While it was great to have golf back last week, I am much more excited from a DFS perspective for this week’s Sony Open. We get a full field set to tee it up at Waialae Country Club, and the difference-maker for me is the added sweat of the cut after the second round. This is the part of PGA DFS that separates it from the rest of the sports as only the players that finish the first 36 holes within the top 65 and ties will hang around to play the weekend.
This week they stay in Hawaii but head to Honolulu for a very different test from last week in Kapalua. The players will be set to tee it up on a short 7,044-yard par 70 with narrow fairways that emphasize accuracy off the tee and strong approach play. Scoring around Waialae is very wind-dependent, and similar to last week, it looks like we should expect light winds and soft conditions throughout the weekend. These conditions should be conducive to low scoring and be similar to last year, where we saw the winning score get beyond 20 strokes under par. If it stays really calm, I won’t rule out a player getting within a few shots of the 27-under that Justin Thomas posted in his win in 2017.
Nowadays, it is rare that we get weeks where driving distance isn’t a factor, but that is certainly the case this week for the Sony. Many of the players with prior success fit the mold of shorter hitters that find fairways and greens. The likes of Kevin Kisner, Webb Simpson, and Cam Smith have all found consistent success at this track, and those are the style of players I will be targeting this week.
As you dig into your research, you can start with many of the great articles we have here at FantasyLabs and Action Network. Matt Vincenzi covers players that fit the mold at the course, as well as some of his favorite GPP plays in his DFS stats preview article. Landon Silinsky lays out his favorite cash game plays, which can help for ownership and core plays in tournaments as well. Lastly, Justin Bailey highlights his 3 Key Golfers for DFS for the coming week.
In this article, I will focus on my favorite large-field GPP plays for the Sony Open, with our target tournament being the $15 Flop Shot on Draftkings. This week they have increased it to a $700,000 prize pool with a cool $200,000 to first across 54,901 entries. There is no doubt that ownership will be important as we lay out our process to build a winning lineup, and FanShare Sports has us covered for that aspect within our FantasyLabs Models.
Let’s get right to it.
Top Tier ($9,000-$11,200 DraftKings)
Cameron Smith ($11,200 DraftKings)
The withdrawal of Bryson Dechambeau on Monday afternoon left a big gap between the top of the board with Sentry TOC winner Cameron Smith and the next-priced player, Hideki Matsuyama. That high price tag and a tendency for DFS players to shy away from the prior week’s winner has Smith coming in as one of the two lowest owned players of those priced in five figures.
There is a lot to love about Smith this week, as his game actually suits the course at Waialae better than The Plantation Course at Kapalua, which is a scary thought for a guy that just posted 35-under. The Australian won this event back in 2020 and clearly has his game in great shape heading into this week. If he can shake off the hangover, there is no reason to believe he can’t contend once again, and he makes for a nice GPP play at less than 20% projected ownership as the top-rated player in both the Bailey and Vegas-Heavy Models on FantasyLabs.
Corey Conners ($9,600 DraftKings)
I haven’t been shy about buying into my best bets for the week in DFS as well, and Corey Conners is a play in both areas for me at the Sony Open. We won’t be alone with this play as the Canadian is set for high ownership over 20%, and we will need to be careful about the chalk we put around him in lineups.
Still, I will buy into his reliable ball-striking and, frankly shocking, putting history at this course where it seems he just has a great feel for these greens. Two of Conners’ best three putting performances of his career have come at Waialae, and I will buy in for that to continue and allow him to be a contender this week.
If you are looking for a pivot in this range, we can get a similar player in Abraham Ancer for just $100 more and what is looking like nearly half the ownership.
Mid Tier ($8,000-$8,900 DraftKings)
Billy Horschel ($8,700 DraftKings)
In my opinion, this is the price range that will be the difference-maker this week. If you can pick the right guys here, outside of a chalky Russell Henley, it appears you will have a leg up on the field. Much of the ownership is pretty middling in this range between 10-15%, while we see plenty of players in the mid-twenties just above it. That tells me that many will be looking to jam in two of the players above $9,000 and leaving them to have to skip this range.
Billy Horschel is a player that makes a lot of sense for this course, with his preference for bermudagrass and an ability to get hot enough to score in a birdie fest. Horschel paid it off last year with a seventh-place finish at this event, and I wouldn’t be surprised for him to contend for another top 10.
He comes in having played last week at the TOC. Even though the results weren’t great, he at least has some tournament play under his belt, which has proven to be valuable in past years.
Cameron Davis ($8,000 DraftKings)
This will come as no surprise to anyone that follows this column weekly, but I love Cam Davis this week. He is a perfect mid-priced player in DFS with all of the scoring upside in the world, and I believe, a legitimate ability to contend for the win.
Many people look at Davis as a guy that is better suited for larger tracks, in part validated by his first win at the Rocket Mortgage, but over a wider scope, it’s these shorter courses where he actually rates out and plays better. Davis already has a T9 finish at this event from 2020, and I am frankly shocked to see he is only projected around 12% ownership this week.
I will be well above that number in tournaments and feel great about that leverage.
Value Plays ($7,000-$7,900 DraftKings)
Denny McCarthy ($7,400 DraftKings)
My builds this week are going to tend to have a goal of jamming in four players from the mid and top tiers, which is going to push me down in price for value plays and sleepers. I am good with that, especially with the guys available to me in those ranges, starting with Denny McCarthy.
McCarthy is arguably the best putter on TOUR, and that argument gets stronger on bermuda. Now, his big issue is some inconsistent ball striking, and I am taking a leap of faith that the ball striking he closed with during the fall swing will still be there now, two months later. If he brings that part of his game, specifically his irons, he is another player that has the skillset to contend to win this event, and there aren’t many around him for which we can say that.
Chad Ramey ($7,100 DraftKings)
Since I already beat the drum on Alex Smalley in my best bets article, I will focus on another “new” player to the TOUR in this space. Chad Ramey was a machine on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2021, where he ripped off 11 top-10 finishes in 43 events played and 40 made cuts. His results weren’t quite as strong when he turned to the big TOUR, as he finished the fall swing with back-to-back missed cuts, but he also posted two top 20s in that stretch as well.
I am willing to take a shot on Ramey in GPPs at low ownership as he has a track record of both consistency and upside that we like for this price.
Sleepers ($6,900 and Under DraftKings)
Hudson Swafford ($6,800 DraftKings)
There are a bunch of directions to go in this price range, as there is some young but unproven talent mixed with some older veterans. I’ll highlight one of each and start with Hudson Swafford. He just seems too cheap for his pedigree at this course, and I, for one, am willing to ignore his results from two months back and hope that he found enough over the winter to make the cut at the Sony.
He’s done just that in seven of his eight trips to this event, including three top 10s and five top 25s. Any of those results would be a success for this price point.
Davis Riley ($6,400 DraftKings)
One of the best players coming out of college from a year ago was Davis Riley. He had a slow start to his professional career but found some success in the fall, most notably with a T7 finish at the Bermuda. I know he has the talent to compete, which gives him great upside at this price, though the missed cut risk is obviously high as well. I’m happy to take a chance that he comes into the new year prepared to prove himself, and this should be a course that suits his game.