Fantasy Golf Tournament Preview- Sony Open in Hawaii

Jeff Bergerson
By Jeff Bergerson January 11, 2016 21:41

We are off to a roaring start this year and have set the bar really high for the rest of 2016. All of the Top 5 finishers in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions were among our recommendations last week. Of course our top stud pick Jordan Spieth absolutely dominated from start to finish and recorded a -30, eight shot victory. Our second stud pick Patrick Reed continued his hot play with a runner-up finish and we will continue to ride his hot streak as long as it goes. Brandt Snedeker also made us look good by shaking off some really bad current form and finished T3 and ranking as the best value in the field last week on Draftkings ($61/point). Brooks Koepka was another success finishing T3 with Snedeker. Rickie Fowler, Jimmy Walker, and Emiliano Grillo also performed well for Team FGI. Last but certainly not least, the player that I have heard from tons of our members about fueled most winning GPP lineups was Peter Malnati. Priced at $6,900 Malnati played extremely well finishing T6 and amassing a really big 108.5 points on Draftkings. Overall a very solid week and congrats to everybody who had success. Remember, it is a long season so if you did not have a winning week, do not worry. If you did have a winning week, great, but stay disciplined with your bankroll management and game selection. Keep working hard (we certainly will) and good things will continue to happen.

One interesting item we found was with the ownership percentages in GPPs last week. The top five priced players were lower owned than we expected even in the lower dollar events, which is unusual. Jordan Spieth was only owned by 18% in the $3 GPP on Draftings while Jason Day was owned by 12%, Dustin Johnson 20%, Bubba Watson 22%, and Rickie Fowler 19%. I believe one of the reasons this happened was because of the options that were left when you put one of these guys on your roster. Rostering Spieth meant you had to dive down into the sub $7,000 range for a couple of players and most people did not recognize or like the options down there. The other reason that I believe accounted for the lack of ownership at the top was because it was such a small field event. In weeks with a full-field, the amount of options to go along with the big names are much greater than just a handful of players. One other thing to consider is it is a new season and there are most likely a lot of players who are new to DFS Golf and we might have to make adjustments. Let’s wait and see what the next couple of full-field events bring and then we can decide whether this is something we need to account for or if the lack of ownership at the top was simply a byproduct of the event.

This week, the second leg of the Hawaii swing takes us to Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, Hawaii. The course is a Par 70 and checks in at a total distance of 7,044 yards, which is a little below average of all courses on the PGA schedule this season. For the first time this calendar year we have a full-field cut event, which will allow us to capitalize on our edge over the inexperience DFS Golf player. If you missed it, be sure to check out my cash game strategy that I highlighted in last week’s preview column. I would encourage you to implement that same cash game strategy that I have been profitable with over the past two years.  Last year Jimmy Walker ran away and hid from the field with a 9 stroke margin over nearest competitor and runner-up Scott Piercy. This was Walker’s second victory in a row at Waialae and his third Top 5 in the last five years.

This weekend we like those players who played in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions last weekend. One reason is those guys have been in Hawaii and become adjusted, comfortable and we know that they have gotten back into the swing of competitive action. For most of the guys in the field, this is their first event back after the long layoff. There is no doubt they have been playing and practicing, but competitive action cannot be replicated. The results back up our theory as 11 winners of the Sony open have done it after playing in Kapalua in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions the previous weekend in the last 16 years.

There are a lot of new people playing DFS Golf now with football winding down. Most of these people were not paying attention to golf in the fall and have not heard of a lot of high quality golfers that we know can out-produce their price in DFS. I have included many of these type players in my recommendations below. There are also many players who play primarily on the Asian tour in the field this week. I have listed each of these players and how they have done in their last handful of worldwide events. There are several that are worth consideration for GPPs and that will be owned by a very few number of people.

