GOLF

Sony Open in Hawaii: Course Notes, Daily Fantasy Golf Picks, Win Simulations, and Best Bets

Should we go right back to Cameron Smith this week at Waialae, or are there better options to bet and to build around on FanDuel?

The PGA Tour as we really know it is back this week with a pretty full field and a cut after two rounds.

Between the FedEx Cup Playoffs and some no-cut events, it's been a bit since we've had such a field, but now we're back to the bread and butter of the PGA daily fantasy and betting landscape.

Let's dig into the Sony Open in Hawaii.

You can jump ahead to any specific section of the piece you would like.

Course Information
Key Stats
Golfers With Great Course History
Win Simulations
Best Bets
Daily Fantasy Picks

Waialae Country Club Course Information

Par: 70
Distance: 7,044
Average Green Size: 7,100 square feet
Green Type: Bermuda
Stimpmeter: N/A
Past 5 Winning Scores: -21, -11, -22, -17, -27
Past 5 Cut Lines: -4, +1, -2, -2, -3

Waialae rates out as a short course for a par 70 (around 160 yards shorter than the average par 70 on the PGA Tour) while also featuring bigger greens (the average green size is typically 6,000 square feet).

A shorter course with big greens makes sense for the winning scores typically being in the 20-below range.

The key caveat here is that, in 2020, heavy winds impacted scoring all over. Heavy favorite and winner of the Tournament of Champions the week prior, Justin Thomas (who was +500 to win), missed the cut while -- coincidentally -- this year's Tournament of Champions winner, Cameron Smith, won at -11 in a playoff.

Key Stats

- Strokes Gained: Approach
- Par 4 Scoring
- Driving Accuracy
- Birdie or Better Rate
- Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda

This week features 4 par 3s and 12 par 4s with just 2 par 5s. That makes par 5 scoring less of a priority while emphasizing approach play for the par 3s and conversion on par 4s.

The shorter distance means a weaker value on driving distance, too.

Low scores, big greens, shorter course -- this all sets up for a more volatile week than some others at longer, more demanding courses during which the best in the field can separate over 72 holes.

Golfers With Great Course History

Past winners at Waialae in the field include: Kevin Na (2021), Cameron Smith (2020), Matt Kuchar (2019), Patton Kizzire (2018), Jimmy Walker (2014, 2015), Russell Henley (2013), Ryan Palmer (2010), Zach Johnson (2009), and Jim Furyk (1996).

Golfers with at least 8 career rounds at this course and with a strokes gained per round average of at least 1.0 since 2012 (according to FantasyNational) include: Charles Howell (1.9), Corey Conners (1.8), Marc Leishman (1.6), Patton Kizzire (1.6), Webb Simpson (1.5), Jerry Kelly (1.3), Chris Kirk (1.3), Brian Stuard (1.3), Brendan Steele (1.3), Hudson Swafford (1.2), Rory Sabbatini (1.1), Jim Furyk (1.1), Keith Mitchell (1.1), Zach Johnson (1.0), Matt Kuchar (1.0), Luke Donald (1.0), Russell Henley (1.0), Cameron Smith (1.0), Si Woo Kim (1.0), and Sungjae Im (1.0).

Win Simulations

Here are the most likely winners this week, according to my win simulation model, as well as their FanDuel Sportsbook win odds.

