WATCH: VALUE PLAY – JASON DUFNER
The Tour is staying in Hawaii for another week. With so many top golfers already on hand for the Tournament of Champions last weekend, this week’s field at the Sony Open at Waialae CC in Honolulu is another great draw. Here are a few names to consider from every price range.
Jordan Spieth ($11,500) – Hard to argue with: He ended up finished tied for third last weekend despite an opening-round 72. Once again, so far this season, he is near the tops of all active players in terms of Greens In Regulation Percentage (GIR%) and putting – pretty much the best combo you can ask for. He consistently puts the ball on the green and then sinks putts – a winning formula on any course, anywhere, and one that makes him the best kind of cash-game option (i.e., steady and also with huge upside).
Justin Thomas ($10,500) – The champ at the SBS Tournament of Champions last weekend, he is clearly playing well at the moment, and has a great history here at Waialae to go along with that recent performance. Two years ago, he played here for the first time and carded at 61 on Friday to propel himself to a T6 showing. The kind of player who makes a lot of birdies and balances some of them out with some rough holes (rather than a steadier par-par type), Thomas makes an excellent choice as a GPP play.
Jimmy Walker ($9,900) – He has won here twice, including as recently as 2015, when he shot -23 en route to a nine-stroke win over Scott Piercy. And when you combine that course history, the T9 he had last weekend (highlighted by an opening round of 65) makes him an enticing option for any format contest this week.
Paul Casey ($9,500) – He shot a 62 here on Thursday last time he showed up a couple of years ago, an indication of what might happen in his first action since October. He closed out the ’15-’16 year and kicked off the ’16-’17 season in style, finishing inside the top-five in the final three FedEx Cup Playoff events, and then pulling down another top-five at the Safeway Open.
Gary Woodland ($9,100) – He has the all-around game to compete anywhere, but specifically here, finishing with a T3 and a T13 in the last two years. He is a beast off the tee, in the top-10 on Tour in distance, but he isn’t just a bomber, consistently turning that distance into results (12th in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee and Tee-to-Green last season). That is a trait that could pay off nicely as lots of players will be able to put up points, so you want someone who will consistently find himself in that position.
Ryan Palmer ($8,300) – He has been inside the top-20 here in each of the last three seasons and won here back in 2010. That in and of itself would be enough to make someone at this price enticing, but when you also factor in how he was playing last time we saw him (with a top-25 finish in each of his three FedEx Cup playoff tries), he seems to have as much upside as anyone in this price range.
Anirban Lahiri ($7,900) – He has played well this fall, with three straight top-30 showings in PGA events since the end of last season. He hasn’t played since November, at the RSM Classic, where he finished off the weekend with a 65 that vaulted him to a T13 finish. In those three performances, he has averaged just north of 22 birdies a weekend, good for an average of just under 100 fantasy points (and a low of 79 fantasy points at Mayakoba); very useful at this price.
William McGirt ($7,900) – He is the embodiment of what you might often hear called a “convergence” – he finished T13 here last year and is coming off a T9 last weekend. He was been inside the top-25 in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, Off-the-Tee and Putting last season, and is currently fourth on Tour in GIR% so far this season. This course can yield some very low scores, and he would be the kind of player to do it if he plays as well here as he has over the last few weeks.
Harold Varner ($7,800) – He finished with a T13 here in his debut last season, shooting four rounds in the 60s with a low score of 65 on Sunday. That round is the kind of effort he will look to duplicate this weekend coming off a big win at the Australian PGA Championship in early December. He co-led that same tournament in 2015, and imploded on Sunday. However, the 26-year-old American responded to the pressure in a whole different way this time around, dropping a 65 on Sunday to hold onto the lead and hopefully showing signs of good things to come this season.
Tony Finau ($7,400) – Finau is the rare player you find at this price range who has a truly elite skill: his distance off the tee. He is coming off a T9 last weekend where he played very consistent golf, never shooting above a 70 on the par-73 layout and not relying on the one big round to earn his spot on the leaderboard. That kind of consistent shot-making from someone with the driving ability to constantly give himself makable looks is a combination that could make him a very nice value play.
John Senden ($7,000) – He shot three rounds in the 60s here last year, which wasn’t enough to contend, but is enough to show he knows his way around the course. He is at a point in his career where he can’t be at the top of his game for long stretches in a row, but he is coming off an extended break right now and should be fresh. This makes him someone I would consider for all of my cash-game lineups this weekend.
Derek Fathauer ($6,400) – He missed the cut in his last appearance, at Mayakoba, but was having an excellent fall prior to that showing, with only two rounds over par in his 12 previous. He had been doing it mainly with his putter, and on a course that leaves players with plenty of scoring chances, a hot putter is enough to keep someone in this price range higher on the leaderboard than you might expect.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is theasquad) 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.