Coop's Sony Open Preview
What a tournament by DJ last week as he showed why he is the number one golfer in the world. He played very well all four rounds and almost aced a par 4! Unfortunately if you were like me and faded DJ your net winnings were minimal. It’s difficult in a small field no cut tournament to place well without the winner. I had six of the top ten (Mats, Perez, Fowler, Spieth, Si Woo and Rahm) in my player pool last week. I was happy with my fade of JT, Steele, Xander and Cantlay. Unfortunately Cook, Murray and Stanley did not pay off for me as they didn’t make enough birdies. So now let’s move onto this week. Before moving on I just want everyone to know that I write the majority of my blogs before DK comes out with pricing. This week DK has priced up some players that I thought would be cheaper and I will mention which ones below. I still intend to play these players as there DK price has no affect on there performance.
This week we finish up our two week tour of Hawaii with the Sony Open. This is a large field tournament with 144 set to tee it up and the top 70 plus ties will move on to play round three and possibly round four. This is a MDF tournament, made cut but didn’t finish. You often hear people asking what is MDF. MDF happens when 79 or more players make the cut after round two. This means that in round three we revert back to T70 and ties making it to play round four. I bring this up as the last four tournaments played here have involved MDF. Justin Thomas is the defending champion with Fabian Gomez and Jimmy Walker (b2b wins) winning the previous three years. Thomas played absolutely amazing last year shooting a 59 in round one while finishing at -27 on his way to a seven stroke win. The winning score typically falls around -20 minus or plus a few strokes while a -12 to -15 will typically get you a T10-15 finish. On a DK scoring note, last week we had a tournament that yields few players scoring the U70 bonus points. This week we have a tournament that allows for one of the highest allotted U70 bonus points all year. Over the past few years anywhere from 16-35+ players at the end of each tournament have been eligible for the U70. What makes this interesting is the U70 can come from anyone who has made it through all four rounds. While several of the top finishers will get this bonus it’s not uncommon for some of the T15 to miss this bonus. In addition with par being only 70 it’s not uncommon to see a player who finishes 35th or worse become eligible. This could be a big factor in determining final standings this week as these points could sway your results one way or the other.
The Sony Open is annually played at Waialae Country Club which is a short par 70 course playing slightly over 7,000 yds. Waialae CC features Bermuda greens that are slightly slower than the average course. You will see many players choosing driver off the tee this week and it will be key to having a strong game off the tee this week as the fairways are some of the more challenging to hit. The course only has two par 5’s and they are both easy so making birdies at minimum is a must on these two holes. We will see a good share of eagles this week as the par 5 on the front nine plays at only 506 yards and saw 36 eagles last year while the back nine par 5 netted 18 eagles. This week golfers will face four fairly challenging par 3’s. Any birdies made on the par 3’s this week will be a plus as they are not huge birdie holes. Similar to last week the main focus will once again be on par 4’s as there are twelve. Five of the par 4’s will be playing over 450 yds while only two will be played at less than four hundred yds.
KEY STATS and STRATEGIES
Last week was all about making birdies but now that we head back to a large field with cuts after round two and possibly round three we need to be thinking about getting as many 6/6 as possible. No different than last week I want players who are comfortable playing in Hawaii on the grass types the course presents and players who can handle steady winds arounds 15-20 mph. There are fifteen players who played last week that have decided to enter this tournament. Perhaps I use players who played last week if it comes down to needing a tiebreaker to determine if he makes my player pool since he has already been in Hawaii for one week plus he has four additional rounds to get rid of some rustiness. When looking at stats I will once again be using 2017 ytd stats although I will be looking at stats for the players who played the previous week to see if any edge can be gained. Key stats that I will be using are listed below.
*Par 4 scoring
*Par 4 scoring 450 yds plus
NOTBLES PLAYERS WHO HAVE MISSED PREVIOUS CUTS
One thing that I like to do before determining my player pool is look at who has missed the cut at each tournament over the past 3-4 yrs. Golf is a high variance game and has become very competitive. Ask any player on tour and they will tell you it’s a privilege to win a tournament in today’s game. On a weekly basis there is not much difference between the top players in the world and only slightly more difference between the top players and the players ranked 100-150 plus. The players playing on the tour are good and anyone playing has the capability of putting up four good rounds. Look at the WGC match plays and you will notice it’s very uncommon to see the top seeds all advance after round one. The difference between the top players and the ones ranked 100 plus is the consistency. Anyways, back to looking at the players who have missed the cut. By doing this it allows me to see what kind of 6/6 percentage will most likely happen. Do we see a tournament that typically see’s only one high profile name miss the cut or is it multiple. This will help when determining the amount of players you want in your player pool and at what percentages you decide to go in on your higher owned players.
