Eric Cole is my pick for this year’s first first-time winner on the PGA Tour. The reigning Rookie of the Year proved he can be a consistent threat week in and week out after an uber-consistent 2022-23 campaign.
He earned his way into the 2024 Signature Events with ease. I’m not sure if he’s ready to break out quite to the level of winning one of those, but I like his chances on a week like this.
Waialae seems to set up well for the 35-year-old’s style of play. Cole isn’t a long hitter, but he’ll fairway-and-greens you to death.
From there, that’s where his 13th-ranked putter in Strokes Gained (.505) helps him roll in plenty of birdies.
Cole was also 16th in SG: Around-the-Green (.282) and 19th in SG: Approach (.545).
This will be his second Sony Open in Hawaii appearance. The Nova Southeastern University alum took T-61st (69-67-69-70) in 2023.
Cole is in the top-40 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time in his career after taking T-14th (70-66-69-65) last week at The Sentry. It could have been a top-10 had he closed his tournament with a birdie on the par-5 18th hole instead of a bogey.
That’s an encouraging result for him not only on his first go-round at Kapalua, but to play well on a long course like that. Cole was eighth in the field for the week in SG: Putting (.4052) and was fifth in scrambling (86.67%).
An interesting storyline to follow this season is how Cole handles his instant success after years grinding away on the mini tours.
It seems like he’s got a grounded approach.