Golfer FanDuel
Salary
Win% Top-
10%
Made
Cut%
FanDuel
Sportsbook
Win
Odds
Cameron
Smith
$12,000 7.89% 38.94% 82.00% +850
Webb
Simpson
$11,700 4.40% 27.18% 75.72% +1500
Sungjae
Im
$11,500 3.89% 24.57% 74.67% +1700
Corey
Conners
$11,000 3.71% 25.05% 74.10% +2600
Abraham
Ancer
$11,300 3.68% 24.49% 73.92% +3200
Kevin
Na
$11,100 3.34% 23.80% 73.37% +2900
Talor
Gooch
$10,800 2.88% 21.25% 71.73% +3400
Marc
Leishman
$11,200 2.83% 20.63% 71.15% +1700
Russell
Henley
$10,300 2.39% 17.72% 68.23% +3200
Hideki
Matsuyama
$11,600 2.39% 19.42% 69.37% +1700
Seamus
Power
$10,400 1.90% 15.76% 66.05% +4600
Jason
Kokrak
$10,500 1.80% 15.76% 66.74% +4600
Billy
Horschel
$10,200 1.79% 15.25% 65.55% +4600
Christiaan
Bezuidenhout
$10,100 1.76% 14.98% 66.00% +4600
Maverick
McNealy
$9,800 1.68% 14.65% 65.64% +5500
Harris
English
$10,900 1.48% 14.21% 65.22% +3200
Brendon
Todd
$9,300 1.41% 14.05% 63.91% +7500
Chris
Kirk
$9,700 1.35% 13.00% 63.12% +5500
Brian
Harman
$9,800 1.32% 12.89% 62.44% +5500
Matt
Jones
$10,600 1.25% 11.83% 60.93% +3600
Alex
Smalley
$8,400 1.19% 12.30% 63.24% +16000
Brendan
Steele
$9,600 1.15% 10.43% 59.54% +5500
Chad
Ramey
$8,500 1.10% 10.63% 59.89% +16000
Matt
Kuchar
$9,300 1.09% 11.34% 60.88% +8000
Branden
Grace
$9,400 1.02% 9.91% 58.73% +7500
Tom
Hoge
$8,800 1.00% 10.25% 58.06% +9000
Mark
Hubbard
$8,100 0.97% 9.74% 58.26% +19000
Keegan
Bradley
$9,700 0.97% 10.81% 60.67% +8000
Joel
Dahmen
$9,500 0.97% 10.27% 58.29% +5500
Kyoung-hoon
Lee
$8,600 0.94% 10.45% 59.21% +9000
Charles
Howell III
$9,400 0.93% 9.84% 59.00% +5500
Siwoo
Kim
$9,900 0.93% 9.89% 58.52% +4600
Zach
Johnson
$8,900 0.91% 9.78% 57.73% +9000
Keith
Mitchell
$9,600 0.90% 8.18% 55.66% +5500
Brian
Stuard
$8,700 0.88% 9.49% 58.37% +12000
Stephan
Jaeger
$8,200 0.85% 9.55% 57.79% +16000
Stewart
Cink
$9,000 0.84% 9.02% 57.28% +9000
Patton
Kizzire
$9,000 0.84% 8.50% 55.87% +9000
Ryan
Palmer
$9,500 0.83% 9.76% 58.29% +7500
Erik
van Rooyen
$9,900 0.83% 8.41% 54.48% +5500
Emiliano
Grillo
$9,000 0.82% 9.35% 57.69% +9000
Harry
Higgs
$8,400 0.81% 9.10% 56.17% +16000
Denny
McCarthy
$9,100 0.75% 9.50% 58.84% +7500
Aaron
Rai
$8,900 0.74% 8.62% 56.04% +9000
Ryan
Moore
$7,900 0.73% 8.15% 55.64% +19000
Robert
Streb
$8,800 0.70% 8.74% 56.67% +12000
Adam
Long
$8,600 0.68% 8.22% 55.68% +12000
Cameron
Davis
$10,000 0.68% 7.97% 55.83% +4600
Russell
Knox
$8,700 0.67% 7.48% 54.54% +12000
Michael
Thompson
$8,400 0.65% 9.22% 56.69% +16000
Andrew
Putnam
$7,800 0.63% 7.65% 55.30% +19000
Brandt
Snedeker
$8,500 0.63% 7.79% 55.10% +16000
Hank
Lebioda
$8,500 0.62% 7.75% 55.86% +16000
Ryan
Armour
$- 0.59% 7.59% 54.53% +16000
Adam
Schenk
$8,100 0.57% 6.95% 52.50% +19000
Max
McGreevy
$8,100 0.53% 6.34% 51.51% +16000
Henrik
Norlander
$8,700 0.52% 6.77% 52.43% +12000
Kevin
Kisner
$10,700 0.50% 6.23% 52.02% +3400

Win Simulation Analysis and Best Bets

Although Cameron Smith (+850) is the most likely winner, per my model, he's not likely enough to want to bet at a number as short as he is.

That's actually the case for a lot of golfers at the top, per usual.

The ones with justifiable odds are Corey Conners (+2600), Abraham Ancer (+3200), Kevin Na (+2900), and Talor Gooch (+3400). I've bet Ancer, Na, and Gooch for outright while aiming to take advantage of a strong second tier and without needing to check out too many long-shot options.

Maverick McNealy (+5500) was another consideration; perhaps a top-10 play on him is in the cards.

Dart-throw, top-10, and top-20 considerations include Brendon Todd (+7500), Brian Stuard (+12000), Alex Smalley (+16000), Chad Ramey (+16000), and Mark Hubbard (+19000).

Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for the Sony Open in Hawaii

All stats cited below originate at FantasyNational. Strokes gained data includes stats from the past calendar year and is adjusted based on my field strength and recency tweaks. Putting surface splits also come from FantasyNational and include the past 50 rounds when possible -- unless noted. All ranks and percentile ranks are among the field. References to my combo model refer to a combination of long-term, field-adjusted form, key stat performance, and hole-by-hole-level strokes gained data.

Best of the Best

Cameron Smith (FanDuel Salary: $12,000 | FanDuel Sportsbook Win Odds: +850) - Smith doesn't need a win to be a relevant daily fantasy play this week, and process-wise, he's the best option. Smith rates as a 98th-percentile golfer in both adjusted strokes gained: tee to green and putting for this field, and it's just impossible to top that (I mean, sure, it is, but it's not possible in this field). Smith is a former winner here and is just a cut above everyone in the win simulations. We can fade him in tournaments if we want, but he's easily the best play and is justifiable even in GPPs.

Russell Henley ($10,300 | +3200) - Henley is a former winner at Waialae, and though we haven't seen him lately, that's the case for a ton of golfers in this field. Henley's past two results were a T7 at the Houston Open and a T22 at The RSM Classic based on good all-around game and plenty of fairways hit. Waialae suits him well.

Others to Consider:
Abraham Ancer ($11,300 | +3200) -
A stud for sure with a good salary at a course that doesn't demand distance; good bermuda putter.
Kevin Na ($11,100 | +2900) - Last year's winner was T13 last week with great iron play and modest putting. Great recipe for this week.
Talor Gooch ($10,800 | +3600) - Just does nothing poorly; weakest stat is off the tee, which isn't overly relevant this week.

Mid-Range Picks

Joel Dahmen ($9,500 | +7500) - Dahmen ultimately underwhelmed at the Tournament of Champions but had various facets of the game working throughout, and in total, it was the short game that let him down. That's the risk you take with Dahmen. However, he's in the 96th percentile in birdie or better rate gained and in the 87th percentile in fairways gained while totaling 86th-percentile adjusted ball-striking. He has finished top-25 here in each of his past two tries.

Brendon Todd ($9,300 | +7500) - Todd is coming off of a missed cut (well, it happened back before Thanksgiving), which happened from some poor putting and driving. Poor putting isn't really his thing, though: he's got 98th-percentile bermuda putting. That also pairs with the best fairways gained number in the field.

Others to Consider:
Maverick McNealy ($9,800 | +5500) - A name to watch this season for sure: has distance and birdie potential if irons warm up.
Charles Howell ($9,400 | +5500) - Big odds mover; course history stud with pretty solid form, too.
Denny McCarthy ($9,100 | +7500) - The anti-McNealy, McCarthy is a short driver with S-tier bermuda putting.

Low-Salaried Picks

Emiliano Grillo ($9,000 | +9000) - A golfer such as Grillo will always be tempting in certain spots, and weaker fields are some of those spots exactly. Grillo's irons are in the 92nd percentile after field adjustments in my model over the past year, and he's an accurate driver (75th percentile) who gets plenty of birdie chances (95th percentile in opportunities gained). He'll just need to putt moderately well, which is never a given with him. However, the field drops off around here, so unless you're going entirely balanced, you'll need to embrace some red flags.

Brian Stuard ($8,700 | +12000) - Stuard is the shortest driver in the field but is in the 98th percentile in fairways gained and has a good overall short game. He striped the irons at The RSM Classic despite missing the cut. Missed cuts have plagued him a lot in 2021. He seems to get it all sorted out at Waialae each year, however.

Others to Consider:
Patton Kizzire ($9,000 | +9000) - A-plus bermuda putter with 58th-percentile tee-to-green play; that works for a former winner here.
Tom Hoge ($8,800 | +9000) - Has 90th-percentile irons and is more accurate than long.
Kyoung-Hoon Lee ($8,600 | +9000) - Massive odds shift from 160/1 to 90/1; form is quite good for the salary.
Mark Hubbard ($8,100 | +19000) - Elite short game who benefits from a lack of distance requirement.