*16/17- Dufner, Walker, Snedeker, Casey and Keegan
*15/16- J Thomas, Keegan, List
*14/15- Finau, JB Holmes, Hadwin
*13/14- Kisner, Spieth, Lovemark, Hadley, Tway
So two things I gather from the list above. First, other than last year the 6/6 was most likely a higher number, meaning 15-20% at min. Sure in the earlier years you had some big names miss the cut but Kisner, Lovemark, Finau, Hadley are all better players now than they were at the time they missed there perspective cuts and most likely would not have demanded high ownerships. Secondly, it’s easy to play good golf at this tournament and miss the cut. The cut is typically in the -3 to -4 range which means you can go out and shoot a 69-69 or a 68-69 and miss the cut. Of note, over the last two years only ten players each year who have shot a first round 70 or higher has gone on to make the cut. By the way, the 6/6 in GPP’s last year was around 6-7%.
PREVIOUS T20 FINISHES AT THE SONY OPEN
The easiest way to score well each week is to pick the winner. When you have the winner in your player pool you will almost always cash with a 6/6 and it increases your chances to cash with a 5/6 and even a 4/6. When selecting my player pool I always ask myself can this guy win. I want as many players in my pool as possible who I feel that can win a tournament. In addition you will also need players who can play solid and finish T20. One of the quirky things I do to help create my player pool is look at previous b2b T20 finishes at each tournament. When Noto releases his first look I count the number of players who have finished T20 b2b over the last four years. Typically you will find out that on average 4-5 players who finished T20 the year before will once again finish T20. Usually the players that go b2b T20 are either the very good players or one offs that have a very good course history. Rarely do you see a Kelly Kraft or even a Brian Harman type of player go b2b T20. This week the number is seven as there are several players with solid course history. This doesn’t mean that I am only going to choose seven players from last years T20 but I won’t be far off that number. I use this as a tiebreaker when determining players in addition to possibly lowering my ownership on certain players.
Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas
These two are the class of the field this week. Both have won here before and both have missed the cut before. Driving accuracy is a key stat this week that many will be looking at. Both have a tendacy to be erratic off the tee and have average driving accuracy stats. Sometimes stats are funny and don’t always tell you the entire story. Last year Thomas only hit the fairway 44% of the time and he dominated the tournament. Odds would tell you that variance will catch up with you and if Thomas hits the fairways only 44% this week the results will most likely not be as good as last year. What helped Thomas was he had a very hot putter last year gaining seven strokes on the green. Spieth had similar issues driving last year but was able to overcome due to his strong approach shots. Unfortunately for Spieth he was not able to capitalize on his strong iron game as his putter let him down losing three strokes on the green. As I mentioned last week Spieth struggled with the putter last year. Nothing changed last week for Spieth as he lost almost four strokes on the green. One last comment on Thomas to put in your memory bank. If you follow Josh Culp he has some wind stats on his site. Thomas is near the bottom when it comes to playing in high winds like last week. If it is windy like last week I may fade Thomas no matter what his ownership ends up being projected at.
Webb Simpson and Charles Howell
If you are a course history buff then these two are right up your alley. There are several players this week with good course history but these two have the biggest sample size with positive results. Simpson is 8/8 with one top ten and three finishes of thirteenth while CH3 is 10/12 with seven top tens and five top fives BUT no wins for either. There is no need to go into stats with either as both obviously play well at Waialae CC. I am sure both will be popular, especially CH3 as he is priced lower. If I had to pick one or the other I would go with Simpson as I feel his ownership will be lower, he has a better chance to win and he will finish higher.
PLAYERS I FEEL COMFORTABLE PLAYING
Brian Harman has made 5/6 cuts at Waialae CC with a thirteenth place being his best finish. Harman played very good last week finishing in a tie for second with John Rahm. All signs point to Harman being a solid pick this week. Harman currently ranks third on tour in driving accuracy and he finished sixth last week in driving accuracy. The strongest part of Harman’s game last week was his approach shot as he gained five strokes. Usually Harman is a very good putter but his aircraft carrier of a putter let him down last week. If Harman can continue to hit very good approach shots this could be the week his putter gets hot and he finishes T5. If you look at his course history at Waialae CC you will see that he ranks ninth overall in strokes gained putting which tells me he is comfortable putting on these greens.
