Fantasy Insider: Sony Open in Hawaii
January 12, 2021
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM
PGA TOUR – The CUT
Low scores are on the horizon at the Sony Open in Hawaii
A lot has happened in the last two months, but that’s also how long it’s been since Dustin Johnson prevailed at the Masters. I mention it because it’s also when Mike Glasscott’s Horses for Courses renewed previously familiar commitments to analysis of the last three winners of the tournament as well as the chart for the best records among the commitments. It once again fulfills the most basic and valuable information all gamers want and need on one page.
Glass’ comprehensive work has continued since. His latest contribution for the Sony Open in Hawaii compares how Patton Kizzire (2018), Matt Kuchar (2019) and Cameron Smith (2020) prevailed at Waialae Country Club. In addition to the easy-to-consume table at the bottom, he’s gone headlong into much more data.
Glass and I go back many years to our time together at Rotoworld. Quite simply, he completes me. So, when I’m asked personally for which stats matter on a given course, I can rely on his analysis in Horses for Courses to answer the bell. What I often graze in the Power Rankings, he delivers. Every time. Without fail.
Please check out his work and follow him on the Twitter if you don’t already.
Also, if you don’t want to search for Horses for Courses weekly, just bookmark the dedicated page. (Yes, the URL specifies “Confidence Factor.” It’s the second iteration of a franchise that launched as “Comfort Zone” many years ago. It’s easiest to retain the URL for aggregation today.)
PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf
My roster for the Sony Open in Hawaii (in alphabetical order):
You’ll find my starters in Expert Picks.
Others to consider for each category (in alphabetical order):
Scoring: Harris English; Tom Hoge; Kevin Kisner; Patton Kizzire; Jason Kokrak; Sebastián Muñoz; Rory Sabbatini; Adam Scott; Cameron Smith; Brendon Todd
Driving: Abraham Ancer; Stewart Cink; Harris English; Emiliano Grillo; Brian Harman; Patton Kizzire; Jason Kokrak; Sebastián Muñoz; Henrik Norlander
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Marc Leishman … He’s probably turning a corner, but his pace is akin to how a shadow changes with the arc of the sun overhead. It’s almost impossible to witness in real time. While a T13 at the Masters and a T24 at Kapalua are among the largest items in the rearview mirror, he’ll put to the test the theory that he’ll be able to find his game at Waialae. In 11 prior trips, he hasn’t missed a cut and averaged 67.61 in 44 rounds. The effort has yielded a T3 (2019) and a solo fifth (2014) among six top 20s.
Brendon Todd … Easily could have populated the Power Rankings given his strengths of hitting it on a line and rolling in putts. He’s posted three top 25s in six trips to Waialae and has a scoring average of 68.64 in 22 rounds, so line him up as insurance. On the other side of the ledger is a weakness not to hit enough greens in regulation, which is all but required in a shootout.
Zach Johnson … Making his contract season count with two top 10s and another two top 25s contributing to a 6-for-6 record. Also a former winner at Waialae (2009) with six top 20s in 15 appearances.
Adam Scott … The semi-regular participant is in his ninth start since debuting in 2004. A share of runner-up honors in 2009 headlines four top 20s among five cuts made at Waialae. While he’s not letting us down per se, the through line on the analysis over the last few months is that he turned 40 in July. It’s just something that gamers can’t ignore no matter his cachet and Official World Golf Ranking (22nd). Reliable piece, but if you haven’t turned the page on him as a cornerstone, it’s time.
Jason Kokrak … He’s stumbled since the breakthrough victory at Sherwood, but with a 5-for-5 slate that includes a pair of top 20s at Waialae, he’s a hoss for the moss.
Emiliano Grillo … Perfect in four trips with top 25s in the last two editions. That’s what sound ball-striking does. Also concluded the fall with an ascendent T18-T8 through Sea Island and Mayakoba.
Patton Kizzire … Defended his 2018 title with a T13, and then missed last year’s cut, but he came on strong to close out 2020 with three top 25s. Perfect for DFSers.
Erik van Rooyen … Didn’t get off to a superb start in what is his first season with a PGA TOUR card, but he made only two starts, anyway. After a T20 in Houston, a sore back forced him to withdraw from the Masters after one round. After a month off, he placed T14 in Dubai. Now rested another month, the 30-year-old from South Africa can hit the island running in his debut. Just remember to respect the learning curve.
Hideki Matsuyama … This will be one of his most important weeks from our perspective. He’s coming off a rough showing at Kapalua that was worse than rusty. He shared last place (T41) on a track where he hadn’t finished outside the top four in his first three trips. However, he did close with a 5-under 68 that included an eagle on the par-5 fifth and five birdies on his last seven holes. His record at Waialae isn’t anywhere near as impressive, but he managed a T12 last year. He’s going to scare those who make decisions with recency bias, and reasonably so, but he doesn’t slump. Consider him fractionally in DFS if at all.