Statistically there are several key items to account for this week in Honolulu. First of all, Par 4 scoring is a must. Players need to rack up birdies on the Par 4s if they want to keep pace. Thus we are going to place importance on Par 4 scoring and Par 4 Birdies or Better %. In addition, despite the fact that there are only two Par 5s it is essential that players birdie them. Those who have had success here have capitalized on every Par 5 over the course of the tournament. One interesting item to note is that all four Par 3 holes measure between 175-203 yards (No. 4, 203; No. 7, 167; No. 11, 196; No. 17, 189). Luckily for us there is actually a statistic called Par 3 efficiency between 175-200 yards and it would make a great deal of sense to look at who ranks well in that category. Hitting greens is usually a key to having success, but a greater bit of weight needs to be placed on greens in regulation than other weeks. Strokes Gained Tee-to-green remains as our staple for most important statistic to analyze week in and week out. If you have not read our two part articles called what Do statistics really matter in Fantasy Golf, I would encourage you to do so and you will see why we place so much emphasis on SGT2G.

The leaderboard at Waialae tends to showcase many of the same names every year. For that reason a great deal of emphasis needs to be placed on tournament history this week. Be sure to check out our Tournament History page to find how every golfer has done over the past eight years in the Sony Open.

Be sure to use all of our excellent tools including our tournament history page, current form rankings, sportsbook odds vs daily pricing, and ownership prediction tool. All of these will help save you time with your research and guide you in selecting the optimal players each week. We have heard from many of you requesting access to our sweet Fantasy Golf Insider gear, well we listened and have now made it available in our Online Store. Be sure to grab it up and wear it when you are sweating the cut-line or a big time GPP win, it will bring you good karma!

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As a final reminder, we are back to a cut event and we need to adjust accordingly. For cash games, getting the most guys through the cut as possible is the name of the game, even at the expense of potential upside. A balanced approach looks to be the correct play this week as you have cut-makers littered throughout the middle pricing tier on Draftkings.


Top Stud Picks:


Jimmy Walker- I am a bit torn this week on Jimmy Walker. He is the two-time defending champion and also finished 4th in 2011. As we predicted last week his ownerhip was through the roof in all contests including 38% owned in the $3 GPP on Draftkings and an incredible 60% owned in the $300 GPP. We expect his ownership to be on the higher side again this week, which puts us in a quandary of whether to own him despite that fact or intentionally fade him. Overall last week he did not look spectacular outside of an incredible Saturday round. I believe a fade of him overall is probably the prudent play since he is the highest priced player this week. He would need to finish in the Top 3 to pay off his price, which isn’t out of the realm of possibilities, but it is very difficult. If you want to own him in a few GPP lineups, no problem, but I would fade him. (Mostly GPP)

Kevin Kisner- I may just recommend Kisner every single tournament he plays this year. Ignore his tournament history because he is a much different player now than ever before in his career. He is currently the Fedex Cup points leader as he had a fantastic fall with a T25 at Shriners, T37 at CIMB, 2nd at WGC HSBC, and 1st at RSM Classic. Another bonus is he played last week in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and he played really well finishing 9th. In GPPs Kisner is a great play because he is rarely heavily owned. Last week Kisner was owned by 21% of the field in the Draftkings $3 GPP and 25% in the $300 event. (Mostly GPP)

Kevin Na- My hope is that most people forget just how great Na played for much of last year and the fall season. Just a few months ago Na had a 2nd at, T2 at Shriners, and T3 at CIMB in a row. He then had an unimpressive performance at the WGC HSBC with a 57th. Although inconsistent, Na has had success in the Sony Open before. A 64th last year, 8th in 2014, MC in 2013 and 2012, 20th in 2011, 52nd in 2010, 5th in 2009, and 4th in 2008. Waialea is such a great course fit for Na as it is not a long course as he is a great tee-to-green guy, but also scrambles well and scores on Par 4s and is a good birdie or better player. I tend to utilize Na for cash game purposes since he is usually quite consistent. (Mostly Cash games, but can be used in GPPs as well)

