Gdula's Golf Simulations: Sony Open

Which golfers look to offer value after simulating out this weekend's event at Waialae?

Volatility is the name of the game in golf, and picking winners isn't easy. With fields of 150-plus golfers sometimes being separated by how a putt or two falls each week, predicting golf can be absurdly tough.

We'll never be able to capture everything that goes into a golfer's expectations for a week, but we can try to account for that by simulating out the weekend and seeing what happens.

The Process

I'll keep it simple: I track weekly results from the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour.

Using a combination of the OWGR's field strength numbers and datagolf's field strength numbers, I adjust each golfer's score relative to the field. The ultimate goal is to place a score from the Waste Management Open, the BMW International Open, and the Knoxville Open on level playing fields. This adjusted strokes metric lets me see how golfers are performing across all tours.

Their adjusted stroke data is combined with their round-to-round variance to see how the field is likely to perform when playing the event out thousands of times.

Here are the results for the Sony Open.

Win Odds

Golfer Wins FanDuel
Golfer Wins FanDuel
Justin Thomas 11.2% +500 Webb Simpson 5.9% +1200
Patrick Reed 5.8% +1100 Hideki Matsuyama 5.6% +1600
Matt Kuchar 3.9% +2200 Collin Morikawa 3.5% +1600
Sungjae Im 2.5% +2200 Brandt Snedeker 2.0% +4100
JT Poston 1.9% +5000 Joaquin Niemann 1.9% +3300
Charles Howell III 1.8% +3700 Marc Leishman 1.6% +3300
Scott Piercy 1.5% +9000 Andrew Putnam 1.5% +6000
Brendon Todd 1.4% +4500 Chez Reavie 1.4% +4500
Cameron Smith 1.4% +4100 Abraham Ancer 1.3% +3700
Sebastian Munoz 1.3% +6500 Rory Sabbatini 1.3% +8000
Vaughn Taylor 1.3% +10000 Corey Conners 1.1% +5000
Lanto Griffin 1.1% +8000 Kevin Kisner 1.1% +5000
Keith Mitchell 1.0% +12000 Russell Knox 0.9% +8000
Carlos Ortiz 0.9% +8000 Joel Dahmen 0.9% +10000
Ryan Palmer 0.8% +8000 Kevin Na 0.8% +8000
Graeme McDowell 0.7% +10000 Pat Perez 0.7% +9000
Emiliano Grillo 0.7% +8000 Alex Noren 0.7% +4100
Zhang Xinjun 0.7% +15000 Brian Stuard 0.7% +6500

Justin Thomas
(+500 on FanDuel Sportsbook) unsurprisingly has the best win odds in the simulations, but the betting value isn't really there for an outright. He'd need to be roughly 16% likely to win, so if picking him, you'll want to balance the rest of your card with longshots.

Webb Simpson (+1200), Patrick Reed (+1100), Hideki Matsuyama (+1600), and Matt Kuchar (+2200) all look like better places to begin your betting card, Simpson being my preference, as he -- via FantasyNational -- ranks 7th in strokes gained: approach, 23rd in strokes gained: around the green, and 48th in fairways gained over the past 50 rounds. Merely avoiding Thomas should let you pepper this second and third tier, which is my preferred method this week. Longshots can win at Waialae, but this tier does separate itself before a pretty substantial drop off.

That would include Joaquin Niemann (+3300) and to a lesser degree Collin Morikawa (+2200) and Corey Conners (+5000).

Everything else looks pretty balanced, and there's marginal value throughout. Sebastian Munoz (+6500) and Vaughn Taylor (+9000) would be two golfers who draw my attention based on their simulations and course fit.

Xin-Jun Zhang (+15000) could be worth a stab but has more appeal as a top-10 bet (+1600).