The Daily Spin- The Sony Open in Hawaii

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 14, 2015 16:37

Greetings from Las Vegas! The staff of Fantasy Golf Insider is on location for the Fantasy Sports Trade Association conference held at The Bellagio Hotel where we will be meeting with other industry leaders to discuss ideas and build partnerships to help us in improving our site in order to create the best possible experience for all of our readers and clients. Fortunately, we were able to do quite a bit of research since the end of a very exciting conclusion to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Monday night.

We here at Fantasy Golf Insider had a great week in that nearly all of our picks fared well with just a couple of small disappointments. Here at the Daily Spin, we hit it on the head with Robert Streb, Scott Stallings, and Sang-Moon Bae. Zach Johnson tripped up a bit in the Third Round as he entered that day of play tied for the lead, but still managed a very respectable 7th place finish. Matt Kuchar proved to be a bit of a disappointment shooting over par in the Third Round and salvaging just a 17th place finish in a tournament where we would have anticipated a Top 10 finish.

As a staff, we fared well with our own jtbergerson capturing 2nd place in the Draft Kings $200 tournament for a $3000 prize. The data in the Premium Section of the site is powerful information and easy to use for players of all skill levels. Our vision is to help level the playing field and give beginners a chance to be experts the very first time they enter a tournament. With about 150 golfers entering each of the regular tournaments, we believe that we have found a way to do research that would normally take hours and condensed it down to just a few minutes. And with that, on to Honolulu for the Sony Open!

The Waialae Country Club plays quite a bit differently than Kapalua last week where enormous fairways helped the big hitters almost regardless of how they hit off of the tee. The fairways are narrower and the greens not nearly so large as the prior week. Par here is 70 with only two par 5’s on the entire course so the heavy hitters won’t have quite the same advantage as last week. The weather forecast for the tournament looks great with warm weather, partly cloudy skies and light winds which aren’t anticipated to pick up much until Sunday when they could reach 10-15 mph.

The field will start with 144 players and have a lot of familiar names. However, a lot of notable players are not in the field such as: Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Bubba Watson and last week’s winner, Patrick Reed, just to name a few. A lot of younger players will be in the field so this is a great chance to see who will emerge this season as the youth movement in professional golf is a theme that we will continue to hammer away at throughout 2015.

I like to start at the top with my picks and our first pick was right in line to take home a title last week before a late final round meltdown undid what had been a tremendous tournament for Jimmy Walker. Walker seemed to be in a zone in the final round drilling 5 birdies on the first 10 holes. However, things took a turn on the 14th when he bogeyed the hole and couldn’t regain his form the last 4 holes as Patrick Reed made an incredible charge to force a playoff where he overtook Walker with a birdie. Walker won here last year and has a couple of Top 10 finishes to his credit. He’s playing very well right now and what is even better is that he is consistent. He has yet to miss the cut this season and only missed 4 out of 27 last year. He also had ten Top 10 finishes last year so he is constantly in the hunt to win many of the tournaments he enters. Although he is not the most accurate player off the tee, he hits it long and tends to play very well with his irons and is one of the better putters on the tour where he led all players in birdies and was 5th in the birdie or better conversion category. If he can shake off the playoff loss to Reed from Monday night and regain his form, Walker should be in contention again this week.

Matt Kuchar proved to be a bit of a disappointment for us last week. We won’t hold that against him however and in fact, this can actually work to our advantage in having him on our squad this week. As we discussed in a previous column on recency bias, after a player over or underperforms in an event, ownership of said player tends to rise or fall by a fair amount. Now, in this situation, being that it was a small field with no cut, it likely will not hurt his stock as much as say missing the cut at The Masters, however, it is something to be aware of throughout the season when building your squads. The draw for us to Kuchar is clear; he plays extremely well on this course year after year racking up three Top 10 finishes in his last three starts. He is another player who simply does not miss the cut, making all three for the current season and 22 of 24 last year. He will not ever lead the tour in length of drive, but will be rewarded this week for his accuracy. If he can pick it up on the greens this week, where he normally putts very well, Kuchar should find his way back to the Top 10 this week.

Chris Kirk appeared to be asleep during the first three rounds of the Hyundai TOC last weekend and found himself at the bottom of the leaderboard with one round left to play. However, he roared to life on Monday shooting -11 for a score of 62, which tied the course record. We love to see a player finish strong over the weekend heading into the next tournament. That extra bit of confidence generated from a great last round often leads to a strong start in the next tournament. Kirk is another player that rarely misses the cut (a common theme for building a lineup) and is coming off of a great 2014 season where he finished 2nd in the FedEx Cup standings. Kirk plays this course well and has two consecutive Top 10 finishes. He has been in the Top 40 in all four starts here.

