It was a very interesting first full field event of 2021 at the Sony Open, as you were flat drawing dead if you didn’t get all six of our golfers through the cutline. The six of six rate was around 25 percent on the week, as nearly all of the chalk made it through outside of Abraham Ancer.
However, it was not a chalky finish as champion, Kevin Na was 6-10% owned in most contests and the solo winning lineup in the main DraftKings GPP came through with just about 60% total lineup ownership.
This week the TOUR goes stateside for The American Express at PGA West in La Quinta, Ca. My course and tournament preview breaks down the details of the field and the course. Also, check in on Matt Vincenzi’s stats that matter article to identify the key starts to target around this two course event.
In my own model I have added in a few key categories, but the key revolves around approach. The greens around PGA West are small, just about 5,000 square feet in size, so it will require a precise iron game in order to reach in regulation. I have added some weight to good drives as that factors in drives that may have landed in the fairway or rough, but still resulted in a green hit in regulation.
I will also look at approach proximity, especially from 200-plus yards, as the key Par 3s fall in that category. You also want guys that can dial in a second shot on the Par 5s.
I’ll also continue to give weight and target players that have already made their debut, as that has historically produced better results. There is always a benefit to shaking the rust off in Hawaii, then getting a chance to dial it in a bit more for The American Express.
Now that we’ve got my model and strategy together, let’s take a look at my top picks for the week.
Tony Finau ($10,500 DK/$11,200 FD)
The top tier was shaken up only hours after it got priced as the top priced golfer — and lowest odds on the board –Jon Rahm withdrew on Monday. It will drive ownership down to the rest of the tier a bit, but there is a pretty clear chalk stand at this point in the week in this tier.
Tony Finau will be where I start a lot of my lineups this week with his scoring ability and recent success at this event factoring alongside some of the lowest projected ownership. He breaks the tie for me with Brooks Koepka who will be looking to shake the rust off in his first tournament of the new year. Finau ranks 5th in my overall model and is coming off of a 14th place finish at this event last year. He’s known for his scoring and even though he doesn’t have the win equity, he’s makes a great play at the top in a tournament that is known for having surprise winners. Finau especially stands out on FanDuel where he comes in as the 6th priced golfer.
Patrick Reed ($10,200 DK/$11,500 FD)
It’s been a few years since we’ve seen Reed at The American Express, but his results speak for themselves, most notably his win at the event in 2014. He decided to back out of the Sony last week, citing something like shin splints, but quickly added his name to the field for this tournament before Friday’s deadline.
Reed shapes up as a great play this week with his solid iron play and the added comfort of his elite around the green game that may come into play more if the courses play more difficult without the amateurs to water down pin positions. As noted by his prior victory here, this course is a great fit to Reed’s game where he can dial it back to avoid trouble off the tee and still be aggressive on approach. I love his scoring ability in what should be a bit of a birdiefest, and though it looks like he will be owned, I’ll still eat some of that chalk.
Scottie Scheffler ($9,500 DK/$11,300 FD)
Sometimes players are chalk for all of the right reasons and on DraftKings that is the case with Scottie Scheffler. He is simply too cheap following a 13th at the Tournament of Champions and a 3rd place finish at this event last year. As is becoming a theme, he is a scorer that can post the DK points needed for an optimal lineup even if he falls short of being the winner.
If we begin to see ownership pushing 30% for Scheffler this week, there are two ways to handle it. Either pivot to someone around him and hope for him to have a result similar to Sungjae last week or just be sure not to pair him with some of the obvious chalk. You can still have him in lineups and have it be the right decision if you build it with the right lower owned pieces.
Si Woo Kim ($8,200 DK/$9,900 FD)
My plan this week is to build with two and maybe three of the top-tier players then drop down to fill out the rest of my lineup. I will naturally have a big gap from about $8,500 to $9,500 on DraftKings, and will therefore be heavier around the Si Woo Kim price range.
Much of the chalk this week is going to go just above Kim with Sam Burns garnering a lot of conversation and ownership. I get it and may fit him in (probably not with Scheffler as noted above), but I have Kim rating out just a bit better and the ownership just solidifies that.