Russell Henley has made 4/5 cuts at Waialae CC with three top twenties including one win. Henley played solid golf last week as he drove the ball accuarately and gained two strokes on his approach to the green. Henley’s game around the green was his downfall last week as he lost two strokes. What I like about Henley this week is he has putted well over his career at Waialae CC ranking second in SG putting. If Henley can continue his solid game off the tee and hit solid approach shots like last week he could be in for another good finish at Waialae CC.
Mark Leishman has never missed a cut at Waialae CC in eight attempts and has two top ten finishes. Leishman played very good golf last week gaining five strokes on his approach to the green. Leishman had a solid putter gaining one stroke. Looking at Leishman’s career stats at Waialae CC nothing stands out as they are all solid. Perhaps this is the week that Leishman continues to strike the ball well and he gets the hot putter leading his way to a win.
I WANT TO PLAY THESE GUYS BUT SOMETHING SAYS PROCEED WITH CAUTION
Kevin Kisner enters this tournament coming off back to back T5’s at Waialae CC after missing the cut in his three previous tries. Kis had a ho hum no thrills type of tourney at the TOC as he broke par every round but wasn’t able to go below seventy in any round. Kis didn’t hit the ball great as he lost strokes off the tee and on his approach. What saved his game was his putting as he was number one last week gaining over six strokes. When I see a player who scores well putting but didn’t hit the ball well I get nervous on how much I want to play him. A wise man once told me to go after players who are hitting the ball well as putting has a wide variance.
Jason Dufner has made 5/8 cuts at Wailee CC with one top ten finish. Dufner was similar to Kis last week as he was solid off the tee, average with his approach shots and had a hot putter gaining almost five strokes. Looking at Dufner’s career stats at Waialae CC and he has struggled putting but has solid stats otherwise. Perhaps Dufner keeps the hot putter this week and posts a solid finish. If you remember my blog from last week Dufner is a very good player on the par 4’s. Dufner is going to be one of the highest owned players if not the highest.
Daniel Berger has made all three cuts at Waialae CC but his results have been nothing special. Berger played similar to Dufner and Kis last week. Very good off the tee, average approach game to go along with an average putter. I just don’t know if Berger is worth the price this week based on his previous results and his play last week.
Si Woo Kim hit the ball exceptionally well last week. As I noted last week he has a tendency to struggle with the putter and he sure did last week losing four strokes on the greens. Si Woo finished fourth in his only appearance at Waialae CC. If you look at Si Woo’s number for his lone appearance at Waialae CC he did not play well off the tee or on his approach but his putter saved him and he gained four strokes putting. Si Woo is exactly the type of player statistically that I am looking for this week, hitting the ball very good and just needs a solid putting performance. So why am I skeptical of Si Woo? Two of my Si Woo rules are not in place as his price is the highest I can recall it ever being and the DFS community is actually discussing Si Woo in a positive manner this week which may lead to chalk.
PLAYERS WHO DIDNT PLAY LAST WEEK AND I LIKE
Gary Woodland has finished sixth, thirteenth, and third in his last three trips to Waialae CC after missing the cut on his two previous attempts. Woodland made all four cuts in the swing season and appears to be underpriced. I expect high ownership on Woodland and would consider him good chalk this week. Woodland has solid stats at Waialae CC with the exception of his putting were he is 78th SG putting.
Chev Reavie sets up very well for this course and his results stand by this as he has made 5/7 cuts with one top ten. Reavie comes into this tournament playing the best golf of his career. He has made sixteen consecutive cuts and has finished in the T25 in seven out of his last eight tournaments. Reavie has solid stats at Waialae CC with his iron play but like Woodland his putting has not been the best as he places 76th over his career.
Zach Johnson has made 8/10 cuts with four top tens including a win at Waialae CC. Similar to Leishman, Johnson has solid stats over his career but nothing stands out as outstanding or worrisome. Johnson made all three cuts in the fall season posting one top ten. His game style fits Waialale CC and he should be in contention for a solid finish.
