WATCH: SLEEPER PICK – HIDETO TANIHARA
The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help with roster selection.
Last week Justin Thomas hung on for a three shot win over Hideki Matsuyama. This was Thomas’ third win on Tour and arguably his biggest win to date considering the field. It is also his second official win of the 2017 PGA season as he also won an event in the Fall Series earlier (CIMB Classic). Lots of golfers got their seasons off to solid starts last week, including Jordan Spieth who finished (-8) on Sunday to vault into a tie for third.
The field this week consists of 140-144 golfers, and unlike last week, there will be a cut this week after Friday’s round. Unlike last year, many of the big names who played in last week’s event will stay in Hawaii and compete in this week’s event in Honolulu. Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Branden Grace will all be in this year’s Sony Open after skipping out last season. While this event has a history of some “longshots” pulling out a win, the quality of this year’s field is quite high. Two-time champion Jimmy Walker and U.S. Open winner Justin Rose will also be in attendance. This should be a highly competitive, full-field event, and with all the different high-end options, a great tournament for DraftKings golf.
Waialae Country Club, Honolulu, Hawaii
Par 70, 7000-7100 yards
The Waialae Country Club is a par 70 course, which generally favors accuracy and shot making over pure power. Windy conditions and small Bermuda greens are a staple of this event, but if the winds hold off, scores can get low. It’s a complete and stark contrast to the week before where huge fairways and longer holes awaited the players, but the Hawaiian trade winds mean the courses still play somewhat similarly. Additionally, the greens this week should play somewhat similarly to last week as they are Bermuda and also generally roll a bit slower due to the Hawaiian humidity.
Waialae features only two par 5s, so Par 4 Scoring will be crucial. While there are a couple longer, more challenging holes, in general even the toughest holes play fairly straight forward as water is an almost non-factor here and the rough is not very penal. As for a breakdown of approach shots, all four of the par 3s measure between 167-199 yards, while only 4 of the 12-par 4s come in at over 450 yards in length.
Accuracy doesn’t hurt off the tee here, but traditionally, this is very much an approach shot/putting contest. Last year’s playoff combatants — Fabian Gomez and Brandt Snedeker — ranked 73rd and 113th in Driving Accuracy last season, while two-time winner Jimmy Walker ranked outside the top 150 in both of the years he won this event in that same category.
LAST 5 WINNERS
- 2016 — Fabian Gomez -20 (over Brandt Snedeker playoff)
- 2015 — Jimmy Walker -23 (over Scott Piercy -14)
- 2014 — Jimmy Walker -17 (over Chris Kirk -16)
- 2013 — Russell Henley -24 (over Tim Clark -21)
- 2012 — Johnson Wagner -13 (over four players at -11)
- Each of the past five winners of this event had a top-6 or better in one of their last three starts prior to their win at this event.
- Each of the past five winners of this event ranked inside the top 50 on Tour in Strokes Gained: Putting for the year in which they won this event.
- Par 4 Scoring
- Par 4 Birdie or Better Average
- Strokes Gained: Putting
- Approach Proximity (50-125, 175-200 yards)
There is a few big factors I think you can look to as far as stats go this weekend, starting with putting and Par 4 Scoring/Performance. Past winners and golfers who have had success at this course have tended to be some of the best putters in the business. Jimmy Walker and Russell Henley — two past winners of this event — ranked inside the top 12 in Strokes Gained: Putting in the year of their victory, and other golfers who have fared well at this event over the years — like, Chris Kirk, Ryan Palmer and K.J. Choi — putted very well in the year they finished higher up in the standings. Last year’s first and second place finishers were 33rd and 49th in Strokes Gained: Putting for the year.
Additionally, since this course consists of numerous par 4s with similar attributes, taking advantage of them will be key to scoring this week. Targeting players who rank highly in both Par 4 Scoring and Par 4 Birdie or Better Average is a good way to identify golfers who can find success on this course.
Finally, Approach Proximity on a shorter course with smaller greens is often key, and past incarnations of this event have shown that to be true. Jimmy Walker has murdered this course with long drives and accurate wedge play, so looking for players who might be able to do the same thing here is a decent idea when working through player stats. This course is very much a second shot course, and those who are striking it well into the green should be favored here.
