This article is part of our FanDuel PGA series.
Sony Open in Hawaii
Course: Waialae Country Club (7,044 yards, par 70)
Winner: $1,188,000 and 500 FedExCup points
Waialae and Kapalua might both be located on the islands of Hawaii, but the two courses could not be more different. We go from some of the widest fairways, biggest greens, and giant elevation changes of Kapalua to small greens, narrow fairways, and an extremely flat course in Waialae. Many players will be making their first start of 2020 with this being the first full-field event of the year. 30 of the 42 players that teed it up last week at the Tournament of Champions will be making the short trip over to Waialae. That includes Harris English, who picked up his first win since 2013 at the Plantation Course last week. All together nine of the top-25 in the OWGR will be teeing it up at one of the most historic courses on the PGA Tour schedule. Cameron Smith is playing some of the best golf of his career and he will be hoping to defend his title after taking down Brendan Steele in a playoff last year. Temperatures should be sustained in the low-80's with chances of passing storms throughout the week to soften the golf course. The winds are not expected to be anywhere close to what they were last year and we should see a winning score much closer to 20-under-par.
2020 – Cameron Smith
2019 – Matt Kuchar
2018 – Patton Kizzire
2017 – Justin Thomas
2016 – Fabian Gomez
2015 – Jimmy Walker
2014 – Jimmy Walker
2013 – Russell Henley
2012 – Johnson Wagner
2011 – Mark Wilson
2010 – Ryan Palmer
Key Stats to Victory
- SG: Approach
- GIR Percentage
- SG: Putting
- SG: Off-the-Tee
If you look at the list of past winners at Waialae, you'll notice that you don't see a lot of bombers. That's because you can't really overpower this course and it will be much more about accuracy off the tees to put yourself at a good angle to attack these small greens. Overall iron and wedge performance will likely be the most important factor once again this week to determine the champion. The bermuda greens will run extremely pure, so if you're rolling it well you can rack up a lot of one-putts. There are only two par-5's at Waialae (No. 9 and 18), but both of them play as some of the easiest par-5's on the PGA Tour so they need to be taken advantage of. Whoever is controlling their distances and rolling the rock the best is typically the man that will prevail at Waialae.
FanDuel Value Picks
Webb Simpson ($12,000)
It's almost hard to believe that Simpson has not won at Waialae yet considering how well his game fits this course. He's not the longest hitter obviously, but he is deadly accurate and can shape the ball both ways with ease off the tee. Simpson is also a tremendous iron player and putter, as evidence by ranking inside the top-15 in both SG: Approach and SG: Putting last season. The Wake Forest product hasn't finished outside the top-20 in any of his last six starts in this event, including a T4 in 2018 and T3 in 2020.
Sungjae Im ($11,200)
Im had a very nonchalant week in Kapalua that ended up seeing him finish T5 in his first trip around the course. He also led the field in SG: Tee-to-Green. Im's game is very versatile, but if he's striking the ball like that at Waialae it would be hard to see him not holding the trophy at the end of the week. He's gone T16-T21 in two career starts at the Sony Open.
Joaquin Niemann ($10,900)
Niemann came so close to picking up his second PGA Tour win last week at Kapalua, but ultimately fell on the first playoff hole to Harris English. Even at 22 years old, you can see the super star potential in Niemann. All he has done this season is post six top-25's in seven starts. The Chilean ranks ninth in SG: Total, fourth in birdie average, and 10th in scoring average.
Russell Henley ($10,400)
Henley provides one of the better values in this field. He's off to a great start this season, making five-of-six cuts and adding a pair of top-five finishes. The Georgia product's ball striking numbers have also been very impressive once again, as he currently sits seventh in SG: Approach, sixth in SG: Tee-to-Green, seventh in driving accuracy, and 17th in GIR percentage. Those type of numbers of prime for success at Waialae, which is likely a big part of the reason why he is a former winner there.
Longer Shots with Value
Emiliano Grillo ($9,800)
Grillo has been one of the best iron players on Tour over the last few seasons. That has been something that has carried over early in the 2020-21 campaign, as he ranks 14th in SG: Approach, sixth in GIR percentage, and 13th in proximity to the hole. The putter will always be a question with Grillo, but that consistently strong ball striking makes his floor so high. He finished out 2020 going T18-T8 and has finished top-25 in each of the last two editions of the Sony Open.
Charles Howell III ($9,700)
Someone you always have to keep an eye out for early in the calendar year is Howell, because he has strong track records at so many of these West coast courses. He may be at his best at Waialae, as he has made every cut in all 19 of his starts and has notched 13 top-15 finishes. Howell's ball striking is not up to his usual elite standards early this season, but he is currently sitting 13th in SG: Putting. Trust the experience here.
Brandt Snedeker ($8,800)
It certainly wasn't the fall that the nine-time PGA Tour winner was looking for, but Snedeker is another player that has great records on a lot of these early season courses. He has finished top-20 in three of his last four starts at the Sony Open, including a runner-up back in 2016. I'm betting on experience again here and a putting stroke that has the ability to fill it up anywhere.
James Hahn ($8,700)
Hahn has already racked up three top-10's in just five starts this season, which is more than he has had in the past three seasons combined. His ball striking has been the biggest key, as he ranks fourth in driving accuracy and sixth in GIR percentage. Hahn is also in the top fourth of the Tour in SG: Putting. The 39-year-old has gone 6-for-8 at Waialae, including a runner-up in 2018.
Strategy Tips This Week
Based on a Standard $60K Salary Cap
Waialae is typically a place where experience matters, so veterans that have played well here in the past is what I would be looking to round out my rosters with. On the top end, however, a majority of the attractive options are younger players that are striking the ball incredibly well like Sungjae Im and Joaquin Niemann. With the depth of the field top to bottom not as strong as last week, I think it puts the onus on DFS players to be a little more strategic in making sure they don't spend all their money on the top end because you don't want to be going down the board too far this week. As I said earlier as well, distance will not be a factor this week so consistent iron players or strong putters is what you are looking for.