THREE PLAYERS I HAVE HIGH HOPES FOR
The next three players I will discuss are players that I am hoping go overlooked and come in at low ownership. The best case scenario is that they come in at less than 5% and I can go in on them at 15-20%. All three carry high risk but could end up being great GPP plays. Let’s start with Jimmy Walker who loves playing in Hawaii. Walker has made 7/11 cuts at Waialae CC with two wins and a fourth. If you follow golf you know that Walker has battled with Lyme disease and struggled last year with his performance. Walker has not played any golf since August so I have no idea how he will perform this week. What I do know is he excels at Waialae CC which is the only reason why I am interested in playing him as he will be comfortable playing at this course after a long time off. Not to mention it will make a great story if he plays well. By the way, his wife has now been diagnosed with Lyme disease. Emiliano Grillo is up next and he has played once at Waialae CC finishing thirty third. Grillo started out last year posting several T20 finishes and cooled off as the season progressed. Grillo made all four cuts in the fall season and posted one T10. I see this as a course that fits Grillo’s game as he is a short accurate player off the tee and has the iron game that is capable of producing birdie opportunities. Putting will be key for Grillo this week as he did not putt well in his debut. If Grillo can overcome his sub standard performance on Bermuda greens he could be in for a T10. The final piece of my threesome is JJ Spaun. Spaun made his debut at Waialae CC last year and missed the cut. Spaun had a rookie season that was full of ups and downs. He posted three T10 finishes while struggling very bad at times as he had an issue with his ribs. The rib issue appears to be all well now as Spaun made 4/5 cuts in the fall season while posting three T13 finishes including a second. Spaun plays his best golf on Bermuda greens and is very capable of going on a run and making several birdies. I am hoping his missed cut helps drives down his ownership. As noted earlier these three plays will all depend upon projected ownership. The one I am most concerned about having high ownership is Spaun. The piece on Spaun was written before pricing and it now appears that Spaun is going to be a popular pick as I have seen him touted up.
PLAYERS I WILL FADE
Jamie Lovemark has back to back T10 finishes at Waialae CC. When you think about Lovemark’s game you imagine him doing well on courses that are long and feature four par 5’s. I don’t see Lovemark as the type of player who can once again finish strong at this course. Last year Lovemark gained eight strokes putting as he relied heavily on his putter. If you look at Lovemark’s last 12 tournaments he is ranked eighty seventh SG putting.
I have nothing against Tony Finau but I will be passing on him this week. He has had one solid finish at Waialae CC to go along with a sixty fourth and two missed cuts. Similar to a Lovemark I don’t see this course as a great fit for Finau. Finau also does not putt well on Bermuda greens as he prefers bentgrass.
The DFS golf community loves them some Luke List. List finished thirteenth last year while having missed the cut his previous two trips. Similar to Lovemark, List used his putter last year to gain almost four strokes to help him post a solid T20. I am more than willing to chance that the putting for List isn’t as good as last year. List is one of the best on tour at making Eagles and with only two par 5’s he will be at a disadvantage.
THROWING DARTS AT THE FOLLOWING PLAYERS
I would imagine the following players to come in at less than 2-3% so I will throw them into a couple GPP’s looking for T20 performances while hoping I match them up with high priced players who play well.
I will start with Chris Kirk who has made 5/7 cuts at Waialae CC including two top five finishes. Kirk played very good golf up until he injured his wrist that required surgery. He has started to get his game back in shape hoping that he can regain the level of play he once played at. Kirk made 4/5 cuts in the fall season including a fourth place finish at the RSM Classic. Kirk is a Bermuda specialist as his reulsts on Bermuda far outweigh other types of grass. I was hoping Kirk would be under 7k but that is not the case.
Brian Stuard has two finishes of fifth and sixth at Waialae CC while making 4/5 cuts. Stuard’s game fits the course well as he is consistent off the tee ranking tenth in driving accuaracy and has putted well gaining enough strokes on the green to place eighteenth over his career at Waialae CC. I was hoping Stuard would be under 7k but am fine as I feel he will now be even lower owned at a higher price.
Ben Silverman is making his debut at Waialae CC. I will take a couple shots on Silverman this week hoping he can continue his solid play. During the fall swing season Silverman made 4/5 cuts and posted two top ten finishes.
Brian Gay has made 9/10 cuts at Waialae CC and has four finishes of thirteenth or better. Gay made 3/5 cuts in the fall finishing as high as third and as low as twenty-fifth. Gay is a very solid putter and if his irons are on this week he could post a solid finish. I was hoping Gay would be under 7k but the same as Stuard he will garner lower ownership at his price.
John Huh and Michael Kim are the last two I may throw some darts at. Both players prefer the Bermuda grass and west coast golf. Huh has played here six times making the cut four times while Kim has two appearances with a twentieth place finish and missed cut. Huh played better during the fall making 3/5 cuts while Kim struggled in the fall.
Hope everyone enjoyed and we all see positive results this week. As always feedback is welcome.