Matt Kuchar- In his past four appearances here Kuchar has a 3rd, 8th, 5th, and 5th place finish. Those are tough results to ignore. His form in the fall was below our normal expectations for Kuchar as he had a 14th at the Hero Challenge (out of 18 players), T25 at The RSM Classic, and T68 at OHL Mayakoba. He did have a win at the Fiji International if that matters at all. This is an excellent spot to utilize Kuchar in one-and done leagues (along with RBC Heritage). His price in DFS is quite steep at $11,500 on Draftkings. Kuchar is a great Par 4 and 5 scoring guy ranking 10th and 4th respectively in 2015. He is going to be hungry this season after a disappointing 2015 and this is the perfect venue to kick off his season. (GPP and Cash Games)


Top Value Picks:


Daniel Berger- Girlfriend is in school, we are on-board. All kidding aside, Berger showed his raw talent in the Fedex Cup playoffs in September with a T12 at Deutsche Bank, 2nd at BMW, and T12 at the Tour Championship. He continued playing well this fall with a T17 at, T64 at CIMB, and T11 at WGC HSBC. He is a great DFS guy because of his ability to record birdies. Last year Berger finished 13th here at Waialae. No problem for Berger recording birdies on the Par 5s this week, plus he ranks well in strokes gained tee-to-green, greens in regulation, and Par 4 scoring. His price of $9,600 reasonable and despite the fact that I would consider him among the top tier players this week, he is not priced that way. (GPP and Cash Games)

Harris English- It is safe to say English likes Waialea as he is working off of a 3rd here last year, 4th in 2014, and 9th in 2013. He has only missed one cut in his last 17 events played, which makes him a very strong cash game play. In the fall he finished T43 at the CIMB, T23 at WGC HSBC, MC at OHL at Mayakoba, and T25 at the RSM Classic. Most of the time English is just a good cash game play because he rarely contends in tournaments, but this tournament has proven to be different as he has demonstrated more upside. (GPP and Cash Games)

Charles Howell III- This stands out as a ridiculously good play this week for multiple reasons. First CHIII’s tournament history is really second to none taking eight Top 10s in fourteen appearances here. Last year he took 26th, 2014-8th, 2013-3rd, 2012-2nd, 2011- 68th, 2010-5th, and 2009-4th. His current form is outstanding as well having an excellent fall season which included a T9 at RSM, T17 at OHL Classic, T10 at CIMB, 70th at Shriners, and T17 at Last season he ranked 38th in two of the most crucial stats this week-Strokes gained tee-to-green and greens in regulation. Plus he ranked 34th in approach shots between 175-200 yards. I feel like CHIII is a must in your cash game player core this week. (Cash Games and GPPs)

Patton Kizzzire- Here is your GPP special of the week. Inconsistent yet dynamic, Kizzire showed signs of brilliance this fall taking T2 at Shriners and T4 at Sanderson Farms. He also had a couple of clunkers at the OHL Classic where he finished T58 and a missed cut at The RSM Classic. He was the regular season winner on the Tour last season and finished T5 in the Tour Championship event. His $8,800 price is not cheap so I am guessing his ownership will not be real high. I think he is a bit too inconsistent for cash games, but could give you a huge performance and lead one of your GPPs to a victory. (GPP only)

Will Wilcox- I highlighted Wilcox in my Crystal Ball for 2016 article and believe he will have a really nice season this year. He only has one appearance here, which was two years ago and he finished 8th. This fall he looked very good for the most part finishing T10 at, T17 at OHL Mayakoba, MC at Shriners, and T7 at Dunlop Phoenix on the Asian Tour. He also withdrew from a rain delay riddled Sanderson Farm event, so we will disregard that one. Wilcox is one of those guys that are extremely valuable in DFS Golf because of his propensity to birdie holes and rack up the DFS points. He is also a statistical monster as last year he finished 2nd in Par 3 scoring, 3rd in Par 4 scoring, 17th in birdie or better %, 20th in strokes gained tee-to-green, 32nd in strokes gained putting, and 4th in greens in regulation. He is a bit volatile and does miss some cuts (made 12 of 17 in 2015), but can also has a ton of upside (4 Top 10s). Sounds like the definition of a good GPP, right? (Mostly GPPs but no problem in cash games as well)

