Course: Waialae Golf Course
Yardage: 7,044 – Par 70
Purse: $6.2 M
Field: 139 players
Recent Sony Open Champions
Dustin Johnson went out and balled as if he was playing a bunch of amateurs on his home course. DJ put up a weekend score of 15 under and a total score of 24 under par, winning out by eight shots and never looked back once he gained the lead on Saturday. He left the golf world with little to talk about other than the fact that the world’s #1 player isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Oh, and he hit a 433-yard drive that was about three-quarters of a roll shy of an ace on a par 4.
For the first full-field event of 2018, the Tour will make one more stop in Hawaii for the Sony Open at Waialae Golf Club. Set in Honolulu, Waialae has been home to a Tour stop since 1965 when it hosted the Hawaiian Open. Measuring out to 7,044 yards and playing at Par 70, Waialae is one of the easiest courses for Tour players year in and year out. The last five winners have averaged 22.2 shots under par. The fairways are among the most difficult to hit on Tour, however, the rough provides little to no punishment making the greens some of the easiest to hit. The course is home to Bermuda greens that can get very soft and allows golfers to take dead aim at sticks. Justin Thomas proved how low you can go by shooting a 59 here last year.
Speaking of Justin Thomas, he’ll be at Waialae to defend his crown. In the field looking to dethrone Thomas at the high-priced end we have Jordan Spieth, Marc Leishman, Brian Harman, Kevin Kisner, Zach Johnson, Webb Simpson, Russell Henley, Cameron Smith, Tony Finau, Daniel Berger, Xander Schauffele, and Si Woo Kim among others. This year’s Sony Open has a much deeper field than in recent years. In the lower-priced tiers, there are some legitimate players such as Emiliano Grillo, Gary Woodland, James Hahn, JJ Spaun, Peter Uihlein, Keegan Bradley, Kyle Stanley and Jason Dufner.
Waialae’s greens are very easy to hit, so it’s just a matter of who can really knock ‘em close or get hot on the greens. Strokes gained: approach has been key to victory over the years at Waialae. With 12 par 4s, and all of the Par 3s ranging from 165-200 yards, approach proximity 150-175 yards, and approach proximity 175-200 yards should come into play on at least half of all approach shots this week. On a course where everyone can hit 80 percent of the greens strokes gained: putting will be the great separator, and more specifically, Bermuda specialists. Some players will putt better relative to their regular putting stats when they are on Bermuda greens, those players hold a good amount of value this week.
Strokes Gained: Approach
Approach Prox. 150-175 yards
Approach Prox. 175-200 yards
Strokes Gained: Putting
DFS Golf Picks
Jordan Spieth ($12,000) – Among the top tier players, Justin Thomas is the only other player with as high a ceiling. Spieth had an unusually bad week with the putter, ranking 30th in a 34-player field. He still managed to finish inside the Top 10 as a result of some great iron-play all week, leading the field in greens hit. Spieth is arguably the best putter in the world when his putter is right. So, if his irons are as good as they were last week, any sort of regression to the mean with the flat stick will put him right back where he wants to be.
Tony Finau ($8,900) – Will this be the year Tony Finau finally breaks out? He’s broken out already as a respected player on Tour. But DFS players and golf fans alike are waiting for this guy to become a true major contender. Since the 2017-18 season began, Finau ranks sixth on tour in SG: Approach and he ranks well above average in proximity on shots ranging 175-200 yards. Finau looks ready to make a Tour Championship run as he adds consistency to his game. In four events this season, he already has a runner-up finish and no finish worse than 26th.
Chez Reavie ($8,000) – Chez Reavie has become Mr. Consistency over the last few months on Tour. With six straight Top 25 finishes and 16 straight cuts made, and some good recent history at Waialae, Reavie is a great value this week. Reavie has made the weekend at Waialae three straight times coming into this week including a T-8 last year. He’s been terrific on his approaches this season ranking seventh in SG: Approach-the-green, and 20th in proximity from 175-200 yards. He doesn’t give those shots back on the greens either, gaining nearly a half shot on the field per round with the flat stick.
Keegan Bradley ($7,400) – Keegan Bradley’s ranks in the key statistics for this tournament are a sight to behold. He’s first in approach shots from 150-175 yards this season averaging 13’4”, an entire two feet better than second place (Peter Uihlein). He ranks third in proximity from 175-200 yards and fourth in strokes gained on approach shots. And then there’s his putting. Yeah, about that Keegan… 224th in putting losing nearly 2.5 shots per round?! (224th is second-worst on Tour; somehow Danny Lee loses 3.5 shots per round this season..YIKES!) So, Bradley is absolutely dialing in his irons this year, and then three-putting six times per round I presume. OK. So, Keegan Bradley was never known to be a great putter, but he finished around the middle of the pack in strokes gained: putting in 2015 and 2017. Perhaps the Bermuda greens will set him straight. Just about any change will result in an improvement over 2.5 shots lost per round on the greens.
Luke Donald ($7,000) – I am aware that this isn’t the RBC Heritage, but I like this course for Luke Donald. Length isn’t a big issue at Waialae and Donald plays better on Bermuda greens. Donald is still the great putter that he’s always been ranking 18th in strokes gained: putting, and Top 30 in the field in strokes gained: approach. He’s also settled inside the Top 50 in proximity from 175-200, a distance he should find himself at all week long.
Harold Varner III – HV3 has been very consistent lately making all six cuts in his last six worldwide events including a sixth-place finish at the Australian PGA Championship. To afford Jordan Spieth you have to pick someone down towards the bottom and Varner is my guy this week. He’s playing well as of late and ranks within the Top 40 in the field in strokes gained: putting and approach proximity 175-200 yards. Varner has a reasonable shot at cracking the Top 25 this week.