Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: Sony Open in Hawaii
After starting the year with a bombastic Tournament of Champions, which features freakshow driving numbers and eagles on 675-yard holes, the PGA Tour moves to a more strategic affair at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Waialae CC hosts, as it has for the past 56 years. In contrast to the wide-open bombers’ paradise at Kapalua, Waialae requires accuracy, finesse, and scrambling.
With the wind kicking up especially in the first two rounds, just three players ended the week double digits under par, with Cameron Smith birdieing the 72nd hole to reach 11-under par before watching Brendan Steele already at that number make par on the 533-yard par 5. Webb Simpson finished third at 10-under for his second top-5 finish at the event.
Waialae is a 7,044-yard par 70 with Bermuda grass tee to green, with narrow fairways and flat, wide-open layouts that contrast to the rolling hills of Kapalua and expose golfers to even more variance in windy conditions. In contrast to much of the PGA schedule, this a wide-open event that has seen its fair share of short hitters claim the trophy and lei. Waialae will not be brought to its knees by the bomb-and-gouge gang, especially if the wind picks up.
Last year’s edition was especially gusty, and the weather looks a bit calmer this time around, with Thursday the only day forecasted for double-digit winds at this writing.
Let’s dig into the course and see what stats we can use to build our daily fantasy lineups this week.
Course and Tournament Info
Course: Waialae CC
Distance: 7,044 yards
Those tougher conditions last year favored a grinder like Smith, who was most recently seen with a second top-five finish at Augusta National before a predictable slide at the TOC birdie-fest. But even in relatively calm conditions the year before it was Matt Kuchar cranking out a 22-under week, trailed closely by the likes of Andrew Putnam, Marc Leishman, and Chez Reavie. Even when the scoring is there, accuracy off the tee and controlled approaches are the names of the game at the Sony.
The Bermuda greens are slow in comparison to those seen in Florida and much of the Southwest, playing more like those dried out by the Texas winds at TPC San Antonio- AT&T Oaks (Valero Texas Open). Another Texas track (albeit one with different grass types) that mitigates some of the Tour’s distance boom and demands accuracy and precision is Colonial CC (Charles Schwab Challenge). Harbour Town GL (RBC Heritage) has seen its fair share of overlap in performance, and like Waialae has produced some surprising champions over the years owing to the unique nature of the challenge it presents relative to most of the cookie-cutter courses on Tour. A slight step down in field quality and some shared winners also bring to mind the RSM Classic, with its two Sea Island courses as decent comps even if we don’t have strokes gained data for the Plantation Course.
These stats will be key to success in the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae CC.
|Key Stats for the Sony Open at Waialae CC|
|Strokes Gained: Approach|
|Birdies or Better Gained|
|Strokes Gained: Par 4s|
This is one of the few events of the year that we can throw out the top drivers out of the gate, which is a good thing since very few of them even bother making the trip. Of the top 25 in driving distance on Tour last season, only Grayson Murray, Brandon Hagy, Jason Kokrak, Tyler McCumber, Jhonattan Vegas, Will Gordon, Cameron Davis, and Luke List are in the field this week.
We’ll be focusing on accuracy off the tee and on approach, but scoring will still be paramount. The 11-under number from last year seems unlikely to repeat with the current forecast, and before 2020 you’d have to go back to 2012 to find the last time the winner failed to crack at least 17-under par.
The par 3s and par 5s are pretty straightforward, with most of the field ale to easily tackle the two birdie opportunities and rarely lose ground on the 145-yard par 3 seventh. This event will be won on everything in between, and with no par 4s longer than 500 yards the game this week will be managing to score on holes that invite aggression but leave little room for error.
Course History Studs
Charles Howell is a staple in the field at Waialae. Since 2003, he has played every year and piled up 12 finishes inside the top 15. True to form for Howell’s career, his successful run in Hawaii has not resulted in a victory yet.
Simpson is another golfer often seen at the Sony, missing just two events since 2009. He has top-fives in his last two tries, in 2020 and 2018, and was 13th in three straight seasons prior to that.
Kevin Kisner has three top-fives over the past five years, including a T4 last season. Like Howell, he is not a frequent winner on Tour, but they share good form here and a common victory site at the RSM Classic.
Mike Rodden is not a FanDuel employee. In addition to providing DFS gameplay advice, Mike Rodden also participates in DFS contests on FanDuel using his personal account, username mike_rodden. While the strategies and player selections recommended in his articles are his personal views, he may deploy different strategies and player selections when entering contests with his personal account. The views expressed in his articles are the author’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the views of FanDuel.