The Daily Spin – The American Express

Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 19, 2022 07:05

The Daily Spin – The American Express

Recap

The Sony Open got us off and running on the right foot to open the season for me in cash games. The Sony Open is always one of my favorite stops on tour for the PGA and an event where I feel like we have always been really profitable both in cash games as well as GPP contests. There are certain events each season that I have an affinity for outside of the majors and this is one. The same course is in play each year. We have a similar group of golfers that make the trip each season to the course so that course history is very useful. The course is designed in a way so that you can easily analyze the type of player that will be successful there from year to year. We were also fortunate this year in that weather was a total non-factor so we did not need to worry about winds kicking up during a round or two to throw a wrench into the mix.

The finish on Sunday was incredible. Hideki Matsuyama made one of the all-time great golf shots on the playoff hole to pull out an improbable, come from behind win after being down 5 shots going to the back nine. What made Hideki’s play so astounding was that it was not just his tee to green game that helped him, but an incredible run of putting throughout the entire tournament. Hideki led the field in Strokes Gained Putting for the tournament and was on the plus side in that category gaining strokes with his putter in all four rounds. We always talk about how dangerous he could be on tour if he could even be average with his putter, but if he can find a way to putt like he did last week throughout the season he could be in for a career season on tour that now includes two wins already.

As for Russell Henley, he has to be feeling beside himself this week. He had a two shot lead going into the final round, shot a -5, 65 and lost in a playoff. He made two mistakes on the back nine and that was all it took for Hideki to close the gap to force a playoff. Henley has been really good over the last two seasons, but he’s now in a spot where the questions about his ability to close out tournaments will only grow louder so I will be watching him closely moving forward to see if he can shake this finish off or if it dogs him for an extended period of time.

For my cash game team last week, it was excellent to start the year off with a 6/6 team that was never in trouble over the weekend. Though I feel great about the team I put together, it very nearly could have gone south for me as I really debated a 2v2 decision and ended up on the right side by a huge number of points.

At the top, I considered going with Webb Simpson given his play at Waialae and his overall course fit, but ultimately decided that the field was just too strong in the middle to sacrifice the extra funds. I like paying up when I feel like the options are really narrow in the $7-9k range. When that happens, I am taking the approach that I am likely to lose at least a player or two to the cut line, but that I can potentially offset that with a big performance from a top player. However, at the Sony Open, that is an event where the biggest names in the field do not dominate play so I tend to be comfortable with a more balanced approach where I want to have extra chances for players in the middle range to step up with a solid performance.

I ended up starting my lineup with the almost always reliable Corey Conners who once again delivered for me with an 11th place finish. He provided considerable savings over Webb and I figured his performance would not likely be much worse even if Webb were on his game. As it turned out, Webb significantly underperformed last week so the pivot started me off well ahead of a good portion of the field.

From there, I dropped down to Billy Horschel at $8,700. His game is really a great fit for Waialae so he gave us a player with cut making ability that also had some upside potential if he got hot as he’s done a couple of times over the last year. He played well for the week and only shot one round that was a little below average on Saturday, finishing 36th. Though I would have loved a Top-20 finish, this was about what I projected for him in terms of a finish.

At $8,500, I really felt like Russell Henley was a steal last week. He is coming off of a really good season and was on a course where his game translated well. He has had some surprise missed cuts over the years, but he’s also been on the cusp of winning as well. I am fortunate that I ended up with Henley on my roster as using Webb up top would have forced my hand on Henley and would have dropped me down to Joel Dahman who ended up missing the cut. I was that close to going from an easy win to not even being close to the money. Fortunately, my instincts were correct on Henley who was also massive chalk in cash games.

I will continue to play CHIII at Waialae until it finally hurts me in the years ahead. He started off a little slowly, but shot a 63 on Friday and finished up well on Sunday with a 66 for a 36th place finish. It was a little lower than his average finish here over the years, but still a successful trip considering his $8k salary for the week. I was looking for any made cut so finishing in the Top-40 was just fine for CHIII. It will be interesting to see if he can keep this going during the early portion of the season as this is the time of year when he usually plays his best golf.

Christian Bezuidenhout (CBez) seemed like a bargain at $7,800 and his game looked like a nice fit for Waialae and sure enough, it worked out well. CBez has taken over the crown of cash game placeholder for me over the last year as he finds a way to make it to the weekend over and over. This time, he even gave us a little extra upside in recording a 17th place finish. His tee to green game and in particular, his iron play continues to be really sharp. If he can keep that going and his short game stays on par with where it was last season, he might turn some of these made cuts into better finishes.

Finally, I finished up my team with Denny McCarthy. He entered the week with a little momentum from the fall, but I thought he might end up being the weakest link after an atrocious putting performance in the first round that had me shaking my head as he is a bermuda specialist. It felt like another Carlos Ortiz type of moment from last year (poa specialist who crumbled at Torrey Pines). Fortunately, he got red hot on the front nine on Friday shooting -6 and then parring the back nine to eke into the weekend on the line. He did not do a lot over the weekend and finished 48th, but at $7,400 he more than earned his keep. I always get a little nervous about players like this coming back after a break as it is the perfect time for a letdown, but he made it through and completed my 6/6 team for the week.

It will not always be this easy and in fact, I never expect there to be more than a handful of 6/6 efforts all season, but it gets us off to a great start for 2022. This is the part of the season that I probably enjoy the most with the Hawaii events, the Farmers, Waste Management and Genesis all being highlight for me. These are all really great courses with solid fields that I very much enjoy watching during the first two months of the year. With the overlap of the NFL playoffs going on, it is maybe my favorite time of year for sports and one of the things that helps me to get through these brutal and cold winter months. Speaking of which, I will be out at Torrey Pines next week with Stat Boy for at least three rounds of the Farmers Insurance Open (Wednesday – Friday). If any of you are out there or want to grab a drink with us, shoot me an e-mail or a DM in Slack and we will line it up!

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Zachary Turcotte
By Zachary Turcotte January 19, 2022 07:05

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