Club are short-to-middle iron play and course experience. Corey Conners checks both of those boxes. Conners ranks top 10 in this field in short-to-middle iron proximity, and he has recorded four consecutive top-12 finishes at the Sony Open. In fact, he’s gained over 7.5 strokes ball-striking in three of his last four appearances. Coming off a strong ball-striking performance at Kapalua, I expect the Canadian to continue his strong play at what has been an extremely comfortable spot for him.

Past results: As successful as last season was for this panel, it’s time to turn the page to 2024, when we plan on cashing just as many, if not more, outright winners. We’re also pleased to welcome our newest expert picker, Keith Stewart of Read The Line, to the panel. Keith replaces the great Rick Gehman, who we’ll miss dearly. Good luck to all. Let’s have a year.

Sony Open picks 2024: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win

Caddie: Seamus Power (200-1, DraftKings) — Seamus is way too talented of a player to see 200-1 in front of his name. We saw him nearly win at Pebble Beach on a positional type course, and though the Irishman has struggled recently, it’s worth the shot on him here.

Mayo: Nick Taylor (65-1, DraftKings) — The recent form hasn’t been strong for the Canadian, but Waialae has been quite kind to Taylor in recent years. He’s progressively garnered better results in his past three trips (T-32/T-11/T-7) and fired at least one round of 62 each of the past two years. He was a disaster at Kapalua a week ago, but most of that was chipping and putting related—Taylor lost 8.8 strokes to the field around and on the greens. The flat stick hasn’t been a concern for him at this venue, however. He’s gained at least 4.4 strokes putting in each of his past two starts in Honolulu. Nicky T was the 36-hole leader (by two) in 2021, the year he finished T-11.

Gdula: Keegan Bradley (60-1, FanDuel) — Frankly, 60-1 is just a good number on Bradley, and that helps make up for a lack of great course history. More importantly for me, the current form is there for Keegan from a ball-striking standpoint.

Stewart: Luke List (90-1, FanDuel) — Luke List has six top-25 finishes in his last seven starts as well as a win at the Sanderson Farms. The model ball-striker has been putting well to accompany his elite impact. Last week at The Sentry, List gained with his flat stick in three of the four rounds. Luke finished the week ranked 18th in putting and 22nd overall in a strong field. With his tee-to-green acumen, and a lukewarm putter, he should be on everyone’s list.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Hideki Matsuyama (50-1, DraftKings) — This number is a bit out of control. The long-term data doesn’t look great, but he simply vibes at Waialae. I think you have to blindly take 50-1 on Hideki at the Sony in perpetuity.

Powers, Golf Digest: Matt Kuchar (60-1, FanDuel) — It’d be one thing to throw up a 60 on Kuch at one of his favorite places on earth if he was coming in on poor form like he has in recent years (and still finished seventh-seventh in consecutive years anyway). It’s another when he’s shown some strong form lately, with a pair of top-seven finishes in two of his last three starts. So he’s coming in hot and he’s a horse for the course, with a win and seven other finishes of 13th or better in 16 trips to Waialae.

Lack: Justin Rose (45-1, BetMGM) — This likely got lost in the final round birdie bonanza last week at Kapalua, but Justin Rose nearly shot 59 on Sunday to catapult to into a tie for ... 40th place. Yes, on the surface, Rose’s performance at The Sentry was nothing to write home about, but a deeper inspection shows that Rose was the best player on the course on Sunday, and he lead the entire field in approach play. I love capitalizing on players that improve their ball-striking over the course of the week yet can still be found at modest betting numbers due to their overall finish. Rose fits that bill, and I expect him to carry that Sunday momentum into this week at Waialae.

Sony Open picks 2024: Players We’re Fading

Caddie: Tyrrell Hatton (14-1, BetRivers) — It would not surprise me if Hatton’s elite ball-striking puts him in position to contend, but at some point that temper and not having played Waialae before might cost him. This golf course can give you some tough bounces and requires a lot of thinking to navigate, and I just can’t seem Tyrrell getting on with it.

Mayo: Ludvig Aberg (18-1, DraftKings) — This is going to be silly when he laps the field, but shorter courses allow for more of the field to compete solely with a hot putter and wedges while mitigating prodigious driving for the most part. He can still get hot enough to win, no one’s doubting that, but I would prefer him more at these odds on a course which is more tailored to his best skills.   

