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The 2022 golf schedule is underway with the first tournament now in the books, and it was a low-scoring thriller with new record scores set all over the yard. Though the venue, island and par of the course will change this week, the scoring should not. The best players in the world will take advantage of a short Waialae Country Club this week, and if it's as soft as Kapalua, more records could fall on the back half of the two-event Hawaii swing.

Let's take a closer look at this week's contest with odds provided via Caesars Sportsbook.

Event information

Event: Sony Open | Dates: Jan. 13-16
Location: Waialae Country Club – Honolulu, Hawaii
Par: 70 | Purse: $7.5 million

Three things to know

1. Cam's double: Cameron Smith was your champion last week after he landed at 34 under (thirty-four under!) for the week, clipping Jon Rahm by a stroke and fellow Aussie, Matt Jones, by two. He joined a pretty exclusive list of golfers who have won both Hawaii events at some point in their careers, and this week he'll try to join an even more exclusive list. Only Ernie Els (2003) and Justin Thomas (2017) have ever swept the Hawaii swing. After Bryson DeChambeau withdrew early in the week, Smith is now the 10-1 favorite to win at the site of his only other individual PGA Tour victory -- a 2020 playoff win over Brendan Steele -- and join Els and Thomas with the Hawaii double.

2. What to watch from Webb: I'm extremely intrigued by what Webb Simpson does this year. His 2021 was a disappointment, but not in the traditional sense. Statistically, the game is still there. He just didn't have the finishes we're used to seeing from him. Data Golf has him ranked as the No. 15 golfer in the world -- ahead of Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth and Louis Oosthuizen -- even though he didn't have a single top-three finish throughout last calendar year. Interestingly, his best finish was a T4 at this event this time 12 months ago. He owns this course because it rewards players who are not as long off the tee, and he has, at times in his career, been the best player in the world after the tee shot. I think he's in for a great year, but this week will probably be a nice tell for what we're getting from Simpson in the first quarter of the season.

3. Bomber's paradise: To say that Waialae is not a bomber's paradise is to be mostly true. However, there have been instances in the past where driving distance was highly correlated with quality play at this event. When Justin Thomas rolled in 2017, he finished first in the field in driving distance. Justin Rose, who was the runner-up behind him, finished fifth in driving distance. Two of the longest guys in the field in 2019, Marc Leishman and Corey Conners, finished T3. It's possible to decimate this golf course by cutting off corners and playing the angles in ways lesser hitters cannot (that's why DeChambeau's withdrawal was a disappointment), but it's also tricky. After a week in which it was difficult to be too long at Kapalua, I'm intrigued to see how this is course is played by the mixture of long and short hitters in this field.

Rick Gehman is joined by Kyle Porter, Greg DuCharme and Mark Immelman to preview the 2022 Sony Open. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.

Grading the field

Speaking of the field, it's good but not great. Cam Smith is the only top-10 player, but he's joined by top-20 guys, including Harris English, Hideki Matsuyama and Abraham Ancer. Simpson, Kevin Kisner, Sungjae Im, Billy Horschel and defending champion Kevin Na will all be in attendance as well. It's fairly normal for a big dropoff from last week's de facto all-star game, but it's still a bummer that more players wouldn't stay in Hawaii to play this event. Grade: C+

2022 Sony Open picks

Winner (25-1): Other than Charles Howell III, nobody has been better on this golf course since 2004 (min. 12 rounds played). It'll come down to the putter with him, as usual, but the good news there is that he's finished in the top 30 in that category all three times he's played this event. He's seventh in ball-striking of everyone in this field over their last 20 rounds, and that 25-1 number seems far too low for somebody of his caliber. Two top-12 finishes in his three starts here, and I'm officially excited for Conners to begin his year.
Top 10 (+163): Simpson is among the best in this field over his last 20 rounds, and that's with his driver performing at exactly PGA Tour average (0.00 strokes gained). As noted earlier, he'll benefit from how this course often mitigates distance, and his history here is sterling. In 43 rounds at Waialae, he's gained 1.4 strokes per round, which is fifth-most of anyone in the field and third-most of anyone with more than 40 rounds played at this event (Conners has played just 12 rounds). His odds seem to be slightly artificially deflated because he hasn't really popped on any boards over the last year, but I remain confident because the statistical profile is still strong.
Sleeper (80-1): No course history for Rai, but nobody in the field has been a better ball-striker over the last 20 rounds than Rai. He (quietly) finished 2021 with three straight top 20s on the PGA Tour, and he will also be helped by the seeming lack of distance needed at Waialae. Another name to consider here is Tom Hoge, who is also 80-1. I like both Rai and Hoge about the same going into the event.

Who will win the Sony Open, and which long shots will stun the golfing world? Visit SportsLine now to see the projected leaderboard and best bets, all from the model that's nailed seven golf majors and is up almost $10,000 since the restart.