This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
SONY OPEN IN HAWAII
Winner's Share: $1.188M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Course: Waialae Country Club
2019 champion: Matt Kuchar
The Sony Open in Hawaii is a modern golf marvel. For more than a half-century now, since the Tour first arrived in Honolulu back in 1965, they have played the same tournament at the same course every single year. Thus we have the fourth-longest association between tournament and course on the PGA Tour, behind only events held at Augusta, Pebble Beach and Colonial. That tells you all you need to know about famed Waialae Country Club.
It always brings a fitting close to the year-opening two-week Hawaiian Swing. But Waialae and Kapalua, home to last week's Sentry Tournament of Champions, are connected by more than just geography. Ever since the TOC relocated to Hawaii, 15 of the 21 Sony Open winners played Kapalua the week before, including seven of the past eight. That speaks to the advantage the TOC qualifiers have by getting a jump-start on tournament golf after the long holiday break. Of course, it also speaks to better golfers being in the TOC. This year, 21 of the 34 guys who played last week have island-hopped from Maui to Oahu, including winner Justin Thomas, who also happens to be the 2017 Sony Open champion. It's also worth noting that 12 of the past 14 champions of this event played Waialae multiple times before winning. It's a track where shot-makers thrive, and course knowledge certainly helps in that regard. Drivers are often left in the bag, the better to negotiate the many dog legs and keep the ball in the difficult-to-hit fairways. That's far different from last week at Kapalua. We'll revisit this in the Key Stats and Champion's Profile below.
Waialae is short, but it's also only a par-70. There are just two par-5s, and you better score there if you want to contend. They are two of the easiest holes on the entire PGA Tour calendar. One of them, the 506-yard ninth, was the fifth-easiest of the 882 holes played on Tour last season, with a scoring average of 4.28. The other, the 551-yard 18th, was not far behind. The course itself was tougher than it historically is, ranking 32nd of 49 tracks last year. But Matt Kuchar still managed a 22-under winning score, four better than Andrew Putnam.
No. 4-ranked Thomas, No. 24 Kuchar and No. 49 Putnam are back, in the group of 14 golfers among the Top 50 in the world on hand. There are five Top-25s, including No. 11 Patrick Reed, No. 12 Webb Simpson and No. 22 Hideki Matsuyama. After last week's limited field, we jump to 144 entrants – and remember, the cut is now Top-65 and ties. The young guns are well-represented with Sungjae Im, Joaquin Niemann and Collin Morikawa. Someone else to keep an eye on is Japanese sensation Shugo Imahira, who at No. 30 in the world is pushing Matsuyama for supremacy back home.
Weather-wise, of course it will be warm, around 80 all four days. But conditions will be far from paradise, with a continuation of the strong winds we saw last week on Maui and a significant chance of rain every day. Right now, the forecast doesn't call for showers until Thursday afternoon, so check back closer to lineup lock to see whether setting your lineup based on early/late tee times is warranted.
Key Stats to Winning at Waialae (in order of importance)
Note - The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key stats" follow in importance.
• Greens in regulation/strokes gained: approach
• Putting average/strokes gained: putting
• Birdie-or-better percentage
• Driving accuracy/strokes gained: off the tee
We noted above that 15 of the past 21 winners played the TOC the week before, including seven of the past eight, and 12 of the past 14 Sony Open champions had played Waialae multiple times before winning. Last year, Kuchar was back after a two-year hiatus. Kuchar led the field in greens in regulation, was ninth in scrambling and third in strokes gained: putting. That combination will get the job just about every time. Over the past decade, every winner but Kizzire was Top-12 in GIR. And all of them have been Top-8 in SG: Putting. Even though the greens are on the smallish side, which tends to bring weaker putters into the mix, history shows you need to putt well to win this week. But really, the key first and foremost is getting on the green in regulation. The GIR numbers historically have been very high on this short track, and golfers better be around 75 percent to be in the mix.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Justin Thomas - $12,000 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 5-1)
Thomas is a no-brainer, even at this price. We suspect that line could be written for every tournament Thomas enters this season. He's won three of his past six starts – seven, if you include the Hero World Challenge – and as mentioned above, is the 2017 Sony Open champion.
Collin Morikawa - $10,800 (18-1)
We're going to skip the next three guys on the DK board – Webb Simpson, Patrick Reed and Hideki Matsuyama. For whatever reasons, they collectively have just one top-10 in this event, and that was Simpson's T4 two years ago. So we turn to Morikawa, who is coming off a tie for seventh in last week's elite field at Kapalua. He has yet to miss a PGA Tour cut as a pro and continues to climb the world rankings, now at No. 55.
Matt Kuchar - $9,900 (20-1)
Kuchar has fallen off from last season's stellar first half, which included a runaway win here at Waialae. But his precision-based game is perfectly suited for this track, and Kuchar has expressed his love for the more tactical courses. From 2011-15, Kuchar had four Top-10s in four visits to the Sony.