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful of putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week.
|Pat Perez||40-1||$8,000||Fabian Gomez 8,100 and 80-1
Marc Leishman $8,200 and 67-1
Keegan Bradley $8,000 and 61-1
|Webb Simpson||80-1||$6,800||Cody Gribble $6,700 and 100-1
Andres Gonzales $6,900 and 300-1
Jerry Kelley $6,800 and 125-1
HORSES FOR COURSES
Charles Howell III has only missed two cuts in his last 12 appearances at this course, and he has seven top-tens and two runner-up finishes in that span. Howell finished 13th here last season and is generally a great play early in the year.
Jerry Kelly also only has two missed cuts in his last 12 appearances here, and has five top-tens over that span. Kelly also finished ninth at this event last season and thrives on these shorter, more approach-shot driven golf courses where length off the tee isn’t a huge factor.
Pat Perez has made eight of his last 12 cuts at the Sony Open and finished inside the top 20 in three of his last four appearances here. He’s coming off a win and a T3 in his last two starts and is also well-suited to a venue like Waialae.
Harris English has only played this event five times but he’s never missed the cut here in five attempts and also has three top-tens to his name at this event. He is coming off a long layoff but is traditionally a fast starter here.
As of Monday, the weather for this event looks perfect. There is only a 10% chance of rain for Thursday and Friday and winds forecasted to reach only 8-9mph.
Cash Games: There are too many solid plays in the $7,500-$8,500 range to mention this week (Chris Kirk, Pat Perez, Russell Knox to name a few), which makes rostering one of Hideki Matsuyama or Jordan Spieth extremely easy. If choosing between the two, I would side with Spieth this week, the setup favors his style of play, and Matsuyama’s course history at Waialae is somewhat uninspiring (four missed cuts on four starts). I would look for Matsuyama to break that streak this year but would still side with Spieth.
Tournaments: The range of golfers from $9,900 to $8,800 (Jimmy Walker to Daniel Berger) will likely go quite under-owned this week. Of those golfers, I really like both Berger and Brandt Snedeker — last year’s runner-up here. Snedeker played well last week (fifth in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green) but couldn’t sink any putts, while Berger had a decent week in Maui and already has a win on Tour on a similar setup to this week. Stacking players from this range with players from the low $6,000 range is sure to give you a unique construct.
Top Strokes Gained: Tee to Green From Last Week
1. Justin Thomas
2. Hideki Matsuyama
3. Dustin Johnson
Top Strokes Gained: Putting From Last Week
1. Cody Gribble
2. Fabian Gomez
3. Jordan Spieth
MY PICK: Jordan Spieth $11,500
There are many weeks in DFS golf when it makes a lot of sense to fade the top one or two options; however, this week isn’t one of them. Both Spieth and Hideki Matsuyama (and Justin Thomas) look like a cut above the rest in this field, and while Matsuyama has been the better player of late, there’s all the reason to think this is the week Spieth cashes in a win. Spieth conquered another old-school course in 2016 at Colonial, and Waialae Country Club shares a lot of similarities to that setup. While Spieth could not avoid the big number last week in Maui (he made three double-bogeys or worse), he also led the field in birdies. With the added motivation of trying to one-up his good buddy Justin Thomas, I’d look for a monster week from Spieth and possibly his first title of 2017.
MY SLEEPER: DEREK FATHAUER $6,400
Since it’s the season opener for many this week, and rust may be a factor, when I’m venturing below $7,000, I’m looking at players who have been active competing in the fall. Fathauer fits that qualification and is also coming off perhaps his best stretch of golf on the PGA Tour ever. The Floridian finished third to Justin Thomas at the CIMB Classic a couple months ago and also made three of four cuts in the Fall Series. He’s a solid putter who ended up 30th overall in Strokes Gained: Putting last season and was also 54th in Birdies or Better on Par 4’s. He should be well-suited to the course this week and is very affordable at only $6,400.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.