2019 Sony Open Picks, Rankings, Sleepers, Preview

Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2019 Sony Open Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks and provide their one and done selections for the event from Waialae CC.

Sony Open DK Ownership, Injury & Wind Update

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2019 Sony Open Picks: Show Index

0:22 Giveaways
4:33 Course
8:41 Stats
10:52 Field/Odds
34:20 Picks
35:40 One and Done Strategy

2019 Sony Open Field

144 Players | Top 70 & Ties Make The Cut after 36 Holes
First Tee: Noon ET; Thursday, January 10
Defending Champion: Patton Kizzire

Hawaii, take two. Who doesn’t love primetime golf?

Zero-time 2018 winner Jordan Spieth is ready for his first action of the year. He’ll be joined in Honolulu by 2017 winner, Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Bryson DeChambeau, Paul Casey, Adam Scott, Hideki Matsuyama, Gary Woodland, Marc Leishman, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, Ian Poulter, Cameron Smith, Cameron Champ, Russell Knox, Kyle Stanley, Pat Perez, Adam Hadwin, Keegan Bradley, Kevin Kisner, Brandt Snedeker, and Bubba Watson, who is making his first appearance at Waialae since 2010.

Now, remember, this is the Sony Open. Historically, one of the weakest fields of the year. So, this is quite the haul for top end talent. And it doesn’t end there; the next tier is loaded with almost all of our favorite DraftKings regulars: Scott Piercy, Emiliano Grillo, Russell Henley, Abraham Ancer, Andrew Landry, Jamie Lovemark, Charles Howell III, Kevin Tway, Andrew Putnam Harris English, Patrick Rodgers, Ollie Schniederjans, Satoshi Kodaira, Jimmy Walker, Brian Harman, Brandon Harkins, Anirban Lahiri, Sam Ryder, Danny Lee, Jason Dufner, Chris Kirk, Chez Reavie, Sam Saunders, Trey Mullinax, Joel Dahmen, Killah Keith Michell, Si WOOOOOO Kim, Stewmanji Cink, T DUNKS, and John HUUHHH????, James HAHHHHNNNNN. Even creepster Grayson Murray is in the field. Honestly, the only people we’re missing are Luke List and JJ Spaun.

All the Web TOUR grads will be soaking in some cosmic rays. As will a collection of seniors, presumably because it’s winter, and Hawaii is hot: Vijay Singh, Steve Stricker, Kenny Perry, Jerry Kelly, and Davis Love III.

Finally, there’s a major contingent of Japanese Tour players in the field, including Japan’s highest ranked amateur, Takumi Kanaya, and a pair Top 100 players in the world rankings —Shugo Imahira (53) and Yuta Ikeda (90).

2019 Sony Open Key Stats

Strokes Gained: Approach
Opportunities Gained
Par 4s Gained
Eagles Gained

Mayo’s Custom Stat POWER RANKINGS from FantasyNational.com

2019 Sony Open Course

Course: Waialae CC
Par: 70
Yardage: 7,044
Rank: 39/51 in 2018 Difficulty
Greens: Bermuda
Purse: $6.2M

2019 Sony Open Notes

While the average Top 20 finisher at the Sony Open gained more strokes on Par 5s than Par 4s, the  outright winners have actually averaged more on Par 4s. Winners have also gained well over two times as many strokes through approach than off the tee (1.39 SG: APP to 0.54 SG: OTT), while the difference between the two stats among the entire Top 20 is much closer (0.70 SG: APP to 0.40 SG: OTT).

Waialae annually finishes with the most difficult fairways to hit, just 52% to the TOUR average of 61%. However missing the fairway isn’t overly problematic. Despite almost half the approaches coming from the rough, the field hits more GIRs at the Sony than the average event, posts a higher scrambling percentage, and an almost identical average proximity from the pin on GIRs.

Patton Kizzire, the 2018 champ, finished 63rd in the field in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee, losing 1.788 strokes.

Fifty-nine eagles in 2018; fourth most of any event, despite featuring only two Par 5s. The Par 5 9th accounted for 34 of the eagles, while the closing Par 5 18th made up 15 of the total. The Par 4 10th, measuring just 351 yards, allows the field plenty of eagle chips from just off the green. Only three were converted in 2018, but players make birdie over 35% of the time. All three holes, the three easiest on the course, are all reachable under regulation by any player in the field. Last year, bombers Kevin Tway and Xander Schauffele went for a green under regulation with every opportunity, as did the light hitting William McGirt. Distance is relevant to the length of the approach shot on these holes, but a lack of power off the tee rarely dissuades anyone from reaching the green.   

Waialae CC is the fourth longest serving host venue. The Honolulu track has every year (except 1970 when there was no event) since 1965. That trails only Augusta National (1934), Colonial CC (1946), and Pebble Beach (1947).

In the past six years, the winning score has been -17 or lower, Justin Thomas set the course record in 2017 at -27. Generally, at birdiefests, Strokes Gained: Around The Green only factors into the outcome minimally. It’s pretty logical. If a player is gaining a bunch of strokes from off the green, that means they’re missing GIRs and failing to generate birdie chances.

Although Waialae is another coastal course with Bermuda greens in Hawaii, extreme wind like at Kapalua rarely emerges.

The Honda Classic (PGA National) and the Mexico swing event (El Camaleon GC/Riviera Maya-Cancun) have seen similar names pop up on leaderboards over the years.

Russell Henley (2013) was the last player to make the Sony Open his first career win. Before that, it was Jerry Kelly in 2002. Kelly has played this tournament every year since 1999. Henley is also the last player to win in his first appearance, as well. You have to fire up some disco and set the DeLorean to 1979 to find the next player who won in his debut — Bruce Lietzke. 

Six of the past seven Sony Open champions played the week previous at the Tournament of Champions. Henley, obviously, is the exception. There are 23 holdovers playing the Sony (Charles Howell III should be on that list) who teed it up last week.

Ernie Els (2003) and Justin Thomas (2017) are the only two players to compete the Hawaii Slam  in the same year.

Jimmy Walker (35.5), Gary Woodland (34.18), Jerry Kelly (32.1), Justin Thomas (31.74), and Brian Harman (31.72) have the most Strokes Gained: Total of players in the field over the past five years. WHEEEEEEEEEEE Kim (-17.02) and Satoshi Kodaira (-13.7) have lost the most over the same span.

Justin Thomas, Stewart Cink, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, and Russell Henley have gained the most total strokes on Par 70 courses the past 24 rounds.

Since winning in 2012, Johnson Wagner has missed five straight cuts.

2019 Sony Open Picks — Targets From Each Range

Justin Thomas

Picking the favorite? But, of course. It’s a very logical track for JT. Likely why he owns the course record and fired an opening round 59 a mere 24 months ago. If Thomas simply replicates his performance from Kapalua, he could take this in a run away. JT gained three more strokes through approach than anyone else in the field at ToC (Webb Simpson was second at +7.2; Woodland third with 5.5), had a below-average putting week, and lost strokes off the tee. As noted, SG: OTT is less critical at Sony than at ToC, and Thomas generally gains around stroke off the tee box in his career, so that should normalize at Waialae.

Marc Leishman

Coming off T4 last week, the Aussie’s now posted three Top 5 finishes in his past four starts — T4/T2/T18/Win. Although, based on his skill level, you’d think Leishman would have broken through at the Sony by now; he’s played the event the past six year and only managed a single Top 5 despite making the cut every time. It’s potentially a bad fit, but he enters hot, is familiar with the lay out, did most of his damage last week though his approaches (+4.6), and is historically an excellent Par-4 performer.

Ian Poulter

Making his first appearance at Waialae since 2005, the Brit played sneaky good at Kapalua, despite a very MEH 18th place finish. He was tied for seventh in the field in birdies gained, actually gained on the field in all three facets of tee-to-green, the guy just couldn’t putt. Super strange for Poulter, especially on Bermuda. I guess slow greens aren’t his thing. The greens at Sony are slower than TOUR average, but they haven’t been soaked in molasses, either. Oh, Poulter’s been the best player in the field on Par 4s from 400-450 yards too. There are five of those this week.

Shugo Imahira

Imahira ended the year spitting Dylan levels of HOT FIYA, posting a win while nabbing three silver, three bronze and just missing the podium twice more. Overall, it was 11 Top 10s and 17 Top 20s against just two missed cuts in his final 20 events of the year. Usually, that type of success rarely translates over the PGA TOUR, but he’ll likely be the most undervalued player in the DraftKings pricing compared to his world ranking, and it’s not like he’s devoid of experience at the venue. PAPA SHUGO finished T54 in his Sony Open debut last season. Don’t expect to see him hoisting a novelty check come Sunday, but he should stick for the weekend.

Other notable names appearing near the top of stat models and the win simulator at FantasyNational.com: Bryson DeChambeau, Sam Ryder, Paul Casey, Gary Woodland, Scott Piercy, Danny Lee, Kyle Stanley

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo’s (@ThePME) 14 Fantasy Sports Writing Association nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting) and genre (humor). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.

I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) 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. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.