Sony Open Fantasy Golf Picks & Plays
Welcome to the second leg of the Hawaii Swing as the Tour lands in Honolulu for the Sony Open. It’s the first full field tournament with a cut this season, and there is PGA DFS money to be made. So let’s dig into some fantasy golf plays at the 2018 Sony Open.
To give an introduction to this article series, each week, I (@DFSJimmie), will give a concise course breakdown and key stats, followed by several players I like in the various pricing tiers. The goal is for DFS Report to be your first and last stop for an all-around PGA news source each week … and for free!
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Waialae Country Club is a 7,044-yard, Par 70 with difficult-to-hit fairways and Bermuda grass greens. It is often windy there, and lots of missed fairways and generally firm conditions make for shots that run up to greens.
Off the tee, the course favors a golfer that hits a gentle draw or right-to-left ball flight. Low ball flights and a “keep it in front of you” style do well here. Ultimately, count on lots of scoring. The average winning score since 2009 is -19 with a historical average cut line of -1.
Note: If you have an either/or decision this week, favor golfers who played last week. They’re acclimated and tend to perform better than guys only playing this week before heading back to the mainland.
- Birdie or Better/DK Points
2. SG: APP (Strokes Gained: Approach)
3. SG: P (Strokes Gained Putting) *Check Bermuda splits if you want to really dig in here
4. Equal weight on Par 4 Scoring from 400-450 & 450-500 (55 percent of DK points on average will be scored from this range)
Optional Stat: Sprinkle in some eagles. The ninth hole gives up lots of eagles; 6.7 percent of the field on average snags an eagle there.
PGA DFS Players:
Top Tier: $12,000 – $9,000
Jordan Spieth ($12K) – With a “disappointing” performance last week (ninth) and carrying the highest price tag, Jordan Spieth could come in less owned than he should be. This would be great news because I think Spieth is an excellent tournament/GPP play this week. He cruised around the course from T2G last week, and Spieth is a birdie-making machine. His putter can and should turn around this week. Spieth’s caddy, Michael Greller, has previously stated this course suits his golfer’s game perfectly. That shows in Spieth’s results last year — third place.
Kevin Kisner ($10.1K) & Zach Johnson ($9.5K) – I’m splitting this next player spot in two. I like both Kevin Kisner and Zach Johnson right here in the middle of this range. Both have had success here in the past with top 10 finishes. Both have also missed a cut and under-performed as well. They’re virtually identical in the course history department. The main difference is the ownership. Early projections show Johnson could approach 27-33 percent ownership while Kisner should come in a solid 10 percent lower. Play Johnson in Cash, and be heavier on Kisner in GPP.
Russell Henley ($9.2K) – Russell Henley is coming back to a place where he has previously won. Plus, he found some momentum on his final round last week with a 4 under 69. I like Henley’s odds of success this week on a short, windy track that requires placement off the tee, solid irons in the wind, and a putter that can get hot. It fits the mold of Henley’s strengths. He ranks eighth overall in my Close Up Fantasy National Model, while ranking first in DK points scored in the same model. Henley should be chalk this week, but after his 17th place last week at relatively high ownership, the masses will go away to other players in this large field. They’ll leave Henley less owned than he should be.
Note: Generally speaking, I have a strict No Webb Simpson rule. That’s the main reason he is not written up here. But he is also in play this week in a year that we should see his putting prowess increase to match his usually stellar T2G game. I can’t fault anyone for liking Simpson this week, but I doubt I end up playing him at reasonably high ownership.
Mid Tier: $8,900 – $7,500
Charles Howell III ($8.8K) – Is it early season or West Coast? If yes, then play CHIII. It’s a pretty simple rule to live by. That said, he will be chalky and rightfully so, having accumulated a total of 38.66 SG over his last five times here. Howell III is a good par 5 scorer and, in general, a great ball striker with his only major problem being that he can’t seem to win! This sucks because I want to see CHIII at Augusta, and he deserves it, but I digress. CHIII is a great all-around player and a no-brainer this week.
Daniel Berger ($8.7K) – Like I mentioned above, look to guys who played and played well the previous week at TOC. Daniel Berger makes that list. Plus, he made the cut in all three of his attempts here (two mediocre results and a 13th place in 2015). I like Berger to perform closer to his 2015 outing after his back-to-back top 15 finishes in the previous two tournaments. A good putter on Bermuda who knows how to close and can play big boy golf with the likes of Spieth (to whom he narrowly lost last year), Berger should be plenty familiar with the scoring conditions. Berger has a lot of upside and win equity here in the mid range.
Ollie Schniederjans ($8.3K) – The Hatless Wonder (not sure who to credit for that nickname. Probably Kenny Kim; it’s great) makes his 2018 debut in this event. His ridiculously long and low stinger-type shot should carry him to a strong finish this week. Ollie Schniederjans has been close before and knows what it takes to compete on Sunday on a course that should cater to his off-the-tee game and low ball flight. While he doesn’t have any course history to lean on, Schniederjans doesn’t look too chalky. This makes him an excellent GPP play.
Gary Woodland ($7.8K) – Gary Woodland is fired up and has been looking forward to the turn of the calendar more than any other player. Now playing for his new son and moving on from personal tragedy, “Woody” is looking to put his mark on 2018 early at Waialae. He’s played well on this course, finishing 6/13/3 in his only three appearances. Look for Woodland to be chalky but also probably worth it. While I am not so confident in a Woodland win to bet him outright, I do expect a solid DK performance from a long player who fares better when he has to club down and play target golf. His length gives his some eagle and scoring upside on the longer holes out here.
Others to consider: Peter Uihlein, J.J. Spaun
Value Tier: $7,500 and Lower
Jimmy Walker ($7.2K) – OK. First, a disclaimer: Jimmy Walker really struggled last year dealing with Lyme Disease. He is a high-risk pick, but this is also Walker’s favorite course on tour. All the news out of Walker’s camp has been promising, and his coach says his swing and energy are back. That is good enough for me to want to grab some exposure to a talented guy in a rebound year at his favorite course. For $7,200, we are likely to lock in a made cut, with plenty of upside to boot.
Hudson Swafford ($7.3K) – “The Swafficer” is on duty in Hawaii, boasting some impressive finishes here at Waialae — three top 15’s with only one MC. It makes sense Hudson Swafford would play well here. The course is tailor-made for his game. It’s short enough to give him a lot of short irons/wedges (his best weapons), and a steady putter is a good recipe for a value play with plenty of upside. Swafford is viable in Cash or GPP this week. He also fits the “played last week” theory, even though he finished 27th of 34. Well, he didn’t finish last, so he’s got that working for him.
Stephan Jaeger ($6.9K) – A Tour rookie this year, Stephan Jaeger comes in with a bit of fanfare. He shot a 58 last year on the Web.com Tour, so we can check the scoring box off our lists. Playing well as of late and getting adjusted to life on tour, Jaeger is poised for a breakout in Hawaii. The course suits his game; approach and putting are his strong points. For his price, he represents a lot of upside for a Web.com graduate in this field.
Others to consider: Aaron Wise, Stewart Cink, Russell Knox, Ryan Armour, Harold Varner III
That does it for the Sony Open breakdown this week. Good luck, and I’ll see you next week for the Career Builder Challenge in La Quinta, California.