Sergio Garcia … Part of the sweat squad of notables who are wild cards every time they peg it. Phil Mickelson (obviously), Brooks Koepka (sigh) and Kevin Na (duh) also rush to mind for various reasons. I’ve been at this for so long that I can’t shake the notion that almost every time I see any rostered, the majority of their owners must be fantasy plebes. En route to a T11 at Kapalua, Garcia led the field in Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green and par-5 scoring. He’ll need to putt better at Waialae where he hasn’t appeared since 2003.
Brendan Steele … Not for the faint of heart. He held a three-shot lead entering last year’s finale at Waialae and eventually lost in the playoff with Cameron Smith. Steele had a week with the putter not unlike how Hudson Swafford rode a hot flatstick at Corales in the fall. It’s happened more often with Steele, who always has value in a season-long format, but since missing the cut at the Shriners, he’s just 2-for-5 with a T65-T70 fortnight in the no-cut stops at Shadow Creek and Sherwood, respectively.
Brandt Snedeker … Something will give. Playoff victim here in 2016 and top 20s in the last two editions, but his form since play resumed last summer has been fleeting. Only one top-40 finish in his last 15 starts.
Fabián Gómez … His victory in 2016 is his only top-55 finish in eight tries. In the last 12 months, he’s missed 13 of 20 cuts on the PGA TOUR and has only one top 25.
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Jim Herman … The first of three PGA TOUR members with a surname starting with “H” back in action after having just been sidelined by COVID-19. One of three qualifiers for the Sentry Tournament of Champions who didn’t compete. (Rory McIlroy and Tyrrell Hatton also took a pass.) Since prevailing at Sedgefield in mid-August, Herman is 4-for-7 and without a top 25. This aligns with his profile over time. Despite his fully exempt status through 2022-23, the 43-year-old essentially is unownable unless your format goes deep enough to corral all golfers with similar status.
Kramer Hickok … COVID-19 forced him to withdraw before The RSM Classic. Prior to it, he logged a T21 at Corales and a T8 on Bermuda, so he’s in a good spot at 99th in the FedExCup. Also finished T15 in the conclusion of the Korn Ferry Tour’s portion of 2020. Just 1-for-2 at Waialae with a T45 last year, but the experience is invaluable. With his ball-striking and recent series of solid performances, give him a twirl in DFS.
Bill Haas … Also was bounced just before the RSM with COVID-19. Since he’s on conditional status, every start is harder to get, so that was unfortunate timing as it pertained to his schedule. This is his first trip to Waialae since he missed the cut in 2018.
Patrick Reed … A T21 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions marked just the second time he’s finished outside the top 20 in seven trips. It also was his first result outside a top 15 in his last seven starts worldwide. Set all of that aside when he’s back because he’s been riding a comfortable wave for a while now.
Viktor Hovland … Backpedaled to a T31 in his debut at Kapalua with a Sunday 76. The course has been known to be a source of tough love for which no one is exempt. It’s also a good reminder for us to keep our expectations in check. It’s why I always target top 10s. Top fives are bonuses and wins are, well, reasons to celebrate, of course. Look for the 23-year-old again at the Farmers Insurance Open in two weeks.
Sean O’Hair … Still has 10 starts remaining on his Major Medical Extension to earn 227.582 and retain status, but each is precious, so it’s always wise not to burn the next one until ready.
Sebastian Cappelen … His Waialae debut goes back on ice. Currently 136th in the FedExCup primarily on the strength of a T11 at Corales. Because the rest of his fall was unimpressive, it saved a plummet in the reshuffle category where he actually climbed two spots to 18th in the first reorder of the season.
Joseph Bramlett … Waialae is the site of his first PGA TOUR cut made. It was a T68 in 2011. Now 32 years of age and having worked his way through a debilitating back injury, he worthy of a spot in deeper formats. Cashed four times in seven starts this season but none went for a top 40.
Steve Stricker … The 53-year-old has value as a spot-starter, and he’d have been tempting at Waialae where he’s missed only one cut in 15 starts ranging from 1994-2019. Fully exempt via a career earnings exemption, so this won’t be the last time he’ll have piqued our interest.
POWER RANKINGS RECAP – Sentry Tournament of Champions
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Dustin Johnson T11
2 Justin Thomas 3rd
3 Xander Schauffele T5
4 Jon Rahm T7
5 Patrick Reed T21
6 Hideki Matsuyama T41
7 Webb Simpson T17
8 Patrick Cantlay T13
9 Viktor Hovland T31
10 Tony Finau T31
11 Harris English Win
12 Bryson DeChambeau T7
13 Daniel Berger 10th
14 Collin Morikawa T7
15 Cameron Champ T31
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE GOLFERS ON THE PGA TOUR
January 12 … Rob Oppenheim (41)
January 13 … none
January 14 … Luke List (36); Hank Lebioda (27)
January 15 … Y.E. Yang (49)
January 16 … Jimmy Walker (42)
January 17 … none
January 18 … none