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Horse For The Course: PGA DFS - Sony Open

Hello again friends and thanks for joining me here at RotoBaller! The season kicked off with a bang at the Sentry Tournament of Champions last week, as Justin Thomas prevailed over Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed in a three-man playoff.

JT was this article's Horse last week, while one of our Ponies - Patrick Reed - was also in the playoff! I love it when a plan comes together!

This week we'll stay in Hawaii for the long-running Sony Open. It will be our first full-field event of 2020 and I'm really looking forward to the return of "normal tournaments" that include a 36-hole cut. Golf is BACK, let's dive in!

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Sony Open Overview

Did you love watching primetime golf in Hawaii last week? If so, you are once again in for a treat this week, as we stay in paradise for the Sony Open. There's tons of great course history for us to dive into this week, as Waialae Country Club in Honolulu has hosted this event for many years, which gives us a very nice sample size to work with. A blistering-hot Matt Kuchar took down last year's Sony Open and he'll be back to defend on the heels of a so-so T14 outing at the Sentry. He'll be joined by a solid field that includes last week's winner - and 2017 Sony Open champ - Justin Thomas. We'll also see Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama, and Collin Morikawa tee it up this week, which does give the Sony something of a "top heavy" feel...but we'll also find names that PGA-DFS regulars are familiar with as we work our way down the salary scale.

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week.

 

The Course: Waialae Country Club

Par 70 - 7,044 Yards, Greens: Bermuda
We get another beautiful Hawaiian golf course this week in Waialae Country Club, the long-time host of the Sony Open. It would be easy to lump this course in a similar bucket as last week's Kapalua layout, but that would be a huge mistake, as the courses are rather different. Waialae's fairways routinely rank as some of the toughest to hit on the PGA Tour (while Kapalua's fairways are hard to miss!), but missing these fairways isn't super penalizing, as player's will still find their ball in short grass more often than not. Waialae only has two Par 5s, but players racked up a massive 56 eagles here last year, which makes Par-5 scoring critical this week. Past winners here have hit fairways and greens consistently, while also taking advantage of the Par 5s.

 

The Horse

Webb Simpson (DK - $11,100)

Notable Course History: T4 ('18), T13 ('17), T13 ('16), T13 ('15)

The Webber!!! Poor guy had to spend the entire President's Cup with Patrick Reed, which I imagine is probably like being forced to hang out with your Mom's best friend's kid when you're a child. No matter how weird or how big of an ass that kid is, there you are, stuck with him while your moms drink wine and discuss taking up a yoga class together. Luckily, Simpson will be free of his "buddy" this week at the Sony. He's been ridiculously-consistent at Waialae Country Club, with a T4 and three T13s in four Sony starts since 2015.

Simpson is the type of player that's easy to sleep on. He doesn't hit it a mile or win a whole lot of tournaments, but he's produced remarkably-consistent, excellent results over the past few years. In 21 starts last season, Webb made 20 cuts and logged six top-10s en route to ranking third on the PGA Tour in Scoring Average at 69.377.

Despite being a fairly short hitter by today's standards, Webb finished ninth on the Tour in Total Eagles last year. Over his last 24 rounds he ranks fifth in this week's field in both Strokes Gained: Tee to Green & Approach. He's also looked sharp in limited starts this fall, scoring a T7, a runner-up, and a T10 in addition to seeing action at the President's Cup.

 

The Ponies

Justin Thomas (DK - $12,000)

Notable Course History: T16 ('19), T14 ('18), Win ('17), MC ('16), T6 ('15)

I highlighted JT in last week's HFTC and I'm not ashamed to keep riding the hot hand. Thomas has looked simply dominant since late summer, logging three wins and three top-fives since August.

While we normally might be reluctant to roster the previous week's winner, the opposite is true when it comes to JT, a player that can go on unbelievable hot streaks and has often collected wins in bunches throughout his career. In addition to the sicko form, we have to love his record at the Sony, a tournament that he won in 2017 - a week after winning the then SBS Tournament of Champions. Does any of this sound familiar?

His ball striking numbers are ridiculous, and he enters this week ranked first in the field in Strokes Gained: Total, T2G, Ball Striking, and Approach. It can sometimes be a stretch to roster a player with a $12k price tag, but this week with Thomas you are getting the unquestioned best player in the field and a golfer that is playing head and shoulders above everyone right now. If his putting is decent-to-good, he might just go back-to-back for the Hawaii Swing, just like he did in 2017.

 

Brandt Snedeker (DK - $8,600)

Notable Course History: T16 ('19), MC ('17), 2nd ('16)

Brandt Snedeker's super-solid course history certainly makes him HFTC worthy this week, as the Vandy product recorded a solo-second at Waialae in 2016 and a T16 last year. In addition to his track record at the Sony, I'm highlighting Sneds in large part due to the expected weather in Honolulu this week. With sustained winds of over 20mph and some rain expected throughout the tournament, I'm really intrigued by Sneds, a player that's roundly considered one of the best "bad weather" players in the world. Snedeker ranks second in the field in Scrambling Gained over his last 24 rounds - an aspect that could go overlooked by many this week.

 

Russell Knox (DK - $7,800)

Notable Course History: T43 ('19), T10 ('18), T11 ('17), MC ('16), T13 ('15)

Russell Knox is another player I don't mind having on my roster whenever the weather gets nasty. The veteran from Scotland has also traditionally fared well in the Sony Open. Knox heads to the 2020 edition in trending form, as he's ran off five-straight made cuts after since failing to make the weekend in his first start of the fall. Knox is averaging 5.3 Strokes Gained Total over his last five tournaments. He stands 23rd in the field in Good Drives Gained and fourth in GIRs Gained over his last 24 rounds, and his fairways-and-greens style puts him squarely in consideration as a sub-$8k option this week.

 

Kyle Stanley (DK - $7,000)

Notable Course History: T22 ('19), T10 ('18), T36 ('17), T13 ('16)

Sometimes course history can take us to some funky places and that's where we are with Kyle Stanley this week. Stanley had an absolutely miserable 2018-19 season, making just 16 of 25 cuts, while ranking 161st in SG: Putting. Stanley has shown a bit of life this fall, especially with his irons, as he's gained over four strokes on approach in four of his last five starts. Waialae is a true "get right" spot for Stanley, as he's went 4/4 in the Sony since 2016 with a top-10 and two top-25s. I wouldn't let him anywhere near cash lineups, but he's an intriguing GPP option this week.

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