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Dustin's out, Spieth is favourite


After his stunning, runaway 8-shot triumph at Kapalua in Maui last week, Dustin Johnson might very well have become only the third man in history to pull-off a back-to-back Hawaiin sweep by also capturing the Sony Open at Waialae in Honolulu this week.

The World No 1 certainly looked to have the form and momentum to have carried it off and, in doing so, joining World No 4 Justin Thomas, who did the double last year, and Ernie Els who did it in 2003.

But it's not going to happen. Waialea Country Club in Honolulu is not on Johnson's 2018 playing schedule and so, once more, the sport's two new 24-year-old upstarts, Thomas, the reigning PGA champion and this week's defending champion from Kentucky, and Spieth, the three-time major winner from Texas, will tee off at Waialae on Thursday as everybody's favourites, including the British boookmakers, who have set Spieth atop their list of most likely winners at 5/1 with Thomas in second place at 8/1.

Australia's current No 1 Marc Leishman and American Brian Harmon, mid-round leaders both at Kapaplua and top 10 finishers are next on the list at a distant 16/1.

Spieth, who opened at Kapalua with an ugly 75 and spent the rest of the tournement playing cath-up and Thomas, who was relatively invisible all week, were not very impressive in the PGA Tour's 2018 opener last week, but, along with the capabiliy of being able to come back and win anywhere at anytime, they both seem to have a game that fits well with Waialae.

Thomas has said: "I love this course. A few years ago, in my rookie year, I said I loved it. It’s a course that I like when it has firm fairways. Fairways are a premium. You’ve got to shape it to kind of match the fairways. It’s a lot of grinding.

"Michael [Greller, his caddy] has told me for the last couple years, 'Waialae is one of the best courses on Tour for you'. It’s almost like your Hilton Head, your Colonial; you have to kind of strike it both ways and play in the wind, and we feel like that kind of plays to our strength. It also has kind of trickier reads on the greens. You can make putts from mid-range and off a bunch of ridges."

Don't under-value Harmon though. Perhaps last week's surprise package to many, his strong performance came as no surprise to those familiar with a recent record showing that along with his solo third last week, he has had four top 10 finishes in as many starts this season.

Leishman has taken a while to get into top gear on the PGA Tour, but now that he has, he too has been running hot. Right now he's 8-for-8 with two top 10s and three top 20s - and almost always looking as if he can still do better. That he tied for 7th after sharing the 36-hole lead at Kapalua seems to point to the fact that he is not yet thhe accomplished finisher hee needs to be.

Any chance of a rookie rising up and snatching the glory at Sony Open this week? That is always a possibility, but on the Hawaiin sweep it's very much an outside piossibility.

Johnson's victory last week took the number of wins by golfers with previous Kapalua experience to 10 in a row while Russell Henley (2013) is the only first-time winner at Waialae since the inaugural event in 1965.

And the weather? Will it make a difference? It might. Apart from some light rain on Thursday evening, there'll be no other rain to speak of, according to our forecast. There will be some wind as there inevitably is.

It will grow from the low teens on Thursday to the mid 20 km/h on Sunday and this might just play into the hands of Spieth who on more than once occasion has taken on the wind and beaten it.

(On Tuesday a.m. Jan 9, 2018)

Jordan Spieth 5/1
Justin Thomas 8/1
Marc Leishman 16/1
Brian Harman 16/1
Kevin Kisner 20/1
Zach Johnson 35/1
Tony Finau 33/1
Cameron Smith 33/1
Daniel Berger 33/1
Russell Henley 30/1
Webb Simpson 35/1
Xander Schauffele 35/1
Charles Howell III 40/1
Gary Woodland 33/1
Jason Dufner 45/1
Si Woo Kim 60/1
Peter Uihlein 50/1
Bill Haas 45/1
Chez Reavie 55/1
Austin Cook 70/1
William McGirt 60/1.

For betting odds visit BetWay

Neville Leck

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