2017 Sony Open at Waialae: Preview

sony-open-logo

Source: PGATour.com

Welcome to the 2017 PGA Tour! For those who also have not wrapped their heads around the wrap-a-round season for fantasy golf purposes, the season is officially getting underway! After a much needed hiatus, Tom and I are back and better than ever.

Waialae

Waialae Course History

Our new approach: provide daily and season-long fantasy golf analysis and strategy in a way that will not only be accessible to the casual fan, but in fact is catered to that level of commitment. Tom and I are not sharks — we are both in graduate school, and don’t have $200 to throw down every week in DFS, let alone $5,000. Thus we play the game from a different point of view than the shark gamer, who is looking for a 3-5% return on investment. We try to focus on smaller bets and having fun – novel concept, we know!

With that being said, Tom and I have both experienced our shares of fantasy success, but we each take a little different approach. I prefer to look at a small pool of relevant statistics, while Tom — who has been a fan of the sport since before fantasy was relevant — takes an analytical approach, based on his knowledge of players and courses. Together we try to give the most accurate predictions possible.

Picks of The Week

Jon:  Chris Kirk $7,700 –  is my pick of the week. Kirk struggled in 2016, notching only 3 top-10s all season. But look out 2017! Kirk already has 3 top-10s, including a 2nd place finish at the Sanderson Farms Championship back in October.  He ranks high in approaches from 100-125, which bodes well for Waialae – a shorter course. And oh yeah, Kirk knows how to finish at The Sony Open. He had top-10s in both 2013 and 2014.

Chris Kirk

Will Chris Kirk capture a victory in Hawaii this week? Source: PlayersWiki

Tom: Marc Leishman $8,200 – Granted, part of the reason Leishman is my pick of the week is that I expect a lower ownership with the underrated Aussie, there are also some fact and figures to consider. First and foremost, Leishman is a quiet cut-maker. Last year, although he only had 2 top-10 finishes, he also only missed 5 cuts. On top of that, he has yet to miss the cut at the Sony Open in 7 appearances, and like Jon’s Kirk pick, he strung together top-10s here in 2013 and 2014. Thursday will only be his third start this season, but he started off with a 5th place at the CIMB Classic, and a T24 in Mayakoba.

Thick Steak Plays

Jon:

Jimmy Walker $9,900 – It would seem that all Jimmy has done here is win. Hitting back to back wins in 2014 & 2015, Walker will look to get back on the Hawaiian throne. Walker looked like he was already in form last week at the Tournament of Champions, and still has the swagger of a major winner. Walker also scores high in putts made from 15-20 feet, which bodes well for these Hawaiian courses, where the pros can get close from short distances.

Hideki Matsuyama $11,000 – Hideki feels like he’s in prime position for a breakout performance this season. He’s won twice already in “the offseason” and finished second in the Tournament of Champions, as Justin Thomas was just able to hold him off. Possibly the most ridiculous stat for Hideki right now, is of the 20 rounds he’s played, 16 of them have been in the 60s. If you’re looking for a low round, Hideki is your guy.

Tom:

Jordan Spieth $11,500 – I’m just going to call it: this is one of the weeks you want to have Spieth in your lineups. A. He lead the field in birdies last week, and even if commentators love to talk about the blow up holes and (exhaustively) connect them back to 12 at the Masters, we all know he can easily navigate a tournament without a blow up hole. B. Spieth has to be charged up after his friend Justin Thomas followed up some early-week pranking with a win at the Tournament of Champions. And C. Being the highest-priced player and only costing $11,500 is not as bad as it could be, so you would be wise to choose him.