Gdula: Ludvig Aberg (16-1, FanDuel) — I know Aberg knocked off some rust last week at the Sentry, but I can’t see him as the favorite at a course where driver isn’t crucial. I’m very bullish on him long-term (as is everyone), yet 16-1 is not a number I’m into this week.

Stewart: Corey Conners (18-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — In his last four starts at the Sony, Corey Conners has finished third, 12th, 11th, and 12th. The Canadian is known for his ball-striking, but he cannot crack the code with the putter. Picking Conners to win against a field of better flat stick aficionados will only frustrate you. Let Corey cook somewhere else.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Eric Cole (25-1, FanDuel) — Cole has been incredible over the past year, but Waialae might be a tough spot for him. His weakness is a big miss off the tee, and per, only two other courses have a bigger penalty for missing the fairway. I’ll be betting him plenty down the road but not here.

Powers, Golf Digest: Corey Conners (18-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — Based on his ball-striking alone, Corey Conners should have at least five or six wins on tour. But his continued failings with the putter have kept him stuck on two, and both at the same venue. A guy consistently in the red in SG/putting is just never attractive to me at odds in the teens.

Lack: Sahith Theegala (22-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — I’m a huge Sahith Theegala fan, and I was tremendously impressed by his contending performance last week at The Sentry, but now is the time to sell high. We want to play Sahith on undulating, wide open golf courses such as Augusta and Kapalua, where he can unleash on the driver and utilize his creativity and shot-making ability. Waialae, on the other hand, is a short, technical, golden age track that requires precision both off the tee and on approach, a stark departure from what we saw last week.

Sony Open picks 2024: Matchups

Caddie: Russell Henley (-120) over Tyrrell Hatton (DraftKings) — My pick to win against my fade is an easy choice. It’s interesting that Henley’s outright odds are worse, but his odds of trunk-slamming are way less than a first-timer like Hatton.

Mayo: Justin Rose (+100) over Brendon Todd (DraftKings) — Todd played well last week and Rose didn’t, so now we get Rose at even money in a matchup bet. I’ll roll with that. Despite it seeming on paper to be an ideal course for The Toddfather, he hasn’t cracked the top 20 in any of his past five starts at the Sony.

Gdula: Si Woo Kim (-115) over Justin Rose (FanDuel) — Kim won here a year ago thanks to dominant ball-striking and a good around-the-green game (as usual). Rose enters with some mixed results. Both played last week, so there’s not a rust advantage here, yet Kim’s long-term data stands out in this one.

Stewart: Harris English (-105) over Si Woo Kim (BetMGM) — Si Woo Kim won the 2023 Sony with exemplary tee-to-green play. The putter, however, was not a key to closing the deal a year ago. His below average ball-striking at The Sentry have his odds in the middle of the pack even as the defending champion. Harris English continues to look more like the 2022 version of himself than the 2023 version. English can putt and, after an extended fall break, he finished top 30 at Sea Island and top 15 in Maui. Continue to ride English’s momentum through this four-day matchup.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: J.T. Poston (-110) over Eric Cole (Caesars Sportsbook) — I talked above why I’m fading Cole, and I like the Postman in this spot. His short-iron and wedge-play ability will give him a great shot at Waialae.

Powers, Golf Digest: Ludvig Aberg (+105) over Brian Harman (DraftKings) — The clear tournament favorite—and golf’s next potential star—is an underdog to Brian Harman? I’ll gladly walk directly into that trap.

Lack: Corey Conners (-110) over Matt Fitzpatrick (DraftKings) — This is an easy one, as Conners is my pick to win, and Fitzpatrick checks neither of the two crucial pillars that lead me to Conners. Fitzpatrick is not an elite short-to-middle iron player, and this will be his first appearance at Waialae. That’s typically not a winning formula at this track, as 17 of the past 18 champions at the Sony Open were not first-timers.

Matchup Results from the Sentry: Mayo: 1 for 1 (T. Kim (+105) over Aberg); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Hatton (-110) over T. Kim); Stewart: 1 for 1 (Im (-110) over Finau); Powers: 1 for 1 (Morikawa (-110) over Homa); Caddie: 1 for 1 (Cole (-120) over Davis); Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Scheffler (-152) over Hovland); Lack: 0 for 1

Matchup Results from this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Mayo: 1-0-0 (up 1.05 units); Gdula: 1-0-0 (up 0.91 units); Stewart: 1-0-0 (up 0.91 units); Powers: 1-0-0 (up 0.91 units); Caddie: 1-0-0 (up 0.83 units); Hennessey: 1-0-0 (up 0.66 units); Lack 0-1-0 (down 1 unit)

Sony Open picks 2024: Top 10s

Caddie: Alejandro Tosti (+2200, DraftKings) — I love this kid’s game. The elite approach play he showcased last year on the KFT will give him chances to win. I’m not saying it’s this week, but it’s coming.

