Written by Brandon Hill on January 10, 2018

This week, the PGA Tour stays in Hawaii before heading back to the mainland, but will jump over from Maui to Honolulu on the island of Oahu at Waialae Country Club. Waialae CC is a 7,000-yard, Par 70 course with wide fairways and bermuda greens. After a 34-man tournament last week featuring the winners of every tournament last season at the Tournament of Champions, the Sony Open is the first official full-field event of the year with 144 golfers. As usual, the top-70 and ties will make the cut and play through into the weekend. As usual, we have identified our Key Stat rankings for the course this week and they are as followed…

  • SG: Tee to Green
  • SG: Off the Tee
  • SG: Ball Striking
  • Birdies or Better %
  • Greens in Regulation %
  • Good Drives
  • Par 4 Scoring

This week, we will start off with our “Strokes Gained” categories. SG: Tee-to-Green and SG: Off-the-Tee are both key this week because we have a course where the golfers’ accuracy isn’t important. With accuracy not being a major problem here with a favorable rough, we want to target bombers who can get from the tee to green easily and strike the ball well in doing so. As with most other weeks, Birdie or Better % is a key stat this week with DraftKings’ scoring favoring birdies and eagles much more than standings at the end of the week. Also, this week should be yet another birdie-fest, with past winners posting final scores from -13 to -27 (YES -27). The cut ranges from even to -2 on average. Similar to SG: T2G and SG: OTT, Good Drives and Greens in Regulation % are both quite important stats at Waialae CC. With the course conditions and key stats in mind, let’s get into the Must-Haves…
Tony Finau (DraftKings $8,900; FanDuel $11,000; FantasyDraft $16,300)
With all the solid plays in the $8,500-$10K range (on DraftKings), we really tried to hone-in on which one of those guys is the top play up there. While we like Spieth and Leishman to be the top guys at $10K+, Finau comes into this week with sneaky upside. First off the bat, Finau is tearing up the PGA Tour as of late. Just check how things picked up for Finau during the PLAYOFFs – after finishing T54 and T65 at the first two events, he went T7-T7 at the BMW Championship and TOUR Championship to close out the season. When you take into account the type of fields those two tournaments boast, those finishes perhaps hint at a maturing Tony Finau. That could be a scary thing for the rest of the Tour in 2018. And it already has been to start the season…
Finau started the 2017-2018 season with a runner-up finish at the Safeway Open, then followed that with three consecutive top-26 finishes at the CJ CUP (T26), WGC-HSBC (T11), and Shriners (T16). That last one, the Shriners Open finish, Finau was tied for 3rd heading into the final round, but struggled to a 1-over round that dropped him 13 spots. Once we saw that Finau has all that momentum, we just hoped he had a good course history going his way to solidify the pick.
So how has Tony finished at the Sony Open in his young career? After his missed cut here in 2015, Finau has two consecutive made-cuts with finishes of T64 and T20, respectively, at Waialae CC. Last year, Finau really played well here, with rounds of 64-67-68-69. It looks to us like Finau got tired as the week went on and that wore at him, which perhaps could be due to the fact that he played at the Tournament of Champions in Maui the week before as well. This year, Finau failed to qualify for the Tournament of Champions with a win on Tour, so we expect him to be fully rested for the test Waialae offers.
BUT ALL THAT BEING SAID, this is the first Must-Have under $10,000 (on DraftKings) in a longggg time that delivers on the course history and recent form fronts, AS WELL AS sitting at the very top of stats boards. In DK points, Strokes Gained: Total, and Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, Finau ranks 3rd in the field (over the last 50 rounds) in each category! As well as ranking 6th in SG: Ball Striking in the field (a very important category this week), he also is first in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee – which comes as no surprise for the long-bomber. Finau is an absolute steal this week, as his price is almost criminal with all the intangibles he brings to the table. While others will be distracted by names such as Russell Henley and Webb Simpson in that price range, look to Finau as the top play there. DJ won last week in Hawaii, don’t be surprised if this young gun on the rise leaves with a victory this week.
Gary Woodland (DraftKings $7,800; FanDuel $10,200; FantasyDraft $16,100)
Gary Woodland is another player whose price is criminal. Check this out – since the Northern Trust, dude finished T18-T27-T19 at the final three PLAYOFF events. That led Woodland to a top-30 finish in the FedExCup Standings (28th) for the season, and sparked some momentum in this former Jayhawk. Woodland has played in four events in the first portion of the wraparound season, finishing T28th at the CIMB Classic, T40th at the CJ CUP, T18th at the Shriners, and T34th at the OHL Classic. But it’s not his momentum we like, but his tournament history and stats.
So how has Gary Woodland played at the Sony Open? Well, superbly, actually. He boasts one of the best tournament histories in the field, finishing T3rd in 2015, then T13th in 2016, and T6th last year. In 2014, a year before his first time at Waialae, Woodland played at the Tournament of Champions and finished T13th. He clearly is comfortable playing in the islands, and carries incredible form at this course. I mean, just check out these 12 rounds…

  • 2015: 70-65-65-67
  • 2016: 66-67-66-69
  • 2017: 64-64-68-67

Keep in mind that this course is a Par 70. That’s 11 straight under-par rounds here. How they came up with Woodland’s price on DraftKings this week is beyond me, but he’s a straight steal in Honolulu.
And to polish off his resume coming in, Woodland carries some pretty incredible form over the past few tournaments based on his stats. Over the past 50 rounds played, Woodland ranks 8th in this field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, 4th in Strokes Gained: Ball Striking, and 12th in Strokes Gained: Approaches. And to add the cherry on top, he ranks 7th in Strokes Gained: Approaches. Don’t let Woodland’s length off-the-tee fool you; he is certainly capable of dominating a Par 70 course. He’s proven it at this very one three straight years. We like that to get to four, as he is a sneaky pick to win.
(Intro/Stats Analysis by Preston Rauhauser)

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