Gary Woodland $9,100 – Let me preface by saying that I’m also really high on Jon’s picks of Walker and Matsuyama. And I don’t think you’d be ill-advised to roll Justin Thomas out again this week; Thomas and Matsuyama are in a heated-battle for hottest golfer on Tour right now, and both are theoretically young enough to avoid burnout. But I’m here to talk about Woodland, who I love at 9.1K. In keeping with the theme started with Leishman, Woodland is a cut-maker. While he hasn’t won in the past three seasons, he’s made the cut in 80% of the tournaments he’s played. Woodland also has an intersting history with this course. After missing the cut in his first two attempts (2009 and 2011), he skipped the tournament for three-straight years, and then finished T3 in 2015 and T13 last year. Add to that, Woodland’s last finish was a runner-up in Mayakoba.

 

Middle of the Road

Jon:

Russell Knox $8,100 – Knox won twice in 2016, and rarely missed the cut. While he finished middle of the road at the SBS Tournament of Champions, Knox has been as consistent as anyone on the tour. Be weary as he has missed the cut a few times at Waialae, but his top-10 rankings in both total birdies and average birdies bodes well for the course. Consider Knox a boom or bust candidate best deployed in GPP formats.

Pat Perez $8,000 – I can’t even believe I’m saying that Perez is a player to watch this week, but there’s no denying that the  40-year-old is playing good, early-season golf. Maybe dressing like a hipster out of Seattle has revitalized his game, or maybe it’s made him feel so douchey that he feels like he has to get off the course as quick as he can. In any case Perez is playing well. Perez has notched multiple top-10s here, and they have recently came in years where he performed well at Mayakoba. Well guess what, Perez won at Mayakoba, and is coming off a top-3 finish at the Tournament of Champions, so look for him to contend again this week.

Tom:

William McGirt $7,900 – Jon stole my pick of Pat Perez, who was almost my pick of the week in fact (the only negative on him is that ownership is likely to be sky-high), but alas, more picks = more fun. When McGirt started 2017 right where he left off a breakthrough 2016 performance, I exclaimed to my partner in crime – who ironically has always been higher on McGirt than myself – that I would do myself a favor and put McGirt in at least one lineup every week. See, the irony comes from the fact that McGirt attended my alma mater: little old Wofford College, yet I have regularly faded him and paid the price. Well I’m sorry William, I will never doubt you again! But seriously, McGirt played incredible golf in 2016, and followed it up with a top-10 finish in his first Tournament of Champions. Let’s hope it’s not his last, and let’s hope he continues that good play at Wailae (where he finished T13 last year).

Harris English $7,500 – No long-winded essay about why you should pick Harris English. It’s simple: he’s an excellent golfer, you probably forgot that he’s an excellent golfer, but he certainly has not forgotten how much he loves Wailae. Aside from disappointing showings in his debut, and last season when he failed to break par on the weekend, English has cracked the top 10 every time. Oh, and those other two were still made cuts.

Here’s Your Flyer

Jon:

Cody Gribble $6,800 – What the what!? If you need a low end play to fill out your roster, I present to you Cody Gribble. Gribble played a few PGA events in 2015, after finishing T21 in the U.S. Open in 2014. Admittedly, he may have been out of his league. After a 2016 campaign on the Web.com tour that secured his spot on the PGA, Gribble seems a bit more ready for the limelight. The former Texas Longhorn (see also: Jordan Spieth) won his first event at the Sanderson Farms Championship, which earned him a spot at The SBS Tournament of Champions, where he finished T14. Gribble has his putter figured out on these Bermuda greens, and has the ability to go low, which is a must in Hawaii.

Tom:

Wesley Bryan $6,700 – I invite you to play a game: Pick your Rookie. It’s a favorite at the Sony Open, which used to be the debut for rookies on the PGA Tour, and was highlighted by Russell Henley shooting the tournament record (256/-24) in his rookie-debut, en route to winning in 2013. Jon offered you Cody Gribble, and I’m offering you Wesley Bryan, who just happened to putt the lights out while notching 3 wins and leading the Web.com tour in several categories last season. Bryan somehow translated internet fame from posting trick-shot golf videos with his brother into success on the actual pro circuit. He should be a fun player to watch, and a course like this is perfect for him to show off his tee-to-green and putting chops.

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