We’re staying in Hawaii this week after a fantastic (albeit anticlimactic) Tournament of Champions. From Maui to Honolulu, the Sony Open comes to us from Waialae Country Club. The course is a 7,020-yard par 70, and it’s hosted this event in some form since 1965! There won’t be any shortage of course history data this week, that’s for sure.
2015 Sony Open
1. Jimmy Walker -23
2. Scott Piercy -14
T-3. Gary Woodland -13
T-3. Harris English -13
T-3. Matt Kuchar -13
T-6. Jerry Kelly -12
T-6. Brian Davis -12
T-6. Zac Blair -12
T-6. Rory Sabbatini -12
T-6. Max Homa -12
T-6. Shawn Stefani -12
T-6. Daniel Berger -12
Jimmy Walker put on a Tiger-like performance last year, and he should be very popular this week. I’m going to be out, because I don’t think you’re getting early 2015 Jimmy Walker this time around. His driver has been failing him, and his proximity numbers are less than ideal. But hey, that’s me. He is still the two-time defending champ, and there are a lot of value plays out there to make him work.
When it comes to target statistics for the Sony Open, one stands out above all else: strokes gained: putting. If there’s one thing Jimmy Walker and Russell Henley can do, it’s roll the rock. So it’s not at all surprising that they’ve taken home the last three Sony titles. Some other stats that tend to correlate with success include: total driving, proximity, birdie or better %, and par 4 scoring average.
PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS! PICKS!
I’m including both 2014-15 (left, of entire PGA Tour) and 2015-16 (right, of Sony Open field) statistical rankings, because that’s what kind of guy I am. Course history numbers only include last 10 years.
Justin Thomas $10,800 (26-1)
Thomas started 67-61 to open last year’s Sony Open before closing with back-to-back 70s. The 61 shows how low he can go at this course. He got the monkey off his back at the CIMB Classic, and you know he really wants the win this week after good friend (and golf equivalent of a big brother) Jordan Spieth took down the TOC.
- Stroke Differential: 29th / 7th
- Strokes Gained: Putting: 95th / 60th
- Total Driving: 41st / 58th
- Proximity: 62nd / 36th
- Birdie or Better %: 6th / 4th
- Par 4 Scoring Average: 26th / 9th
- Course History: 104.0 DK pts per in 1 start
Russell Henley $10,300 (35-1)
Henley is my pick to win. He’s basically everything you think Jimmy Walker still is but younger (and probably better). He won here in 2013 and finished T-17 last year. Henley excels in two key areas: putting and total driving. His proximity numbers left a little to be desired last season, but they’re trending in the right way. I’m starting all of my lineups with Henley.
- Stoke Differential:49th / 5th
- Strokes Gained: Putting: 9th / 15th
- Total Driving: 7th / 4th
- Proximity: 160th / 15th
- Birdie or Better %: 31st / 51st
- Par 4 Scoring Average: 50th / 7th
- Course History: 98.2 DK pts per in 3 starts
Harris English $10,200 (30-1)
His stats look great, he has strong course history (over 95 FP per), and he’s Vegas’ 8th choice at 30-1. It looks like ol’ Harry could be in for a big week.
- Stroke Differential: 29th / 57th
- Strokes Gained: Putting: 10th / 1st
- Total Driving: 69th / 24th
- Proximity: 20th / 7th
- Birdie or Better %: 17th / 35th
- Par 4 Scoring Average: 3rd / 96th
- Course History: 95.4 DK pts per in 4 starts
Daniel Berger $9,600 (40-1)
I’m kind of throwing the numbers out here, as I’m not sure his year long ranks give an accurate reflection of the type of player you’re getting this week. Berger was great early last year, horrible over the summer, and good down the stretch. Allegedly, and emphasis on allegedly, you can chalk that summer stretch up to preoccupation with other aspects of life (namely: a girl). No judgment, either, but that complication doesn’t seem to be in play for this tournament. Someone get Keenan and Kel on the line, because it’s Good Berger week in Honolulu.
- Stroke Differential: 47th / 28th
- Strokes Gained: Putting: 142nd / 6th
- Total Driving: 18th / 47th
- Proximity: 95th / 11th
- Birdie or Better %: 36th / 11th
- Par 4 Scoring Average: 50th / 11th
- Course History: 85.0 DK pts per in 1 start
Danny Lee $9,100 (50-1)
Lee has three missed cuts in four tries at Waialae (T-13 in 2013). That’s… not great. However, he turned a bit of a corner last season, breaking through with a win at The Greenbrier and finishing 10th in the chase for the FedEx Cup. Aside from a brutal three hole stretch last week in Maui (which included a 3-putt from 5′ and a miss from 10″), he was pretty great. He was literally inches away from a top-5 finish in a world class field. I think Danny carries some TOC momentum into Honolulu and puts it all together this week.
