The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections on DraftKings.
PGA HIGH OR LOW
The FieldThe field this week consists of 140-144 golfers, and unlike last week, there will be a cut after Friday’s round with the top 65 and ties making the weekend. While many of the players will be coming in off at least a three-week layoff, there will be 18+ players who had the benefit of playing last week on Maui as a warmup. While that may not sound like a big deal, it’s been a significant factor in the past, as seven of the last eight Sony winners have played in the TOC the week prior. We’ll lose some of the big names form last week, like Dustin Johnson and Patrick Cantlay, but will still have the benefit of seeing Justin Thomas ($12,000), Patrick Reed ($10,800) and last year’s winner Matt Kuchar ($9,900) in action. With lots of course history to work off, this event does have a few dependable course horses (see section below) that fantasy players can look to and always produces a fun, high-scoring fantasy week to really break open the new season.
The CourseWaialae Country Club, Honolulu, Hawaii.
Par 70, 7000-7100 yards
The Waialae Country Club is a traditional par 70 course which features trickier Bermuda greens and smaller, narrow fairways. In many ways, it’s the complete opposite of the venue we saw last week. The venue is one of the oldest on Tour and maintains some quaintness for being a “classic track” that emphasizes tight driving chutes and strategy over daunting size. Still, the venue has been turned into a pitch-and-putt for the most part by modern Tour players of late as 2017 saw Justin Thomas open with a 59 here and set scoring record at 27-under-par. Four of the last five winners here have also been at 20-under par of better.
Setup wise, Waialae features just two par 5’s, making par 4 scoring more crucial. Five of the par-4’s measure between 450-500 yards in length and will require longer irons as approaches, especially if drives are off-center. There are opportunities for players to grip and rip, but the biggest test for the players here off the tee will be placement, as many of the holes feature a dogleg setup that require hitting specific landing spots. As for a breakdown of approach shots, all four of the par 3’s measure between 167-199 yards, while the two par 5’s measure between 507-551 yards. Both of the par 5’s play quite easy, with the field almost always averaging well under par for the week in terms of average scores on those holes.
Accuracy doesn’t hurt off the tee here, but traditionally this is very much an approach shot/putting contest. 2018 winner, Patton Kizzire, ranked 67th in Strokes Gained: off the tee for the week here, but 3rd in SG: Approach. 2017 winner Justin Thomas also didn’t rank in the top half of the field in accuracy off the tee the year he won and still won by seven strokes. Last year, Matt Kuchar posted solid stats all-around, ranking 4th in Driving Accuracy, 3rd in both SG: Tee to Green stats and Putting.
2020 weather outlook: The weather for this week looks like it could dampen some of the scoring. High winds are expected for all four days with Thursday possibly being the worst of the bunch, as gusts over 25 mph are expected in the afternoon. The wind is expected to stay strong most of the week, but players may also have to deal with a wetter course too, as there’s at least a small chance of rain all four days, with Saturday looking the most likely to see showers at the moment. You’ll want to keep an eye on the wind forecast this week as any break in the wind or change in forecast may provide a chance for a particular wave to gain an advantage.
Last 5 winners2019—Matt Kuchar -22 (over Andrew Putnam -18)
2018—Patton Kizzire -17 (over James Hahn playoff)
2017—Justin Thomas -27 (over Justin Rose -20)
2016—Fabian Gomez -20 (over Brandt Snedeker playoff)
2015—Jimmy Walker -23 (over Scott Piercy -14)
Winning Trends– Each of the past eight winners of this event had a T6 or better finish in one of their last three starts prior to their win at this event.
– Seven of the past eight winners of this event ranked inside the top-50 on Tour in strokes gained: putting for the year in which they won this event.
– Seven of the last eight winners of this event played in the TOC event the week prior.
Key StatsBirdie or Better %
Strokes Gained: Putting
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4 Scoring
As noted above in trends, past winners and players who have had success at this course have tended to be some of the best putters in the business. Jimmy Walker ($6,800) and Russell Henley ($7,100)—two past winners of this event—ranked inside the top-12 in Strokes Gained: Putting in the years of their victory. This is also another venue where winners tend to rank highly in birdie or better compared to other courses. Both SG: Putting and BoB should be weighted here, and putters with strong Bermuda splits can be more heavily weighted as well.
