The PGA Breakdown offers data-driven analysis for each week’s slate, using the Fantasy Labs Tools and metrics to highlight notable golfers.

The Sony Open will bring on our first PGA event of the season with a 144-player field in which the top 70 players and ties make the cut. So let’s dive right in!

The Course

As always, I backtested various metrics in our PGA Models to find out which ones have been the most valuable at Waialae. Per our Trends tool, here’s how the top 20% of golfers in various metrics have done at this course (in Plus/Minus valuation).

Historically, the tournament has yielded averages of 54.26 DraftKings points and a +6.66 Plus/Minus with a 52.1% Consistency Rating to the field.

I’m listing only those metrics that tested positively above the baseline:

  • Recent Scrambling: +9.20
  • Recent Eagles: +7.82
  • Long-Term Putts Per Round: +6.63
  • Long-Term Par-4 Scoring: +6.38
  • Recent Greens in Regulation: +6.05
  • Recent Par-4 Scoring: +6.00
  • Long-Term Eagles: +5.16
  • Long-Term Missed Cuts: +5.16
  • Recent Missed Cuts: +4.80
  • Long-Term Par-5 Scoring: +4.78
  • Long-Term Birdies: +4.70
  • Recent Bogeys: +4.62
  • Recent Par-3 Scoring: +3.79
  • Long-Term Driving Accuracy: +3.04
  • Recent Driving Accuracy: +2.64
  • Long-Term Adjusted Round Score: +2.05
  • Recent Birdies: +2.01
  • Long-Term Par-3 Scoring: +1.90
  • Long-Term Scrambling: +1.80
  • Recent Par-5 Scoring: +1.33
  • Long-Term Tournament Count: +1.27
  • Recent Adjusted Round Score: +0.57

Waialae is a par-70, 7,044-yard course that’s typically a birdie fest with the average winning score around -17.0 since 2003, per Fantasy Golf Metrics. Additionally, golfers are hitting only around 50% of fairways here, but the short rough here won’t really penalize the players for missing the fairway.

This course has just two par 5s, which makes par-4 scoring especially crucial and the backtesting shows this with both long-term and recent par-4 scoring ranking inside the top six among the metrics that correlated positively.

Knowing this tournament tends to be a birdie fest, most metrics I’ll be focusing on are eagle and birdie scoring, along with the previously mentioned par-4 scoring. I also tend to rely on long-term Adjusted Round Score (LT Adj Rd Score) as a catch-all metric.

High-Salary Stars

Justin Thomas ($11,400 DraftKings; $12,400 FanDuel) checks in with the highest odds to win this field. He won here in 2017 and is an obvious fit for this course with his 17.3 birdies per tournament and field-best -2.5 adjusted strokes on par 4s over the past 75 weeks. He’s also not hard to fit into lineups with golfers in the mid-$7,000 range on DraftKings.

Thomas is the preferred option in the top-tier for me, otherwise, Marc Leishman ($10,500 DraftKings; $10,900 FanDuel) and his third-best LT Adj Rd Score for a little bit cheaper is also intriguing. He’s coming off a fourth-place finish last week, and he hasn’t missed a cut at Waialae in his past seven appearances.

Additionally, Leishman’s 15.6 birdies per tournament over the past 75 weeks ranks third in the field, leading all golfers in the top-tier not named Justin Thomas. Golfers with comparable salaries and LT birdie metrics have historically averaged 75.95 DraftKings points per tournament (per our Trends tool).


Value Plays

One way to find value is to leverage our LT Adj Rd Score metric. If you sort the field by LT Adj Rd Score, you’re looking at players who have been the best golfers over the past 75 weeks. Among these golfers, those who have low salaries make great value plays.

Keegan Bradley’s ($7,700 DraftKings; $9,800 FanDuel) LT Adj Rd Score is the 10th-best mark in the field, but his salary on DraftKings is the 28th-most expensive. His par-4 metrics don’t jump off the page, but his 0.7 eagles per tournament over the past 75 weeks is tied for the second-best mark in the field, tied with Cameron Champ and Thomas, among others.

It’s also worth noting that Long Term Putts Per Round (PPR) backtested third-highest this week, and Bradley’s 29.7 PPR over the past 75 leaves much to be desired. Still, $7,700 is rather cheap for a golfer with his LT Adj Rd Score, and he’s missed just 13% of cuts over the past 75 weeks.

Ian-Poulter

Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Ian Poulter

Ian Poulter ($7,800 DraftKings; $10,000 FanDuel) has a LT Adj Rd Score (69.2) just below Bradley and is priced in a similar price range. His 14.3 birdies per tournament also ranks inside the top 15.

Keith Mitchell ($6,900 DraftKings; $8,900 FanDuel) is the only golfer priced below $7,000 on DraftKings who is averaging more than 14.8 birdies per tournament over the past 75 weeks. In fact, both of Mitchell’s LT birdies and LT adjusted strokes on par 4s both rank inside the top 13 while he’s priced outside the top 40 on DraftKings.

Andrew Putnam ($7,400 DrafKings; $9,600 FanDuel), Scott Piercy ($7,600 DraftKings; $9,500 FanDuel), Adam Hadwin ($7,800 DraftKings; $9,700 FanDuel) and Kevin Tway ($7,500 DraftKings; $10,300 FanDuel) all have LT Adj Rd Scores in the top 27% of the field.

Of those four golfers, Tway’s 14.0 birdies per tournament leads all of them and only Piercy and Putnam have gained strokes on par 4s over the past 75 weeks.


Quick Hits

  • Cameron Champ ($9,900 DraftKings; $11,600 FanDuel): Champ is one of seven players in the field who has gained strokes on par 3s, 4s and 5s over the past 75 weeks, and his 15.1 birdies per tournament over that span ranks seventh in the field.
  • Hideki Matsuyama ($9,300 DraftKings; $11,300 FanDuel): He has a solid 68.7 LT Adj Rd Score and is averaging 0.6 eagles and 14.2 birdies per tournament over the past 75 weeks. Given he’s made just one cut here in his past five tournaments, Hideki could come low owned in tournaments.
  • Paul Casey ($9,100 DraftKings; $11,000 FanDuel): Casey makes his usual weekly mention in this column since his 68.4 LT Adj Rd Score ranks second in the field, his 5% missed-cut rate is tied with Thomas, and Casey is priced as the 11th-most expensive golfer.

Good luck, and be sure to check out The Action Network if you’re looking for more golf coverage!

Pictured above: Marc Leishman
Photo credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports