PGA Above the Cut: Sony Open

After the 32-man no cut event last week it is time to tackle the first full field event for the 2017 golf season. The Sony Open from Waialae Country Club is on tap which should give us a chance to target some lesser known players as many top ranked golfers aren’t in the field. Plus many of the Web.com graduates from last year only have a few tournaments under their belt so this can be a nice time to find some under the radar plays.

The course is a par 70 measuring at just over 7,000 yards which makes it one of the shortest courses we will see on the tour. It is also one of the oldest running courses in the circuit since it has been hosting PGA Tour events since 1965. Its tough off the tee with some narrow fairways, but the winning score has been in the -20 to par range last few years so birdies will be needed in bunches.

This course doesn’t seem to favor one specific type of golfer which makes it wide open for a lot of different guys with varying styles. In addition to solid course history I am ideally hoping to find golfers who prefer short courses, do well with hard to hit fairways and prefer Bermuda greens. Since it’s the first full tourney of 2017 recent form is very difficult to factor in as the majority of the field has not played in a few months.

 

Targets

Top Tier

Jordan Spieth $11,500 – The highest priced golfer this week will be anchoring many of my teams as I think Spieth has a great chance to take home the W. He was a little erratic at last week’s 32-man tournament of champions, but finished with an -8 bogey free round 65 on Sunday. I really like to target golfers who have a strong Sunday from the week before and Spieth seemed to be firing on all cylinders late in the tourney.

Spieth will always help his cause with his putting skills and he will add to his advantage if he can keep the ball in the fairway and out of trouble this week. While he does not have much course history with his only appearance resulting in a missed cut (MC) in 2014, but I’m willing to overlook that and hope that may scare some people away. Plus, Hideki Matsuyama and Justin Thomas both being red hot should help keep ownership reasonable which can make Spieth a solid cash or GPP play.

One other nice bonus is wind can be a factor here and Spieth is one of the best golfers playing in windy conditions so that shouldn’t be an issue for him.

Brandt Snedeker $9,700 – Snedeker is another top end golfer I will have exposure to this week as he was runner up in this tourney last year, losing in a playoff to Fabian Gomez. He checks in right at $9,700 which is directly below Jimmy Walker ($9,900), who I expect to have massive ownership which makes Snedeker a sneaky GPP play. Also in his favor, much like Spieth, is that he was already in Hawaii playing last week at the tournament of champions which should work to his advantage over many players who haven’t teed it up in over a month.

Scott Piercy $8,900 – Scott Piercy checks in at $8,900 and has some solid course history that I’m looking to provide him a boost. Four out of the last five years he’s posted a top 25 here, with a 2nd place finish in 2015. He is also one of the best tee-to-green performers and that should provide him with plenty of chances for birdie opportunities. He has tournament winning upside and can really string some birdies together which makes him appealing with DraftKings scoring. Though ultimately I am considering him as more of a GPP play this week as his putting can be an issue at times.  Of course as we know, putting has so much variance I’m willing to take my chances with Piercy at sub-$9k.

 

Middle Tier

Charles Howell III $7,800 – Welcome to the chalk portion of the article. If you are looking for a golfer with great course history, then look no further than CH3. Since 2005 he has played this event every year and hasn’t missed a single cut. He also has seven top 10s in that span which is ridiculous and clearly something that jumps off the page. While he does not have the biggest upside as he has not had a victory on tour in quite some time, he was 25 of 30 in making cuts last year which is a nice solid number. CH3 makes perfect sense in cash games and even in tournaments where I like to have a few guys who are consistent and safe since it is tough to get six super volatile guys through the cut on any given week. Howell should be someone you don’t have to sweat Friday afternoon and can allow you to take some shots elsewhere in your lineup.

Chris Kirk $7,700 – I didn’t plan on targeting Kirk this week, but his $7,700 price caught my eye and the more I considered him the better fit he seems for a solid showing. He was runner up here in 2014 and had another top 5 finish in 2013 and before last years missed cut had five straight years of playing the weekend. As I mentioned before I don’t think this week you can target in on one specific stat or one type of player as this course has shown that a variety of player types can get it done. Kirk has a well-rounded game and doesn’t have any glaring holes that concern me. I think he is slightly underpriced and has a chance to be a steal in some of the early tour stops this season. Since the 2017 golf season is just getting underway the pricing will not be as efficient as it will be when every golfer has a few results by the end of February and I expect Kirk’s price to be north of 8k for most of the year.