Mayo: Cam Davis (+400, DraftKings)Despite being an abject failure at Kapalua in the opener, Davis now gets a course that suits him much better. It’s not quite clear to me why the Aussie, one of the better drivers on tour, only seems to come alive at short strategy courses. But the results show he does. Wyndham, Heritage, Sawgrass, all top 10s for Davis in 2023 with top 10s at Heritage, Colonial, Deere Run, and Sawgrass the year prior. Course fit is on point, and if he can regain some of the momentum he was building in the fall — four T-12 finishes in five starts — there’s no reason he can’t be a fixture on the Sunday leaderboard.

Gdula: Andrew Putnam (+550, FanDuel) — Putnam is a short hitter, and I can live with that at Waialae. He’s also shown that he can, too. He has two top-five finishes here in his past five starts plus another top 30. He’s gained strokes from approach play in nine straight measured events.

Stewart: Chris Kirk (+300, Bet365) — Chris Kirk would have been a favorite on the Sony Open betting board whether he won or not last week. The six-time PGA Tour winner has five top-10 finishes at Waialae Country Club. His career stroke average at the Seth Raynor design is 67.50! Combine that with 30 birdies at Kapalua and Kirk will cash for us.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Justin Rose (+360, DraftKings)Only three players (Conners and Kuchar) have gained more strokes at Waialae over the past 36 rounds than Rose, per The Englishman broke the course record at Kapalua on Sunday with a red-hot 61, powered by a lot of strokes gained/putting, but given his course history, it’s safe to think he’ll bring those good vibes to Waialae this weekend.

Powers, Golf Digest: Chris Kirk (+300, Bet365) — Keith nailed it. I see no reason to not go right back to Kirk, especially here at Sony where he has two top-three finishes in his last three trips. It’ll be very difficult to replicate the +10.9 SG/putting performance he had at The Sentry, but I fully expect him to gain strokes on approach for the ninth straight week which could be enough to have him hanging around the top 10 late on Sunday.

Lack: Cam Davis (+400, DraftKings) — Cam Davis is another player that didn’t impress at The Sentry, but he began to show some real signs of life on Sunday. I’m glad he was able to shake the rust off, as the Australian now travels to a golf course where he has gained 5.5 strokes ball-striking in three of his last four appearances. Like Conners, Davis is one of the best middle-iron players in the field, and I expect him to rebound this week.

Top-10 results from the Sentry: Hennessey: 1 for 1 (J.T. Poston +450); Powers: 1 for 1 (Jordan Spieth +190); Everybody else: 0 for 1

Top-10 results from this season: Hennessey: 1 for 1 (up 4.5 units); Powers: 1 for 1 (up 1.9 units); Caddie: 0 for 1 (down 1 unit); Mayo: 0 for 1 (down 1 unit); Gdula: 0 for 1 (down 1 unit); Stewart: 0 for 1 (down 1 unit); Lack: 0 for 1 (down 1 unit)

About our experts

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. Mayo helped create the golf stats and research website Fantasy National along with the Race for the Mayo Cup One and Done contest. Mayo won the 2022 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and is a finalist for three FSWA Awards in 2023 (Best Podcast, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 27 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are second-most all-time. Follow him on Twitter: @ThePME. 

Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for numberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast. Follow him on Twitter: @gdula13. 

Keith Stewart is a five-time award-winning PGA professional, a betting contributor for Golf Digest and founder of Read The Line, the premier on-site live golf betting insights service covering the LPGA and PGA TOUR. Subscribe to Read The Line’s weekly newsletter here and raise your golf betting acumen. Keith's winning content can also be found on Sports Grid, Bleacher Report and The Sporting News. Follow him on Twitter @readtheline_

Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from New York City who now resides in Los Angeles. He hosts Inside Golf, a twice weekly podcast focused on the PGA Tour, betting, daily fantasy, golf course architecture, and interviews, as part of the BlueWire podcast network. As well as contributing to Golf Digest, Andy is also the head of golf content for Run Pure Sports, where he covers PGA Tour betting and daily fantasy. He came to Golf Digest’s betting panel after previously writing for, the Score and GolfWRX. In his free time, Andy can likely be found on a golf course. Follow him on Twitter: @adplacksports