Daily Fantasy Golf Course Primer: Sony Open

Waialae Country Club is the longtime host of the Sony Open. Which types of golfers set up best for Maui?

The PGA Tour stays in Hawaii for the first full field event of the season with this week’s Sony Open. Waialae Country Club is a 7,044-yard par 70 and one of the longest-tenured courses on Tour, having hosted an official event each of the past 54 seasons before this one.

Those who teed it up at the Sentry Tournament of Champions will have to hop a couple of islands over to Honolulu, and that trip has generally proven worthwhile the past few years. Each of the past five winners played Kapalua, and last year 9 of the top 20 at Waialae had played were in the TOC field. While it is slightly reductive to say that golfers who have won on Tour before are most likely to win again there is certainly some truth to it. This year, 21 of the 34 golfers from the last week's field are also in the field this week.

A strong start to the season portends good things. In addition to the TOC participants who doubled up their Hawaii schedule last year, six other golfers featured in the top 20 in 2019 would go on to win later in the year -- Corey Conners (T3), Chez Reavie (T3), Sung Kang (T10), Sebastian Munoz (T10), Keith Mitchell (T16), and J.T. Poston (T20). All six are back in the field this week coming off Kapalua.

The participation corollary aside, Waialae is a much different test than Kapalua. Last week's winner Justin Thomas won the Sony in 2017 and can dominate at just about any course, but otherwise recent winners suggest that accuracy and short game are more important this week than usual.

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 Country Club
Par: 70
Distance: 7,044 yards
Fairways/Rough: Bermudagrass
Greens: Bermudagrass

SeasonParYardageAverage ScoreAvg O/U ParRank

Waialae gets its length from a few longer-than-average holes, but also features a few very easy holes that led to 56 eagles in 2019, the most among par 70 courses. Only Sedgefield Country Club (Wyndham Championship) has yielded more eagles among par-70 courses over the past five years.

Part of the reason accuracy is rewarded here is because everyone is able to add distance. Annually this course ranks in the top 10 in average drive distance, last year topping 303 yards. On the contrary, only about 56.27% of drives found the fairway last year, the 13th lowest mark over the course of the season.

When we think of coastal courses that reward accuracy, Harbour Town (RBC Heritage) immediately comes to mind. Last year's Sony winner, Matt Kuchar, has enjoyed plenty of success there, and Webb Simpson is a top-20 machine at both tracks. Both are all around golfers whose short game and iron play far outweigh their talents off the tee. The windy conditions also call to mind a pair of Texas courses, Colonial Country Club (Charles Schwab Challenge, or whatever they are going to call it this year), and TPC San Antonio - AT&T Oaks (Valero Texas Open). Colonial is one of the few tracks on Tour that hasn't been swallowed whole by the bombers over the years, and Waialae's slow Bermuda greens and emphasis on approach play call to mind San Antonio. Conners is the case study here, having Monday-qualified into both events in 2019 and finishing with a T3 and a win.

Key Stats

These stats will be the keys to success in the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club.

Key Stats for the Sony Open at Waialae CC
Strokes Gained: Approach
Fairways Gained
Birdies or Better Gained
Scrambling Gained
Strokes Gained: Par 4s

We want accurate players, both off the tee and on approach. Fairways gained gets us accuracy without the distance noise inherent in strokes gained: off the tee, and both scrambling and birdies or better, gained highlight golfers who can finish holes. Conners cracked 20-under par last year, so even for a par 70, there are plenty of opportunities out there.

The par 5s are eagle opportunities for almost every golfer in the field, but those who can gain on the par 4s will be able to create real separation over the course of four days.

Course History Studs

Many of these names have been covered in other contexts above. Thomas has three other finishes of T16 or better in addition to the 2017 win, and neither Kuchar nor Simpson has finished outside the top 20 since 2012.

Charles Howell has played here every year since 2002 and has never missed a cut with 10 finishes of T8 or better. He has never won but has been runner up twice and third two other times.

Marc Leishman isn't quite at that level, but he's played the Sony 10 of the past 11 years with no missed cuts and just two finishes outside the top 30, including a T3 last year.

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.