- Stroke Differential: 39th / 99th
- Strokes Gained: Putting: 23rd / 85th
- Total Driving: 130th / 87th
- Proximity: 28th / 110th
- Birdie or Better %: 19th / 33rd
- Par 4 Scoring Average: 26th / 36th
- Course History: 45.3 DK pts per in 4 starts
Will Wilcox $9,000 (70-1)
He’s back. Finally. I use him practically every week, and you should, too. He had nine top-25s, four top-10s, and a 2nd in 17 starts and finished 2nd in all-around ranking last year (sandwiched in between Jason Day and Jordan Spieth). His stats might be a little overstated, but he’s a legitimately great golfer with tournament-winning upside at only $9,000. Wilcox played this event last year for the first time and finished T-8. I expect a similar performance.
- Stroke Differential: 15th / 12th
- Strokes Gained: Putting: 32nd / 62nd
- Total Driving: 2nd / 28th
- Proximity: 20th / 14th
- Birdie or Better %: 17th / 41st
- Par 4 Scoring Average: 3rd / 17th
- Course History: 83.5 DK pts per in 1 start
Peter Malnati $7,500 (65-1)
Sure to be one of the trendiest picks this week, but the guy is playing some great golf. He’s already notched a win at Sanderson Farms back in November, and he finished T-6 last week at the TOC. As I mentioned earlier, I’m targeting elite putters, and he’s #2 on tour in SGP for 2015-16. His Vegas price (65-1) indicates he’s a great value at $7,500 on DraftKings.
- Stroke Differential: N/A / 17th
- Strokes Gained: Putting: N/A / 2nd
- Total Driving: N/A / 121st
- Proximity: N/A / 96th
- Birdie or Better %: N/A / 18th
- Par 4 Scoring Average: N/A / 46th
- Course History: 75 DK pts per in 1 start
Brendon Todd $7,200 (140-1)
Todd’s a name brand at a cheap price. He’s one of the best putters on tour, and his proximity numbers were great last season. There aren’t many guys at this price or below that have a legitimate shot to actually win the tournament, but Tood could.
- Stroke Differential: 47th / 96th
- Strokes Gained: Putting: 7th / 46th
- Total Driving: 93rd / 32nd
- Proximity: 32nd / 56th
- Birdie or Better %: 70th / N/A
- Par 4 Scoring Average: 50th / 80th
- Course History: 75.9 DK pts per in 4 starts
Cameron Smith $7,000 (140-1)
Cam Smith is a bit of an enigma. He hasn’t played a lot of events, he’s short off-the-tee, and he looks like he’s 14. That said, he finished T-4 at the U.S. Open and T-25 at the PGA Championship in 2015. If you can do that at any age, let alone 22, you can flat out play. What little info we have at our disposal looks good, though. He’s top-40 in SGP, total driving, and proximity (the big three this week) and only $7,000. That’s hard to beat.
- Stroke Differential: N/A / N/A
- Strokes Gained: Putting: N/A / 35th
- Total Driving: N/A / 39th
- Proximity: N/A / 22nd
- Birdie or Better %: N/A / 69th
- Par 4 Scoring Average: N/A / 78th
- Course History: N/A
Pat Perez $6,500 (230-1)
This came as a bit of a surprise to me. His course history numbers are okay (65.2 per in 10 tries), but they aren’t great. He’s missed the cut in four of his last five events, and his only non-MC was the CIMB; a tournament with no cut, and he finished 63rd of 78. So why would I recommend him? I won’t bore you with the math, but I weighted each target statistic for this tournament and came up with a 2014-15 composite score for every golfer in the field. Pat Perez had the 3rd best number. Who am I to argue with Excel?
- Stroke Differential: 40th / N/A
- Strokes Gained: Putting: 25th / 144th
- Total Driving: 81st / 71st
- Proximity: 52nd / 92nd
- Birdie or Better %: 18th / 96th
- Par 4 Scoring Average: 10th / N/A
- Course History: 65.2 DK pts per in 10 starts
Rory Sabbatini $6,500 (100-1)
Jerry Kelly will be the course history guy this week, and he will be over-owned. If you want to differentiate yourself a little, go with Sabbatini. Rory actually has better numbers (79.8 DK points per in 10 tries v. 79.2 DK points per in 9 tries), he’s 10 years younger, and he’s $900 cheaper.
- Stroke Differential: 45th / 71st
- Strokes Gained: Putting: 134th / 32nd
- Total Driving: 119th / 94th
- Proximity: 79th / 107th
- Birdie or Better %: 37th / 16th
- Par 4 Scoring Average: 10th / 83rd
- Course History: 79.8 DK pts per in 10 starts
Shawn Stefani $6,400 (130-1)
Stefani is my favorite value play of the week. He’s 2/2 in cuts made at Sony (with a T-6 last year), and his price is just too cheap. He’s a much better golfer than the other guys in his price range. He finished top-35 in stroke differential, total driving, birdie %, and par 4 scoring last season. That’s not the profile of a $6,400 golfer. I’m probably using him across the board.
- Stroke Differential: 35th / N/A
- Strokes Gained: Putting: 88th / 116th
- Total Driving: 27th / 62nd
- Proximity: 72nd / 100th
- Birdie or Better %: 20th / N/A
- Par 4 Scoring Average: 26th / N/A
- Course History: 80.0 DK pts per in 2 starts
Good luck this week!