The First Tee – Sony Open by Adam Daly

Fantasy Golf Insider Staff
By Fantasy Golf Insider Staff January 9, 2018 00:05

The First Tee – Sony Open by Adam Daly

After just an awful, awful first week of golf picks, it’s onwards and upwards for the first real event – a full-field cut event, the Sony Open.

THE COURSE

The Sony Open continues the Tour’s run in Hawaii, taking place at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. Waialae is a par-70 course that sits at 7,044 yards officially. It has four par-3s ranging between 176-204 yards, and two short par-5s (505 and 551 yards) that should be scoring holes but also offer lots of trouble off the tee. That means with 12 par-4s, par-4 scoring will be important, and the par-4s are all relatively short: there’s a driveable 351-yard hole, and the longest sits at only 480.

This course is yet another “birdie-fest”, with past winners ranging from -13 (Johnson Wagner in windy conditions in 2012) to Justin Thomas’ -27 last year with the cut typically coming in below par if conditions aren’t tough – even then, the cut number has been E in the lower-scoring years. Last year saw five rounds of 61 or better, including JT’s 59 and a BRYCE MOLDER 61, which is proof anyone can go low at this course. There were also 59 eagles made here last season, so the golfers that can pound the ball will have that slight advantage.

Off the tee, golfers will be faced with very narrow fairways – they typically are some of the hardest to hit on tour, which means the smart play is typically a long iron for the longer players – surrounded by spread out palm trees, but also with large out of bounds areas on some holes (9th and 15th). With a lot of doglegs from right to left, a lot of the holes on this course favour a cut, because the best possible landing spot is on the right to set up a clean approach shot in; however, the fatter parts of the fairway on the right also mean golfers hitting to that area typically have to contend with well-placed fairway bunkers as well. Drawing the ball is the more effective shot, but less likely to find the tight fairway, and the rough here is fairly tough to knock out of.

Play off the tee will be crucial for any success this week: for all top-10 finishers between 2012-2017, the median SG: OTT rank was 21 and four of the six winners in those years were ranked 6th or better off the tee. One stat that shows up a bit given the toughness of hitting fairways is Proximity to the Green from the rough, with four of the six past winners sitting 20th or better in that category – JT and Fabian Gomez were 2nd and 1st in their wins, Wagner and Henley were 12th and 20th, and Jimmy Walker was the aberration.

The greens here are Bermuda grass, of average size, and about as slow as last week at the Tournament of Champions. They’re firm, with undulation that will offer tricky reads, but are definitely manageable for golfers familiar with Bermuda or just good putters in general. For golfers that miss the greens, scrambling will be absolutely crucial to avoid crushing bogeys on a scoring course – especially given the sand and tough rough off the greens.

STATS

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • Off-the-Tee
  • Putting
  • Around the Green

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Par-4 Birdie or Better %
  • Approach 150-200 Yards
  • Scrambling %
  • Greens in Regulation %
  • Proximity to the Hole (Rough)

The Golfers

Jordan Spieth ($12000): This is quite a price to pay for a golfer who putt as poorly as he did last week, but Jordan Spieth rates the highest based on the relevant statistics:

  • 1st and 17th from 150-175 and 175-200 yards out, respectively
  • 4th in Proximity from the Rough
  • 2nd in Par-4 Birdie or Better / 1st in Par-4 Scoring
  • 2nd in SG: Tee to Green
  • 1st in SG: Approach

The question mark for Spieth, who’s had finishes of 3rd and MC in his only two attempts, will be if he can putt at a level closer to his typical skillset. That’s what held him back last week at the Tournament of Champions, and makes his price tag a touch daunting. All that being said, he’s a top tier ball-striker and will consistently be in good positions to make putts, and he had the best birdie average (4.49/round) last season which bodes well on a scoring course.

Also consider: Justin Thomas ($11600) – not much of a stretch to pick the two most expensive golfers on DraftKings, but last year’s champion also projects well here. Missing half his fairways last year, JT still managed to go insanely low while getting himself out of the rough, and led the field in eagles (along with Michael Thompson).

Values:

Jason Dufner ($7300): Duff Daddy missed the cut here last year after opening with a 65, but finished 9th in 2016 with some middling finishes the rest of the way (T29, 20th, 56th, MC). He was putting well last week at the Tournament of Champions, typically a poor start, but has changed his grip on the flat stick which could put him in play at a very strong price point. Dufner is excellent on approach (16th SG:APP, 34th from 175-200, 22nd from the rough) and his play on par-4s is a strong point: 13th in P4 BoB% compared to 47th P3BoB and 120th P5BoB. He can still pop in eagles, sitting 20th overall in that category / 31st in holes per eagle last season, and had the 34th-best overall Birdie or Better % last year, which bodes well on a scoring course. He’ll need to keep his putting up, but he’s an excellent value this week.

Other values: Aaron Baddeley ($6800) – known mostly for his putter, Baddeley has only played here once this decade (T34 in 2011) but struggles with his accuracy off the tee. At a course where most of the field will also struggle with accuracy, the Aussie will be able to show off his acumen at prox. from the rough (15th), putting (38th and 13th in one-putt % and 3-putt avoidance), and game around the green (18th in SG:ARG).

Jimmy Walker ($7200) – two-time champion here in the past five years, this price tag is a reflection of how Walker’s played since battling Lyme disease. He’s quoted as being “80-90%” physically, and is a very high-risk/high-reward play.

Good luck this week! You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey if you have any questions, and my DMs are always open.

Fantasy Golf Insider Staff
By Fantasy Golf Insider Staff January 9, 2018 00:05

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