Sony Open – Honolulu
Waialae Country Club (7,044 yards, par 70)
$1,116,000 and 500 FedEx Cup points to the winner
Hopping islands to complete the "Hawaii Double," Waialae Country Club will again host the Sony Open for a 53rd consecutive time. The lasting tradition has only been topped chronologically by four other venues, making it a special week in paradise for all in the field. Twenty of last week’s Sentry TOC participants are hopping on a short plane ride to Waialae Country Club. Despite the short trip from Kapalua, the course very much contrasts last week’s Plantation course in that it’s quite flat and a bit tighter off the tee. At just 7,044 yards, the short course has two very reachable par-5s and many score-friendly holes. Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, and four others from the world’s top 30 headline a field that should make plenty of birdies and provide plenty of riveting golf action in paradise.
Recent Past Champions
2017 – Justin Thomas
2016 – Fabian Gomez
2015 – Jimmy Walker
2014 – Jimmy Walker
2013 – Russell Henley
2012 – Johnson Wagner
2011 – Mark Wilson
2010 – Ryan Palmer
2009 – Zach Johnson
2008 – K.J. Choi
Key Stats to Winning at Waialae CC
• Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green
• Greens in Regulation percentage
• Putting inside 10 feet
• Par Breakers
Traditionally, driving accuracy has been crucial for success, but dry weather changes the profile for a second straight year. Last year’s dry spell resulted in sparse rough, which allowed Justin Thomas to run away with victory despite finishing 66th in driving accuracy (he was 1st in SG: Tee-to-Green). Given the similar conditions a year later, players – much like last year – can get away with missing more fairways so long as they are in position to hit the green in regulation. Weather should be perfect with low wind, so the short venue should yield plenty of greens in regulation and birdies as a result. Given the flat greens, it’s not unusual for the winner at Waialae to make around 95 percent of their putts inside 10 feet while also holing some longer putt. However, the real key to success lies in consistent tee-to-green play. Simply put, the winner will likely be an experienced player with elite ball-striking who rolls in a few more putts than normal due to the easy conditions and putting surfaces.
FanDuel Value Picks
Jordan Spieth, $12,800 – Spieth finished third at Waialae last year after a three-year hiatus from the event, so expect high caliber play from the superstar youngster. Spieth should have no problem making oodles of birdies if he can hit it reasonably off the tee box.
Justin Thomas, $12,600 – A puzzling week at Kapalua last week left Thomas backers dazed and confused, but Thomas’ strong 67 to finish should give him momentum as he looks to defend last year’s title again this week. Fantasy-wise, this is a great time to regain trust in Thomas in a bounceback week.
Marc Leishman, $11,400 – Leishman proved his worth last season with two wins in strong fields, and sneakily is seventh in par-breakers this season, making birdie or better 28% of the time. After three great rounds last week in route to a seventh-place finish, Leishman is primed for success on a course where he’s a perfect 8-for-8 in made cuts.
Brian Harman, $11,300 – Despite a huge increase in salary compared to last week, Harman still shakes out as a good value on a course tailor made for his game. Harman has finished no worse than T20 in the past three years, so expect the lefty precision player to convert plenty of birdies and continue his good form.
Longer Shots Worth a Risk
Gary Woodland, $10,200 – Not typically who you’d think of at a venue like Waialae, Woodland has finished 6th, 13th and third his past three trips. Woodland’s elite tee-to-green game is a huge asset at this venue, all he needs to do is putt a little better than normal to post a great finish. Given his ranking of 16th in Strokes Gained: Putting in the early going this year, he’s a good bet to be in the mix Sunday afternoon.
Russell Henley, $9,800 – Henley out-birdied Tim Clark for his first PGA Tour win at Waialae back in 2013, and since has notched a couple more top-17s, proving his win wasn’t a fluke. Henley is a strong fit for this venue given his strong balance of distance and accuracy off the tee combined with solid putting.
Cameron Smith, $9,300 – Smith started off with a trying 75 last week but reined it in the last three rounds as he climbed back into 17th. Dating back to the BMW Championship last season, Smith has put together four straight top-17 finishes and this week should offer him another chance to keep the good play going.
Chris Kirk, $8,700 – Kirk posted a convincing fourth place at the RSM Classic in his last PGA Tour start, where he shot rounds of 63 and 64 in the first and third rounds. Though his consistency has been a bit sporadic, Kirk should feel comfortable on a track where he’s two top-5s and 5-of-7 cuts since 2011.
Strategy Tips for this week (based on 60k standard salary cap)
With FanDuel’s new six-player lineups this year (instead of eight), it’s more important than ever to make careful selections to ensure at least five of your guys make the cut. Hone your research on high-ranking SG: Tee-to-Green players who can make plenty of birdies to give yourself a good chance for success.