Justin Thomas plays his shot from the 13th tee during final round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)
Justin Thomas plays his shot from the 13th tee during final round of the Tournament of Champions golf event, Sunday, Jan. 5, 2020, at Kapalua Plantation Course in Kapalua, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Matt York)|Associated Press

Mike Kern picks the PGA: He had the winner last week in Maui & likes Webb Simpson, Marc Leishman and 2 others this week at the Sony in Oahu

Mike Kern

Mike Kern

Now that’s a nice way to open the golf season. I had Justin Thomas, the second favorite at 5-1 behind Jon Rahm, as my pick last week at the Tournament of Champions in Maui. And even though he almost blew it on the final few holes of regulation, he finally outlasted Patrick Reed on the third hole of the playoff. And Gary Woodland, our second pick at like 18-1, tied for seventh, for whatever that’s worth. Hope you went with Thomas as well.

The PGA Tour moves on to the Sony Open, on the island of Oahu. It’s a pretty strong field. And Thomas has the lowest odds, at 5-1 once again. When he first won the TofC in 2017, he followed up by taking this event too. So there is that to consider.

Reed is next, at 12-1, along with Webb Simpson, who a lot of handicappers seem to favor. Hideki Matsuyama, who isn’t getting much love in this field by the folks who are supposedly in the know, is 18-1. Collin Morikawa, another popular choice, is 20-1. The defending champion, Matt Kuchar, is 22-1. So is Sungjae Im, like Morikawa one of the more promising new faces out there.

Joaquin Niemann, who would also fall into that category, is 33-1. Ditto Corey Conners, who’s going off at 40-1 with Charles Howell III. Chez Reavie, Marc Leishman and Alex Noren are each 45-1. Kevin Kisner, Brendon Todd, Cameron Smith, T.J. Poston, Brandt Snedeker (the 2016 runnerup) and Abraham Ancer are among those bunched at 50-1.

Rory Sabbatini, who had a really good 2018-19, two-time major winner Zach Johnson and Kevin Na, who’s had three wins among his last 30-some starts, are all at 80-1.

I should mention that last week I actually had Thomas in that yearlong pool that I’m in where you have to pick a different guy each tournament before the start of the season, which almost never happens. And this week I have Leishman. Don’t say you weren’t warned. Or maybe my roll in that thing will continue. Hey, you never know.

This week, I could go a bunch of different ways. But I’m not going to go with Reed or Matsuyama, among the faves. Just a feeling. I’ve been wrong before.

I would throw at least a little something on Thomas once again, just because. He’s really playing well, and he’s won here before. I see him at least giving you a reason to have something to root for come Sunday. Still, the odds are short, so you should put something on some other guys too.

That being said, let’s try Webb Simpson at 12-1. Not sure exactly why, but he’s usually pretty solid and I think he could seriously contend.

As for the middle-tiered propositions, I’m going to take Leishman. Since I already have him in my pool, that’s often the kiss of mush. But it worked for me a week ago, so maybe it can keep working. You could even play him just to finish in the top five, as a hedge.

For a real longshot, I’ll throw a few whatevers on Zach Johnson. Call it a hunch. Nothing more, or less. But sometimes those hunches come through.

So there you have it. Don’t get too carried away. Just try to have some fun with it. And of course cash a ticket.

I’ll be back later in the week with the pro football picks for the divisional-round weekend.


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