Additionally, since this course consists of numerous par 4’s with similar attributes, taking advantage of them will important. Targeting players who rank highly in both recent Par 4 scoring stats and efficiency from the range of 450-500 yards can be key.
The fairways at Waialae are small and hard to hit but driving accuracy still hasn’t been a huge deal here. Four of the last six winners have ranked below average in Driving Accuracy for the week and only one player in 2018’s top ten here finished inside the top ten in Driving Accuracy for the week. Recent winners have all ranked solidly in approach stats though with Patton Kizzire ($6,900) and Matt Kuchar ranking 3rd and 7th in SG: Approach for the weeks of their wins. Instead of looking at off the tee stats, weighting SG: Approach stats here more heavily looks far more predictive this week.
Finding ValuesThis section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value comparative to their odds of winning this week:
Player: Russell Knox
Odds to Win: 55-1
DraftKings Price: $7,800
Player: Brian Stuard
Odds to Win: 55-1
DraftKings Price: $7,900
Player: Chez Reavie
Odds to Win: 55-1
DraftKings Price: $8,400
Player: Brian Harmon
Odds to Win: 60-1
DraftKings Price: $8,200
Player: Alex Noren
Odds to Win: 40-1
DraftKings Price: $8,800
Player: Corey Conners
Odds to Win: 40-1
DraftKings Price: $8,900
Player: Marc Leishman
Odds to Win: 40-1
DraftKings Price: $9,200
Player: Abraham Ancer
Odds to Win: 40-1
DraftKings Price: $9,000
Horses for Courses1. Charles Howell III ($9,100 — best finishes: T2-2012, T3-2013): Howell has only missed two cuts at Waialae in his last 14 appearances at this event and now has an incredible eight top-tens here in his last 13 starts. The veteran finished T8 here last season and has only finished outside the top-30 here once in the last eight starts. He should be a near staple in cash lineups early in the season.
2. Matt Kuchar ($9,900 — best finishes: win-2019, T3-2015): Kuchar posted a win at this venue last season, shooting 22-under par and winning his first Sony Open by four-strokes. Kuchar’s played well at Waialae over his career, as he’s not finished worse than T13 here in six starts since 2011. He’s a lead horse this week and should be popular in DFS lineups.
3. Marc Leishman ($9,200 — best finishes: T3-2019, T9-2013): Leishman comes in off a hard-fought Presidents Cup appearance and features a great history of success at Waialae. The big Aussie is nine for nine in terms of making the cut here and now has three top-10’s on record here in his last seven starts.
4. Justin Thomas ($12,000 — best finishes: win-2017): Thomas doesn’t have as many starts at Waialae as the players above him, but he’s been no less dominant. On top of winning and setting the tournament scoring record in 2017, Thomas has only finished outside the top-16 here once in five starts. He’s coming in off a great week in Maui.
5. Brian Stuard ($7,900 — best finishes: T4-2018, T5-2013): Stuard is a bit of a dark horse entry into the horse’s section, but his experience at Waialae is hard to ignore. In seven starts since 2009, Stuard’s only missed one cut here, while also racking up four finishes of T8 or better and has finished T4 and T8 here the last two seasons.
Recent Form1. Justin Thomas ($12,000): Thomas has looked sharp since the end of last year when he won a playoff event. He continued that momentum into the Fall, winning the CJ Cup, and landed his third win in seven starts last week at the TOC. He’s taken the lead in “hottest player in the world” for now.
2. Webb Simpson ($11,100): Simpson still hasn’t won since his triumph at the PLAYERS in 2018 but he’s been all over leaderboards, nonetheless. With a runner-up finish at the RSM Classic, Webb now has three runner-up finishes in his last eight starts and hasn’t missed a cut since last March.
