January 10, 2023, 7:55 pm
The PGA Tour returns this week after a wild finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Jon Rahm battled back from a nine-shot deficit on Sunday with a 10 under 63 to claim the victory and the 2,700,000 top prize. It was a tough scene for Collin Morikawa (and his backers, myself included) as he was at one point a -20000 favorite to win.
We move on now to the Sony Open played at Waialae Country Club located in Honolulu, HI. This venue has hosted a PGA tournament since 1965 and is a 7,044-yard, Par 70 that features two Par 5 holes, four Par 3 holes and twelve Par 4 holes.
This week marks the return of the cut sweat as we have a 144-player field with top 65 and ties advancing to the weekend. An interesting thing of note this week is that there will be six players from the Japanese Tour who get an invite which has been routine at the Sony Open. Before we get more into the field, let’s look at the past five winners at this event:
2022: Hideki Matsuyama (-23)
2021: Kevin Na (-20)
2020: Cameron Smith (-11)
2019: Matt Kuchar (-22)
2018: Paton Kizzire (-17)
The current worst kept secret in golf is that eight of the past nine winners at this event played the week before at Kapalua. The one year this didn’t happen was in 2020 when Cameron Smith prevailed in outlier weather conditions. I usually don’t factor trends too much into my preparation each week, but this one is too good to ignore.
As mentioned above, the rough at this course is one of the least penalizing roughs to hit into on tour. This leads to some of the highest green-in-regulation percentages the players will see this year. It is really difficult to find yourself in horrible position off the tee, making putting and iron play the biggest factors in determining who comes out on top come Sunday evening.
Here are the key stats I am considering when building my lineups this week.
- SG: Approach– A staple stat that translates to any course. It is the stat that has been proven to be stickiest over a long sample and correlates with long-term success. Putting yourself in position to make birdies with good iron shots is extremely important when a winning score that will likely be in the twenty under par range is required.
- SG: Putting 0-5/5-10 Feet– Putting is volatile and is difficult to predict week-to-week. Because of this, I tend to weight putting diminutively in any models I run. This week it will be given more credence, but I certainly will favor elite iron players who struggle with the putter, hoping they can catch fire for four rounds. I am choosing these specific ranges because 65% of birdie putts come from this range at this tournament.
- Proximity Gained 150-175/175-200 Yards- This is more of a tie-breaking stat as I prefer to use the overall strokes gained approach numbers. However, these two distinct range buckets are where 50% of approach shots have come from.
- Par 4 & Par 5 Scoring Gained: With Par 4s and Par 5s composing 14-of-18 holes this week, we will make sure we roster golfers with solid overall scoring on these holes.
Always remember to blend in a mixture of course history, recent form and long-term form when evaluating who to roster. Recent form outweighs course history at most courses and that includes this week.
Follow me on Twitter @mlafem10 for additional thoughts and I’ll be happy to help out with any lineup questions you have. Let’s make some money!
Round 1 Props
Thrive Contest Plays for Thursday’s Round 1 Action
Webb Simpson 12.5 Pars + Bogeys MORE (75 PTS) – The struggle bus has been chugging along for Webb as of late. Simpson has missed five of his last seven cuts and hasn’t finished inside the top-50 of an event since the Traveler’s back in June. Don’t let the immaculate course history here fool you, Webb’s game has shown no signs that he is ready to have a scorecard with six birdies or better in one round.
Hideki Matsuyama 3.5 Birdies MORE (80 PTS) – After an up-and-down week at Kapalua last week, Hideki looks to get off to a strong title defense this week. Hideki has hit the over on this number in six of his past eight rounds at this course, including each round last year en-route to victory. The putter doesn’t always cooperate for Matsuyama, but he is one of the best iron players in the field and that should allow enough opportunities to hit this number.
Tom Kim 2.5 Bogeys LESS (85 PTS) – Kim is at the top of the betting board coming into the week and for good reason. This course should set up beautifully for him as he is lethal with his accuracy off the tee and has been hitting his iron shots better than anyone in the field over the last 36 rounds. Add to that the fact that the roughs at this course are some of the least penalizing roughs on tour, and there doesn’t seem to be a lot of scenarios where Tom Kim finds himself in a lot of trouble on Thursday.
PGA Props Record YTD
DFS Top Tier Play
Kim is the most expensive golfer on the slate this week and has a high probability of being the most popular play as well, but I don’t care. We can get different with other spots in our lineup. I am struggling to come up with anything to argue against using Kim this week as this course is a dream fit as distance is not required to contend here. He played last week (and quite well at that) with rates at or near the top of every key statistic with the exception of putting. Fire him up with confidence this week.
Others Considered: Jordan Spieth ($10,000), Billy Horschel ($9,500)
DFS Mid Tier Play
Big Gary seems to have found something in the fall to start showing some signs of life. The final results weren’t all that impressive with three out of four made cuts, including two finishes in the 60s but the iron play was promising. Woodland gained over two strokes on approach in three out of his four events and if he can carry that iron play into this week and if we can avoid a horrific week putting, he should be able to pay off this price tag and provide some ownership relief from a chalky start to our lineup with Kim. It also doesn’t hurt that he has made the cut the last five times he has played at Waialae, but more importantly three of those were top-10s which is the exact type of upside we are looking for in tournaments.
Others Considered: Andrew Putnam ($8,000), Si Woo Kim ($8,200)
DFS Value Play
This is a pure play on talent. He is the man that broke Jon Rahm’s record for weeks holding the top spot in the World Amateur Golf Rankings (87 weeks) and was victorious on the Japanese Golf Tour while still an amateur. Nakajima officially turned pro last fall and finished tied for 12th at the ZOZO Championship in his debut. He is also no stranger to Waialae, having participated in this tournament last year with a solid finishing of 41st. I am willing to bet Nakajima taking advantage of this opportunity to show off his game to a wider audience.
Others Considered: Robby Shelton ($7,000), Brendan Steele ($7,300)
Outright Betting Picks
*All odds are curtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook
Corey Conners (+2500)
Billy Horschel (+3500)
Gary Woodland (+5000)
J.T. Poston (+5000)
Position Player Name DK Salary G Tom Kim $10,500 G Gary Woodland $7,500 G Keita Nakajima $6,700 G G G REMAINING BUDGET $25,300 for 3 plays