Going For The Green: Sony Open
It’s a great pleasure to introduce a new part of the DFSDatalytics’ PGA team, Josh Burkett! Every week, Josh will be providing his “Going For The Green” article, along with some more yet-to-be-announced content. Hope you like it! -Adam Daly
In my weekly “Going For The Green” article, I’ll be selecting my top plays from each of four selected salary tiers. I’ll be focusing on key stats for the course, recent form, course history, as well as other factors such as Vegas odds and weather.
WAIALAE COUNTRY CLUB – PAR 70 – 7020 YDS
-JOSH’S KEY STATS-
BIRDIE OR BETTER %
PAR 4 SCORING
STROKES GAINED: APPROACH
TIER 1 ($9500+)
HIDEKI MATSUYAMA – $11000 – 7 to 1
Touting the hottest player in the world is easy work; in Hideki’s last 6 events around the world he’s finished 2nd, 1st, 6th, 1st, and 2nd – pretty damn good. His recent form speaks for itself, but he also checks nearly every box in terms of my key stats for Waialae:
- Birdie or Better %, 6th.
- Par-4 Scoring, 28th.
- Ball-Striking, 14th.
- Strokes Gained: Approach, 2nd.
In addition to all that statistical merit, Hideki historically putts well on Bermuda grass, and gains nearly 2 strokes (1.722) on the field while playing par-70 courses. Hideki has the hot hand right now, and I fully expect it to continue this week in Hawaii.
TIER 2 ($9400-$8000)
ZACH JOHNSON – $8500 – 50 to 1
The world’s 29th ranked golfer carries a solid tournament history with him this week into Waialae CC. He’s made eight of his last nine cuts in the event, with two top 10’s in his last three, while also boasting a victory in 2010. He hasn’t played in an official event since late November at the RSM Classic where he missed the cut. Since that time he picked up a 12th-place finish in the Hero World Classic (-6).
Any time there isn’t a distinct advantage with length off the tee, ZJ’s game comes into play. Historically, Waialae is one of the most difficult driving courses on tour, with less than 50% of drives ending up in the short grass.; this is where Johnson gains an advantage on the field, as last year he finished 32nd in Driving Accuracy for the season. If he can keep the ball in the fairway and get to a short iron or wedge, then he can put his 41st placed ranking in Proximity to the test. With only two par-5’s on the course it’s important to take a look at Zach’s par-3 and par-4 scoring averages, where he ranks 50th (3.04) and 48th (4.03) respectively. His 17th ranked Strokes Gained: Around The Green will come into favor here as well.
Zach’s salary of only $8500 comes at a monstrous discount compared to the $11300 he was priced at last year in this event. His pricing is friendly enough that it’s possible to grab Hideki ($11000) and still have enough salary to build a solid lineup without having to punt a play.
TIER 3 ($7900-$7000)
KEVIN NA – $7700 – 66 to 1
Na is another name that pops up as a slow, Bermuda grass specialist. While gaining 2.247 strokes on the field when playing on slow greens, he also gains 1.871 strokes on the field while playing on Bermuda. Helping Na’s cause even more at this event will be his 23rd rank in Birdie or Better percentage. Na can certainly score when it’s necessary, especially on par-4s, where he ranks 3rd on the tour. When weighing in key stats, Kevin is my 9th ranked golfer overall.
As the 36th ranked player in the world, Na comes at a pretty big discount compared to those with similar global standing. Justin Thomas is the world’s 33rd ranked golfer and is priced at a significantly higher $10500, while Daniel Berger, who ranks just behind Na at 37th in OWGR, is $8800. At $7700 Na is a player who has made 80 percent of his cuts over the last year, and also has the potential to pull home a top 10 finish.
TIER 4 ($6900-)
WEBB SIMPSON – $6800 – 80 to 1
Webb is one of those guys who seems cringe-worthy when he pops up in stat rankings, but only because of his struggles with the putter. As you’ll notice, these picks include some historically lousy putters due to the fact that Waialae’s greens are some of the slower on tour. Webb’s ability to knock it close (ranked 8th in Proximity) should benefit him in his attempts to handle the greens.
The former US Open winner has finished inside the top 38 here in each of his last four attempts, including a pair of 13th place finishes his last two times out. Webb’s current form is solid right now, with finishes inside of the top 36 in each of his last three events played. With a salary of only $6800 there are definitely worse options than Webb Simpson, whose price doesn’t match his upside. Webb can score on par-4s (4.00 scoring average) and he can knock it close on approach (4th in Strokes Gained: Approach), he’ll just need a little help from his putter.
Huge thanks to Josh Culp (@futureoffantasy) for providing his in depth split stats. You can find Josh’s Golfanac at futureoffantasy.com.
Good luck this week! Follow me on Twitter @GWBuffalo7 and make sure to check back tomorrow for the Core Fore!