Sungjae Im - $9,600 (20-1)
For all the great young golfers on Tour, Im right now should be considered the best of them. He notched a pair of podium finishes in the fall season – a runner-up at the Sanderson Farms event and a third at the ZOZO Championship – and now starts 2020 completely refreshed thanks to a nine-week layoff. Last year, Im took part in a whopping 35 events worldwide. It will be interesting to see just how many he plays in this year.
Tier 2 Values
Joaquin Niemann - $9,400 (30-1)
Like Sungjae Im, Niemann can lay a claim to being the best young golfer on Tour. He won the season-opening Greenbrier, tied for fifth last week at Kapalua and is now ranked 53rd in the world. This will be Niemann's Waialae debut.
Charles Howell III - $9,100 (30-1)
Howell finished eighth a year ago, his sixth Sony Top-10 of the decade. Most of those came without the benefit of playing Kapalua the week before. Apologies to course-history naysayers, but Howell is a super fit this week, even at this elevated price.
Corey Conners - $8,900 (40-1)
Conners can't putt worth a lick, but that didn't stop him from tying for third here a year ago, and he didn't get the advantage of playing the TOC. Conners tied for 19th last week, which isn't much in a 34-man field, but he closed the fall season with four straight Top-20s, including in a WGC-HSBC field far superior to this one. Conners led the Tour in greens in regulation last season.
Cameron Smith - $8,500 (50-1)
Smith often gets hurt off the tee distance wise, but that won't be the case this week. And it hasn't been a detriment in the past couple of years, as he arrives with two consecutive Sony Top-25s. Smith had a pretty bad 2018-19 season, but he collected three Top-25s in five starts in the fall, then added a Top-10 as the two-time defending champion of the Australian PGA.
Tier 3 Values
Sebastian Munoz - $7,900 (60-1)
Munoz had reached the Top-100 in the world rankings, sitting at an even No. 100 after tying for 17th at Kapalua. He got in the field by winning the Sanderson Farms event for his maiden Tour victory, and also added two other Top-10s during the fall season. The 27-year-old Colombia native is ranked sixth on Tour in strokes gained: approach and third in SG: Tee-to-Green. He tied for 10th in his Sony debut a year ago.
Brian Stuard - $8,000 (60-1)
Stuard had seven Top-25s last season; he already has four this season. But that's almost irrelevant in this discussion. He notched four Top-10s at the Sony in the past seven years, including the past two years. The shorter track demanding more accuracy off the tee definitely suits his strengths.
Ryan Palmer - $7,500 (80-1)
Palmer played last week (thanks to Jon Rahm, but that's another story) and tied for 17th. He won at Waialae long ago, in 2010, and has made 6-of-8 Sony cuts since then, including a Top-10 and two other Top-25s. The key for Palmer will be keeping his oft-wayward drives in the fairway. But he usually figures it out enough to make the weekend – excluding majors, he hasn't missed a cut since April.
Shugo Imahira - $7,300 (100-1)
Imahira plays mostly in his native Japan, against lesser talent, but he's ranked 30th in the world for a reason. He won the Dunlop Phoenix in November against a field that included Hideki Matsuyama, Gary Woodland, Collin Morikawa and Cameron Champ. He also tied for 27th at the WGC-FedEx over the summer. Imahira has played the Sony the past two years, making both cuts with a best of T33 a year ago. He's a far more accomplished golfer now.
Kyle Stanley - $7,000 (100-1)
About a year and a half ago, Stanley was ranked a career-best 26th in the world. Now, he sits 118th. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. But through it all, he has made a decent number of cuts, including 10 of his last 13 to close 2019. And he's enjoyed success at the Sony, with six straight cashes, four of them Top-25s, including the past two years. Stanley was ranked 19th in driving accuracy last season and 45th in strokes gained: putting.
Nate Lashley - $6,800 (150-1)
Since appearing out of nowhere to win at Detroit over the summer, Lashley has stayed quite visible. He's continued to improve his world ranking, now 87th, thanks to a tie for 20th at the WGC-FedEx and a tie for third at the Greenbrier. Lashley is ranked Top-25 on Tour in all of strokes gained: approach, around the green and putting. And he got to tune up last week at Kapalua. Lashley played Waialae once before, tying for 39th two years ago.
Mark Hubbard - $6,500 (200-1)
The Korn Ferry Tour grad played eight events in the fall and made seven cuts, with a pair of Top-10s and another Top-25. He's ranked Top-25 on Tour in five of the six main strokes-gained categories, missing only in off the tee. That's because driving accuracy is an issue, which he needs to reign in this week. Hubbard played the Sony from 2015-17, making 2-of-3 cuts.
James Hahn - $6,300 (250-1)
Hahn is so cheap because he's ranked in the 800s of the OWGR. He's ranked there because he missed most of 2019 with an elbow injury. But he returned in the fall to make three cuts out of four, including a Top-25 at Houston. Hahn has enjoyed success in Waialae, with his 2018 runner-up culminating a run of six straight made cuts. He missed the cut last year as his elbow began to flare.