Harris English $7,500 – Harris English is someone I rarely play, but I have to make an exception here because of his course history. He has three top 10 finishes in his last four years and seems to absolutely love this course. When you dig a little deeper you find that he excels at courses with hard to hit fairways which Waialae CC features and he is very solid across the board in so many different categories. On the flipside, I do expect English to be fairly popular with that great course history, but at $7,500 he is a safe solid play and similar to Charles Howell in that he won’t wreck your lineups and can allow you to really target some high-end upside golfers.

Lower Tier

Webb Simpson $6,900 – Webb Simpson is certainly someone who I love to play and someone who can make your Friday afternoon cut sweat quite interesting as he can sometimes flirt with that cut line. I really like his price at sub-$7k and he has two straight top 15s here. Although recent form is basically non-existent due to the break Webb was playing some great golf in November at the tail end of the calendar year and I think that can continue in early 2017. Yes, he sometimes putts like a wounded animal, but if he can avoid missing some easy 5 footers, I really like his chances to compete. At sub-$7k he’s great salary relief while not having to sacrifice top 10 upside.

Wesley Bryan $6,700 – Bryan was a trendy name during the summer after dominating the Web.com tour and getting promoted, but he didn’t make too much noise during his brief stint last year. I think those appearances are going to pay dividends in early 2017 and his price is only going to rise in the coming weeks. He can be inaccurate off the tee and of course will not be alone with these narrow fairways, but he is great with approach shots and a solid scrambler so he can limit those big numbers on his scorecard. I plan to target a lot of lesser known Web.com graduates in the early weeks as they are going to be way under-owned and underpriced and at $6,700 Bryan fits that category for me.

Cheng-Tsung Pan – $6,600 – Pan caught my eye when I saw some of him during the Olympics in Rio and I’ve been waiting for a spot that sets up well for the Taiwanese golfer who really isn’t cut out to contend on large long courses. Luckily for us this is a short course which falls right into the style Pan likes to play, and he is very solid on the greens as well. He was 3 for 3 on cuts made in November and finished 2016 with a T6 at the RSM classic. Pan is a solid cheaper play which you will need if you are trying to fit in more than one of the top priced golfers.

Fades

Below are a few guys that I will be either all out fading or plan to have lesser exposure than the field will in GPPs on DraftKings.

Justin Thomas – $10,500 – One thing I am not afraid to admit is that I do have a bad habit of not taking the previous week’s winner. However, at this course I truly do not like how things are lining up for Thomas. He does not have great course history (MC in 2016) and although he’s been on an absolute tear his price is reflective of that. He has a well-earned reputation as a bomber who plays long, but with these narrow fairways I can see him getting into trouble and sliding down the leaderboard and out of contention. He will always have monster upside due to his birdie rate, but his range of outcomes is gigantic and I think this is a nice spot to look elsewhere while many will still be riding his hot streak.

Jimmy Walker – $9900 – This is one where I wouldn’t recommend an all-out fade, but I do plan to have less of Jimmy Walker than the field. He is going to have massive ownership and rightfully so with two wins here in the last 3 years. However, I really think it’s a nice spot to differentiate GPP lineups with Snedeker at $9,700 or even Casey at $9,500. Walker may play well but at his current price tag he is going to need another top 5 finish here to pay it off and I prefer other players at that price point.

Tony Finau – $7,400 – This one is pretty simple and will be a trend with me throughout the year. Tony Finau and Bermuda greens just don’t mix. He really struggles with them and I won’t be rostering him on that surface until he shows consistent results on courses with Bermuda greens.

 

Good luck everyone and let’s have a great season ahead!

Ben Rasa

You can find me in tournaments with the username Jazzraz and I am also happy to answer questions on Twitter @JazzrazDFS or in the FanVice premium slack.