The PGA Tour stays in Hawaii for what is traditionally the first full-field event of the season, the Sony Open from Waialee Country Club in Honolulu.
Last week at Kapalua, Jonathan Byrd triumphed at the second extra hole of a play-off against Robert Garrigus, and the pair are making the short journey to Honolulu. With Steve Stricker, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, and Matt Kuchar doing likewise, this week's field looks stronger than usual. Stricker, who led last week with a third round 65 before shooting a disappointing 71 in the final round, is an early favourite at 9/1 with Paddy Power.
This week's track - a shortish, flattish par-70 - is as different from Kapalua as it could be and the winner will have to play strategically from tee to green, while negotiating the tricky, fast-running greens. The course's main defence, though, is the wind and even more so this week as strong gusts of up to 30mph are forecast.
My Three Off The Tee:-
Ernie Els @ 14/1 Paddy Power
Stricker commands plenty of respect again this week with the Christmas rust out of his system and on a track he clearly likes, having posted three top-four finishes on his four most recent appearances. Whether he's value at 9/1 is another matter. Still, I'd much rather back him than last week's sixth Matt Kuchar - he's missed the cut six times in eight appearances here - and Jonathan Byrd, whose record is even worse with zero top-20s in six appearances. Take them on in group and match bets.
For the winner, though, it's Ernie Els who catches the eye given his mastery of blustery conditions and the fact he's a two-time Sony winner (2003 & 2004), along with three other career top-10s. Last week's 17th was a little disappointing but he did shoot a bogey-free 64 on Friday and won on his previous start in the South African Open. And it's worth remembering that he finished even worse at Kapalua in 2004 (21st) before conquering Waialee.
Jason Day @ 33/1 Skybet
For the second pick, it was a close call between Charles Howell III (25/1 Betfred) and Day. Howell is a real underachiever but you can't fault his record here of five top-four finishes from nine attempts and fourth the last two years. That hasn't gone unnoticed by the bookmakers, though, and 25/1 looks skinny given his poor wins to runs ratio. Besides, the wind is set to blow hard and that will suit the young Aussie, who burst on to scene with victory in the 2010 Byron Nelson Championship in his now adopted state of Texas, where wind is nearly always a factor. After some solid efforts in the FedEx Cup series, he finished the season with a world ranking of 38 and I'm expecting him to build on that this season. Last week's ninth place will have blown away any cobwebs.
Jerry Kelly @ 70/1 Blue Square
The weather forecast also sways me towards my final pick Kelly, who absolutely loves this place. The first of his three Tour victories came here in 2002 and he followed it with top-five finishes in 2003 and 2004, before adding a third place in 2008 when conditions were very similar to what is expected this week. Last year, he had to withdraw with an injury and struggled for much of the season, before finding his form again in the Fall Series events, making five straight cuts and not finishing worse than 38th. He finished the year with third place alongside his good friend in the Steve Stricker in the Shark Shootout in mid-December and will be fit and raring to go again in what is his favourite event.
Ernie Els 2pts each-way @ 14/1 Paddy Power
Jason Day 1pt each-way @ 33/1 Skybet
Jerry Kelly 1pt each-way @ 70/1 Blue Square