Charles Howell III is an easy recommendation for this tournament. Take that with a grain of salt. His history at the Sony Open is very good with five Top 10 finishes in his last six starts there. He will be widely owned due to his reasonable price and history at the tournament. If you are going to play only one roster, he should be a safe play, but bear in mind that a strong performance from a player owned by a large percentage of the field should be viewed purely as a defensive play as this will not help you to gain much separation from others. I don’t say this to take a shot at Howell, however, the last time we liked him this much due to past tournament success, he burned us badly at the OHL Classic by missing the cut. He was owned by over 30% of fantasy owners that weekend. With all of that said, I will take the bait and you will see Howell in a lineup or two of mine this week. Should he miss the cut, you will see a Twitter rant for the ages.

Our next pick is the Aussie, Mark Leishman. Near the end of last year, it looked like Leishman would be a contender for the FedEx cup with three Top 10 finishes in four events. However, over the last month, he faded badly and as a result, by the time the fall events rolled around, his price for daily fantasy tournaments had taken such a beating that it was nearly impossible to keep him off our roster. Sure enough, he bounced back to finish 9th at the WGC-HSBC and then followed that up with an 11th place finish at The Australian Open. We aren’t getting much of a break on price this week compared to where the oddsmakers have him versus the rest of the field, but we feel good giving him the nod here as he has two consecutive Top 10 finishes and in five starts has never placed below 27th.

Russell Henley is a player that you will be hearing a lot about as the season moves forward. Coming off of a brilliant final round last weekend at the Tournament of Champions where he nearly forced his way into a playoff, Henley will look to build on his success in a tournament that he won just two years ago…in his first start. The 25 year old can be a bit up and down with his play as exhibited by the fact that he made the cut in just 17 of 29 starts last year, but when he’s in the mix, he’s a threat to win. He already has two top 5 finishes this season is just three starts and should be able to carry that momentum into this week. He has been one of the better putters over the last several years and particularly so this season which is the biggest reason to believe that he will play well this week.

By now, I am sure you are shaking your head a bit and thinking, okay, that’s nice, you have just recommended a lot of moderate to high priced players and there is no chance that a team can be built off of that. We feel your pain. That is why we do our best to dig a little deeper in order to find those players that are affordable, but also not just a fence post in the middle of your lineup. We want all of the players that we recommend to be contributors and we have found a few names that should pique your interest.

Spencer Levin will not only provide you with some much needed salary cap help this week, but there is a very good chance that he could be in the mix for a Top 25 finish. He has been in the Top 35 in his last four starts at the Sony Open and played solid golf through the early fall season taking 10th at Shriners and 21st at the Open. This pick is not without risk as Levin stumbled badly down the stretch last season missing 10 of 12 cuts before heading back to the Tour where his struggles continued. He seems to have collected himself well again and with his previous success at Waialae, we anticipate that fantasy golf players can get some deep value here.

Hudson Swafford is not a rich hedge fund trader sailing his yacht to Bermuda, even if his name would seem to indicate that level of wealth. Rather, he’s a young golfer looking to elevate his game to the next level this season. With 3 consecutive Top 20 finishes in the fall portion of the season, he’s on track to do just that. Also on the positive side is that in his first start at Waialae, he finished tied for 8th place and shot his best round of the year at 64. Swafford is also a bit undervalued in relation to his price versus the odds that the sportbooks are laying on him for this tournament. Be sure to take advantage of any pricing discrepancies out there as you can add some much needed value to your lineup by checking how the professionals of Vegas view the field versus what the folks at Draft Kings think. I’ll give you a hint, they didn’t build those hulking monstrosities on the Las Vegas Strip by being all that far off of the odds that they lay in each sportsbook.

John Peterson is another name that probably doesn’t resonate with more than a few golf fans out there. The young, 25 year-old, LSU product had a rough year in his first full year on the tour last year, making the cut in only 7 of 25 events….ouch. This is not atypical for players making the transition and Peterson suffered his share of bumps and bruises along the way. However, he has seemed to gain his footing and played very solid, consistent golf in the fall making the cut in all 5 events that he entered along with two Top 25 finishes. Of the 7 cuts that Peterson made last year, he managed a 20th place finish at Waialae which is very encouraging. Peterson is the type of name that will widely be glossed over this week by most players and is a great sleeper play to sneak onto a roster when nobody else is paying attention. I also checked out his Twitter feed for the week and see that he is a fantasy sports enthusiast so I know that he will not let us down!

Best of luck to all of our readers out there this week and please let us know how your results are going using our site.

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 14, 2015 16:37

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