Kim ranks 8th in my model, raking 6th in the all important Birdie or Better Percentage over the last 6 months, and he has true win equity as he continues to play well and more consistently. I give him a real chance to contend this week with his game that gained strokes in all tee-to-green metrics last week, at an event where he finished 9th in 2016.
Brian Harman ($8,100 DK/$9,800 FD)
The next pick is one that’s interesting and likely will be ownership based for me before the players tee it up on Thursday. Brian Harman is the one that comes in at lower ownership than his course history counterpart, Adam Hadwin. He also has some better recent form, but that’s not saying much when you look at the log for Hadwin.
I’ll be going here for one of these two and it’s not because they rate well or are showing positive trends, but rather because they have shown historically to love these courses and that fit matters this week. I am hopeful that Harman remains the lower owned of the two and if it’s close, he’ll get my tiebreak having shaken off some rust last week at the Sony Open.
Erik Van Rooyen ($7,900 DK/$9,400 FD)
I am going back to the well with Van Rooyen. If you look at the result from last week you will see a missed cut, but that doesn’t tell his story at the Sony Open. As I noted when I picked him for my favorite prop bet to Top 10 this week, he had 34 great holes in the first two rounds with 11 birdies and just two bogeys. His issues came on two holes Friday where he caught with multiple shots trying to get out of the bunker on his second hole of the day leading to a triple bogey. Then on the back nine, Ihe hit a drive just slightly right off the tee, but it bounded off the cart path and into the oblivion of the adjoining brush. He made another triple, and still missed the cut by just one.
I’m not going to let that result dissuade me from taking him again this week, as this is another good course fit for a guy that is known to be a scorer.
Charles Howell III ($7,800 DK/$9,600 FD)
There won’t be many times you see me list Howell as a GPP play, because he doesn’t usually have extensive upside. The times you will, are going to be at early season events like this, on his preferred bermudagrass where he just racks up Top 20 types of finishes.
I like that Howell got a bit of a price decrease from last week at Sony, despite his 19th-place finish and 94 DraftKings points. This week, he is rating out highly for me in all aspects, and I like his upside better than I normally do. While he missed the cut here last year, he made the prior four cuts and finished in the Top 20 in three of those. I’m in on Howell and love that he appears to be overlooked.
Charley Hoffman ($7,400 DK/$8,900 FD)
My favorite longshot to win this week is Charley Hoffman. He is coming back into the form we saw from him in years past and will be looking to roll a 14th place finish from last week into another good result in La Quinta.
Hoffman finished last week fifth in strokes gained tee-to-green, and was just a good putter away from contending throughout the weekend. He fits in nicely at 19th in my model coming off of those good ball striking results, and 4th in approach proximity. Add to it that Charley has won on this course before (2007), and finished runner-up more recentlly (2015), and everything is coming together for another good, maybe even great, week.
Kevin Streelman ($7,200 DK/$8,600 FD)
It’s Kevin Streelman that checks in as my first player that has not yet played this year, but his scoring upside makes him a play for me this week. We get a solid value price on him that he will quickly pay off with birdies if he comes out of the gates playing well and it’s what I expect from the TOUR veteran.
Streelman has the up and down results at The American Express that make him a GPP play as missed cuts and Top 35s mix in with multiple 10th- and 11th-place finishes. He’ll be one of my favorite plays in this range, and ownership won’t be an issue.
Kramer Hickok ($6,700 DK/$8,100 FD)
In order for me to get two to three of the top tier guys as I mentioned above, I will have to dip down to the bottom to make it work. My hope is to be able to do it with just one of the DraftKings $6k guys, rather than having to load up with a bunch here in a range that is a bit of a crap shoot.
Kramer Hickok checks in as one of my favorite, low-priced GPP plays of the week. He is a player that is showing flashes of rounding into form and I always want to try to be early on these types of players. Hickok finished 19th at the Sony Open, buoyed by gaining 6.3 shots tee to green. He will look to carry that form to La Quinta for his third appearance in The American Express. If he continues to produce results, he won’t remain under $7k for long.
Three more in the lowest price tiers: Pat Perez ($6.800 DK/$8,000 FD), Mark Hubbard ($6,700 DK/$7,900 FD), Brice Garnett ($6,500 DK/$7,700 FD)