Why Todd might be the prohibitive favorite at the Sony Open
January 08, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
- Brendon Todd is looking for his fourth PGA TOUR win at the Sony Open in Hawaii. (Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
HONOLULU – Patton Kizzire says he’s lobbying the PGA TOUR to plant palm trees at more of its venues.
With his two career wins coming at the Mayakoba Golf Classic and the Sony Open in Hawaii over the 2017-18 season, it’s not hard to see why. Both have an obvious tropical feel and most players in the field at both find themselves in a relaxed state of mind.
You might think any other correlations might not be something to highlight. But last season, Matt Kuchar won at Mayakoba and then… you guessed it… at Sony. Coincidence? Maybe. Probably even. But surely, Brendon Todd doesn’t mind the omen having grabbed his Mayakoba trophy a few months ago.
“It’s exciting for sure,” said Todd, who sits second in the FedExCup after two wins in the fall. “I would love to pick up another win this year. I’ll take as many as I can get. I spotted the TOUR a few years of bad play so I’m ready to get mine while I’ve got it.”
Kuchar, the defending champion at Sony this week, remembered realizing the fact after his win 12 months ago. Just like Kizzire it would be his last win of the season.
“I didn't really put two and two together until after I won Sony… and I said to Patton, I was a little disappointed you didn't win anything else,” Kuchar who has nine career TOUR wins, recalled with a grin.
“I was hoping to continue following in his shoes. Now I have yet to have Brendon Todd come up to me and be disappointed that I didn't win any more than the Mayakoba and Sony... but he might be.”
Kizzire added with a laugh that it was a cool stat, but one that has now run its course.
“It would be very interesting if Brendon won this year but obviously I’m pulling for myself this week. He’s been winning enough lately,” Kizzire said.
“And this is a very different course this year with the heavy winds and the rain it will be a tough challenge. A lot of creativity and patience will be the key this week.”
Coincidence or not, surely there is something more to this we need to explore. Let’s jump into some stats, although we must keep in mind that in Mayakoba ShotLink is not used extensively like most events. So we don’t get a direct comparison to Waialae Country Club where we do have access to more numbers.
But we do know that when Kizzire saluted in both tournaments, the focal point was his putting. He had just 107 total putts in Mexico and the same again in Hawaii. In Hawaii, this correlated to being third in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting and was T2 for putts per round, while in Mexico his 107 putts was T5 in relation to the field.
What about Kuchar? His 111 total putts when he won at Mayakoba was T21 in the field. His 112 putts at Sony was T13 in the field, but he finished third in Strokes Gained: Putting that week.
“Both golf courses are ball placement venues and put a premium on putting,” Kizzire confirms.
“You have to put it in the fairway and place it well and make your putts. It’s not just for bombers, it is precision and strategy.”
Funnily enough Kizzire hit just 35 of 56 fairways in Mexico when he won, which was T52 in the field and at Sony he found just 29 of 56 fairways. Clearly, he made it up on the greens. Kuchar, however ranked third in driving accuracy in his Mexico win and fourth in Hawaii. So in theory Kizzire is right.
“You need to be awfully accurate off the tee as there can be lots of trouble to be found if you miss fairways on both courses,” Kuchar says.
“That’s the best correlation. They are relatively flat and tight courses. I like the courses that provide options. They can be played so many different ways.
“It is much more position oriented, and it's not just grab driver and hit it. There are so many courses that we play you just know every non par-3 is grab the driver and smash it. The two we talked about there are a lot of different options.”
Then there is the confidence factor. Once a player has a win under their belt in any season, the shackles are lifted pressure wise to some degree.
“You get a little break and then you come to Hawaii feeling good,” Kizzire says.
“You play in Maui which gets you get accustomed to the time change plus you are playing some golf in the winds in the lead up… so it can just create a perfect storm for success.”
That sounds good to Todd. Of course, he has already won twice having picked up the Bermuda Championship prior to his win at Mayakoba. Bermuda is also a tropical venue.
For the record, Todd ranked 13th in total putts while winning in Mexico with 109 for the week. He currently ranks 87th for the season in Strokes Gained: Putting.
“I’m still confident from the fall. Still striking it nicely and the weeks where I chip and putt well are the weeks where I contend so I’m continuing a focus on those areas,” Todd said from the practice putting green where he was getting extra work done.
“Playing last week in the wind has helped me in practice rounds so far as I am feeling like I’m in tune with how far things are going and how cross winds are playing.
“This course is playing soft like Mayakoba was but it is blowing a lot harder here than it was there so I will have to play well.”
If he does win this week you can be sure the field in next seasons Mayakoba Golf Classic might get a bit of a boost this time around.