Francesco Molinari- Now more of a regular participant on the PGA Tour, Molinari is the definition of a solid cash game player. Last year on tour he made 13 cuts out of 16 events played and he has not missed a cut in a very long time. His last four worldwide appearances are T4 at DP World Tour Championship, T17 at BMW Masters, T38 at British Masters, and T20 at Open D’Italia. Last year was his first appearance here and he finished 37th. Most likely he is not going to give you a Top 10, but as we preach, cash game success is based upon cut-making and Molinari is that guy. (Mostly Cash Games)


Top Sleeper Picks:


Spencer Levin- This past fall, Levin outproduced his salary in almost every tournament. He recorded a T48 at, T25 at Shriners, T17 at CIMB, and T10 at OHL at Mayakoba. His only real hiccup was at the RSM Classic where he missed the cut albeit it by only one stroke. Levin’s tournament history at Waialae has not been sparkling, so it will not capture the attention of most, but it has been solid. Last year he took 51st but before that he had a 29th in 2014, 23rd in 2012, 34th in 2011, and 25th in 2010. One interesting thing to note about Levin is that he has always smoked cigarettes. He was able to quit coming into the fall, which makes me wonder if that has been a factor in his improved results. He makes for a very strong cash game play this week as he has proven excellent in making cuts consistently in this event. (Cash Games and GPPs)

Zac Blair- His fall didn’t start real good with two missed cuts in his first two events, but after that he recorded a T43 at CIMB, T10 at OHL Mayakoba, and T33 at The RSM Classic. In his one appearance in this tournament he took T6 last year. He is not a guy I trust completely  in cash games, but a guy who will save you some salary as his Draftkings price is only $6,700. (GPP only)

Peter Malnati- Last week Malnati came up big for us as a sleeper pick finishing T6. I mentioned earlier, we like players who played in last week’s event and he certainly played well. He demonstrated consistency in the fall season making 4 of 5 cuts, but also showed upside with a T10 at OHL Mayakoba, and a win at Sanderson Farms. His ownership on Draftkings last week was 12% in the $3 GPP and 10% in the $300 GPP so he is a real nice kept secret. I would expect his ownership to be low again this week. (GPP and Cash Games)

Harold Varner III- A really talented kid who not too many people know about. Varner finished T2 at the Australian PGA Championship and also had a T5 at OHL Mayakoba, T68 at The RSM Classic, and T39 at Sanderson Farms. I do not have enough faith in him to include him in my cash game core of players, but I will include him on a few GPP rosters. (GPP only)

Steven Bowditch and Fabian Gomez- I was a bit surprised that both of their salaries were as low as they were this week especially coming off really nice efforts last week. Both have good form coming in and have made the cut in this event almost every year.  As salary cap savers, I believe the both will outproduce their price. (Mostly GPP, but acceptable in Cash Games)


Deep Sleeper:

Hideto Tanihara- We know his ownership will be almost non-existent and his price in DFS is dirt cheap at $6,200 on Draftking. The vast majority of his play takes place in Asia so nobody will know just how good his current form is. In his last seven events in Asia Tanihara has been in the Top 20 in all of them, in the Top 10 in five of them and won the Heiwa PGM Championship. Tanihara also has experience at the Sony Open as he has played here six times. Most recently he has an 8th place finish in 2014, 54th in 2013, and 39th in 2009. Now will I load up on Tanihara in my cash games? Of course not. I will however being using him on some GPP teams, which will allow me to load up on some great players and Tanihara has a chance to perform well himself. (GPP only)

A few other good cash game options include:

Tyrone Van Aswegen- Was 5 for 5 in cuts made in the fall season.
Chez Reavie- 4 for 4 in cuts made in the fall season.
Roberto Castro- 5 for 5 in cuts made in the fall season.

As always best of luck, let’s keep it rolling and always be sure to keep us updated so we can sweat any teams in contention along with you!

Asian Tour Players in the field-



Jeff Bergerson
By Jeff Bergerson January 11, 2016 21:41

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