The 2011 Sony Open 6-Pack

JJ GallantCorrespondent IJanuary 12, 2011

The 2011 Sony Open 6-Pack

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    Enjoy it while you can kidSam Greenwood/Getty Images

    We may have caught a glimpse of what could be a very special year for a certain player.  You may think that I mean Jonathan Byrd (who almost made last week’s six-pack by the way), yet it was his playoff counterpart, Robert Garrigus.

    Garrigus has overcome some incredible addiction obstacles to turn his “put in front of me and I will do it” lifestyle around.  He found God and a good woman at rehab.  This offseason, he decided that he would “try practicing with his wedges for the first time in his pro career.”  It’s truly amazing that this long bomber has never even TRIED to hone his wedge play to any degree. 

    Until now.

    Pick up any golf magazine, and you too can beat the dead horse.  You will lower your score by being better on and around the green.  The next time you’re thinking about going to range to pound some long irons and smash your driver, consider saving the $9 for the bucket of balls and going to your local course for free with your pitching, sand and lob wedges.  Might as well bring that putter too.  Not only will you be $9 richer, you will also significantly take the smartest steps towards a lower score.

    The other really notable thing about last week had to be Bubba Watson’s driver off the deck on 18.  Please tell me you saw that.  If you didn’t, check out No. 5 through No. 2, then feast your eyes on No. 1 here: 

    Waialae has some of the hardest fairways to hit on tour. This will place a premium on driving accuracy.  There are typically very few 300-plus yard drives at this course. That largely has to do with the fact that if you do miss the fairway, you get the agonizing punishment of dealing with very thick and difficult rough.  Advantage:  Accurate players with the ability to scramble from the rough.

    Since there are only two par fives, everyone tries to get there in two. This can punish you if you miss.  But if you know yourself and you know your game (Steve Stricker enters my mind), then take the birdie and move on.  It’s not necessary to be on in two. 

    Waialae is not the place you want to stroll onto hungover from the night before.  It is extremely tough to get going on this course as you have three very tough holes to start your day, with number one being a 480-yard par four.  By the way, wind is always a factor on No. 1.

    This should be a great event.  Before I give out the six pack and my Yahoo picks, you should know that the top-four favorites are there for a reason.  Stricker, Els, Furyk and Kuchar pretty much own this course.  This place suits their games and they will be tough to beat here.  Fear not friends, Bottom Line Jay is back in 2011 and ready to help you read between the lines to find that sports book value and fantasy success we have all grown so accustomed to having.

    I am once again in my favorite Yahoo! group, "The Fans Of Hunter Mahan."  Last week I earned 136 points, which is not a bad start. I am currently In the 65th percentile for my group and in the 71st percentile overall.

    I lead only Eric Planer on the panel of Yahoo! experts, by 64 points. I trail Greg Vara by six points, Matt Romig by 18 points and the surprising Michael Arkush by a whopping 21 points. He must have his little brother doing his lineup this year!

    Here is my Yahoo! Lineup for the Sony Open:

     

    GROUP A

    Start      Ernie Els                               Sit           Jim Furyk

    GROUP B

    Start      Steve Stricker                        Sit           Robert Allenby

                 Justin Rose                                          Carl Pettersson

    GROUP C

    Start      Jason Day                             Sit           Charles Howell III

     

    Anyone thirsty?  I could use a six-pack…

No. 1 Adam Scott

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    Is Mr. Scott poised for a big comeback this year?Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Adam Scott has been working on his putting this offseason.  He also totally contradicts all of the key stats that you would want a golfer to have coming to Waialae this early in the season. That being said, he has done nothing but improve each time he plays this course, missing the cut in 2004, tying for 20th in 2005, and 18th in 2006.  He then took two years off and finished tied for second in 2009.  He took last year off, so that can only mean one thing:  Adam Scott will win the Sony Open this year.

    He was my six-pack kryptonite last year, but 2011 is a new year, and the slate has been wiped clean.  Scott’s last five events have seen him finish 15th, 27th,11th, 25th and 21st.  I think that his game is going to continue on the turnaround path to success that he started last year.

    Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that eight out of the last 14 winners of the Sony Open were in the previous Tournament of Champions event at Kapalua the week before.  Mr. Scott is one of those men.

    Check out how Adam fared in some key stats last year:

    -110th on tour with 62.9 percent fairways hit

    -171st in Scrambling at 54.03 percent

    -13th in All-Around Ranking

    -Sixth in GIR percentage from other than fairway at 59.6 percent

    At 25:1 Adam Scott is my favorite guy at 20:1 or higher to win it all.

No. 2 Charles Howell III

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    Anyone know why people keep calling me chomper?Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    Although Charles Howell III was not in last week’s Kapalua event AND his Driving Accuracy is lackluster at best, somehow this guy tends to play great on the difficult test known as The Sony Open at Waialae.

    In nine consecutive years playing here, he has not missed a cut, and four of his last six years have been top-five finishes.  Stats do not always dictate the outcome.  That being said, good ‘ol Chiclets still has not won here.  Could this be his year?

    Like I always say, if you want to pick the poster boy for Crest Whitestrips, you better do it in the first two and a half months of the year.

    Let’s look at some of Mike Shanahan’s illegitimate son’s stats from 2010:

    -181st in Driving Accuracy with 54.6 percent of fairways hit

    -Seventh in Scrambling at 64.5 percent

    -20th in Scrambling from the rough at 62.7 percent

    -11th in Total Birdies with 364

    He may not be my favorite guy on tour, but he’s always worth a shot at the Sony.  At 28:1 odds of victory, I simply cannot resist this guy this week.

No. 3 Tim Clark

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    Waialae suits Tim Clark to a teeSam Greenwood/Getty Images

    The wily South African finally got his first PGA Tour win last year at the Players Championship at TPC Sawgrass.  It took eight second-place finishes on tour for him to finally realize that he has what it takes to win on tour.  Now that he has that taste of victory, Tim Clark could be that guy who starts to rack up multiple annual victories.

    This course suits Clark’s strengths.  He is very accurate off the tee.  It is almost shocking that he has only entered this event twice.  He placed 12th here in 2009 and 25th here last year.  Keep your eye on him on the leaderboard this week, I know he will be hanging around.

    Let’s look at some of Tim’s stats from last year that could lead him to victory this week:

    -Fourth in Driving Accuracy at 73.7 percent

    -20th in Scrambling at 62.7 percent

    -15th in Scrambling from the rough at 63.9 percent

    -Fourth in Sand Saves at 61.6 percent

    -Tenth in Regular SeasonFedEx Cup Points with 1409

    -11th on the PGA money list at $3.53 Million

    …and you’re going to give me 33:1 odds of victory with this guy?  Sign me up!

No. 4 Carl Pettersson

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    Never trust a guy with a long putter, unless his name is CarlSam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Okay, you may be thinking, “Why in the world would BLJ pick a guy who is coming off his two worst seasons ever?”

    The answer, my friends, is simple.  Carl Pettersson is one of the game's most underrated performers on tour.  Carl is always good for at least $2 million in earnings per year.  In 2009 he earned a paltry $564K, leaving many to wonder what was going on.  Thanks to his victory at last year’s RBC Canadian Open and a $918,000 paycheck, he managed to salvage something last year, which was rolling along to be another inferior underperformance.

    Carl cashed in last week for $286,500, and that could be a springboard for him to re-find his game and take it to the next level.

    At the Sony Open, Pettersson either does quite well placing in the top 25, ten or five, or he entirely misses the cut.  I am of the opinion this NC State alum will keep things rolling and possibly win this thing.  Keep in mind he was in last week’s champions event, but also remember he is not that accurate off the tee.  This is truly a bit of a risk reward pick.

    Look at the Swedish Meatball’s numbers from last year:

    -112th in Driving Accuracy at 62.8 percent

    -28th in Scrambling at 62.1 percent

    -107th in Scrambling from the rough at 54.6 percent

    -Fourth in Putts per round at 28.2

    -Second in Sand Saves at 62.9 percent

    -Second in Par Four Performance at -36 on the year

    This guy is seriously devalued at 40:1 and is well worth a look to contend this week.

No. 5 Brian Gay

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    The only thing about Brian Gay that looks happy are his shadesSam Greenwood/Getty Images

    Brian had a really good 2009 and for him, a really disappointing 2010 campaign.  This is a course that plays into Gay’s strengths and is one that has fit his eye in years past. He has played here 11 times and only missed the cut twice.  Those two missed cuts were the first two years he played here: 1999 and 2000. Since then he has four top-25 finishes at The Sony Open with two of those in the top 10.

    Brian may not have been in last week’s champions event, but he is always a good pick on this course, simply for his accuracy off the tee. A good finish here this week, I think, will kick start this guy's year in a big way.  I think you are catching some decent value with Gay as he is coming off a disappointing year. 

    Look at some of Gay’s stats from last year:

    -Third in Driving Accuracy at 74 percent

    -Second in Scrambling at 66.5 percent

    -Third in Scrambling from the rough at 68.1 percent

    -Second in Putts per round at 28

    -Ninth in Sand saves at 59.3 percent

    Brain Gay is showing me some serious value at 50:1 this week.  I am picking him with confidence.

No. 6 Jerry Kelly

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    Do you know where the sell that Just For Men beard coloring stuff?Michael Cohen/Getty Images

    It’s time for that long shot to come forth.  That man is none other than Jerry Kelly.  Although he may have a few more greys in that goatee, he still is super accurate off the tee and loves Waialae with a passion.

    The Wisconsin native may not have won last year to get himself into the Hyundai Tournament of Champions last week, but he may well end up there in 2012 with a good showing this weekend. In 13 efforts, Kelly has only missed the cut twice and had to withdraw at last year’s Sony Open. In those 10 efforts that Kelly made it to Sunday, he has amassed eight top-25 finishes. Four of those were top fives, including his victory here in 2002.

    Does Jerry still have what it takes?  I think so.  As long as he stays in the fairway, he can contend.  Otherwise, his scrambling leaves a little to be desired. His spirit is contagious and his smile infectious.  He is an accurate driver of the ball, and his experience will yield results on this course.

    Look at some of Kelly’s numbers form 2010:

    -13th in Driving Accuracy at 70.5 percent

    -100th in Scrambling at 57.9 percent

    -81st in Scrambling from the rough at 56.4 percent

    - number of standard stats that Jerry Kelly is 75th or higher on tour in: 13 out of 16

    Okay, the numbers may not back up the pick, but at 80:1 for someone with his track record on this course and his accuracy off the tee, you never know…

     

    Good luck to you all, and enjoy the season’s first full field event.