3. Brendon Todd ($8,300): Despite a poor week in Maui, Todd’s form still needs to be recognized as the three-time winner on Tour won on back-to-back weeks on the swing season and then finished T4 at the RSM Classic.
4. Shugo Imahira ($7,300): Imahira has been playing a lot this Fall over in Asia and comes into this week with two wins and five top-5 finishes over his last nine starts. The 30th ranked player in the world will see if that form translates to good results on the PGA this week.
5. Vaughn Taylor ($7,400): Taylor had himself a fine swing season, making five cuts in a row while posting T2 and T10 finishes in his final two events of 2019. He’s now shot 69 or better in each of his last nine rounds on Tour.
DFS StrategyCash Games: $12,000 Justin Thomas still a hard fade
Despite his salary reaching the 12k mark after a win last week, Justin Thomas comes in as a +450 to +550 favorite who has tremendous course history on Waialae and in Hawaii in general. With several other top players coming in off breaks, paying up for him and then looking for better value in the low 8k range for cash games could set you up for slightly less variance. While Thomas will cost you, a more balanced approach targeting the likes of Collin Morikawa ($10,300) and Joaquin Niemann ($9,400) is also viable. Other cash game targets here include the likes of Charles Howell III ($9,100), Kevin Kisner ($8,700), Chez Reavie ($8,400), Vaughn Taylor ($7,400), and D.J. Trahan ($6,700).
Tournaments: Brandt Snedeker ($8,600) and Brian Harmon ($8,200) setting up as potential mid-range pivots
Players who participated in last week’s TOC event should be popular this week, but with poor weather in store, some potential chaos could lead to better chances for those who took last week off. Both Brian Harmon ($8,200) and Brandt Snedeker ($8,600) have terrific records at this week’s event, are strong putters on most surfaces and are have proven themselves adept at taking on tricky, windswept venues over their career. They both stand out as potentially low-owned GPP targets. From further down, Daniel Berger ($7,300) has a great history on Par 70 Bermuda venues, as does Russell Henley ($7,100), and one or both could pop here for a ceiling-type week given the layout and their course experience. I’d also rate out Emiliano Grillo ($7,600) as a solid GPP target here given the extreme wind expected and his superb iron play. Pure punt targets include Mark Hubbard ($6,500) and Bo Hoag ($6,200).
My Pick: Collin Morikawa ($10,300)Morikawa looked to be in pretty nice form last week in Maui, as he posted a solid T7 finish and ranked third in SG: Tee to Green stats. The California native also has some roots in Hawaii, so it wouldn’t be a huge shock to see his good play continue this week. Waialae Country Club has rewarded good all-around efforts, but players with solid approach games who can rack up a ton of birdies have really prospered here over time. Despite not playing in enough events to be ranked last year, Morikawa’s numbers from last season—albeit with a smaller sample size from mostly weaker field events—would have left him ranked first in Par 4 scoring and fourth in SG: Approaches. These numbers suggest a trip around Waialae, with its numerous mix of scoreable Par 4’s and emphasis on iron play, might be right up his alley. The 22-year-old may lack course history, but I like his local connections here and course fit to make up for those shortcomings. He’s my pick to win this week in Honolulu.
My Sleeper: Daniel Berger ($7,300)Once ranked well inside the top-20 in the world, Berger’s fallen on hard times recently, sliding all the way to 154th this week as he kicks off his 2020 season. The two-time FedEx St. Jude champion should be looking for a quick start here as he attempts to turn his fortunes around, and while his lack of upside in 2019 was disturbing, he has remained a consistent cut-maker, missing the weekend in just two of his last 16 PGA Tour starts. Waialae Country Club could provide just the right type of test to spark Berger, as the Par 70 Bermuda venue has led to two top-15 finishes and a perfect 4/4 record in terms of making the cut here from him. While Berger’s approach stats haven’t been up to snuff lately, it’s worth noting he was a solid Par 4 scorer in his best seasons, ranking in the top-15 in the stat in both 2016 and 2017. He’s a fine tournament target whose upside doesn’t match his price this week.
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