Following Harris English’s win at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the PGA TOUR will stay in Hawaii this week, Honolulu to be exact, for the 2021 Sony Open. Waialae Country Club (Par 70, 7,044 yards) is the host course of this event and has been since the tournament’s origin back in 1965.
A year ago, Cameron Smith (-11) took home the big check, edging out Brendan Steele in a playoff. First off, Smith’s high winning score last season was an anomaly. The players saw some extreme winds and rain throughout the tournament, and the conditions at Waialae were far from the usual. Five of the previous seven Sony Open winners before Smith cracked 20 strokes under par, and while there is rain in the forecast again this year, the winds gusts are expected to stay relatively quiet all four days, so we should get back to seeing low numbers at Waialae this week. As always, being a strong birdie maker is a must at this Hawaiian track. Of the past seven Sony Open winners, only Patton Kizzire in 2018 didn’t lead his field in total birdies during his victory. He ranked T4th. We have seen both long and short hitters come out victorious at this course in the past and your off the tee game isn’t overly important here. The fairways are easy to hit, and even if you do end up missing the short grass, the rough isn’t penalizing. This more of a second shot course and consistent and strong iron play is crucial at Waialae. In fact, four of the last five golfers to record a win at the Sony Open have ranked inside the top-seven in SG APP.
Waialae is a par 70, which means that there are 12 par fours and only two par fives on the scorecard. Being an efficient par four player is the most important skill needed this week. Each of the last nine golfers to win this event ranked in the top-four in SG on the par fours, with four of these players leading their fields. Just like last week at Kapalua, Waialae Country Club is home to Bermuda greens and we should be prioritizing golfers with positive splits on this surface. Smith ranked 1st in SGP a year ago and every Sony Open champion since 2015 has been T5 or better in the stat.
After a small no-cut event at the Sentry, we get our first standard cut tournament of the season at the Sony Open. Barring any more withdrawals, this will be a 142 person field and there will be a top-65 and ties cutline following the second round. After putting more of an emphasis on DraftKings’ scoring at the Sentry, we need to shift our focus to getting all six of the golfers in our lineup through the cutline at the Sony Open, and below are four of my favorite options that are priced under $7,500 on DraftKings this week.
Matthew NeSmith, $7,400
NeSmith was playing on the weekend in his Sony Open debut last season (T32) and he closed out the 2020 fall swing in strong form, making four of his final five cuts. During this run, the 27-year-old carded three top-20s, most notably a T8 at the Shriners Open. In his last start, NeSmith finished T15th at the RSM Classic, where he shot under par in all four rounds and gained 5.4 strokes T2G, good enough to rank him 8th for the week. This event also took place on Bermuda greens and NeSmith has made eight of his last ten cuts on this surface type, with four top-20 finishes.
The University of South Carolina graduate has successfully gained strokes with his irons in nine straight tournaments and if compare all of these golfer’s last 24 rounds, NeSmith ranks 10th in SG APP and 5th in GIR. He hasn’t played at the PGA level in nearly two months, but if NeSmith can carry over this great form from the fall into the new year, he should without a doubt find himself inside the cutline come Friday night.
Russell Knox, $7,400
Knox had a disappointing 2020 season, making 11 of 22 cuts, but his game was trending up in the fall. He closed out the year finishing T16 at the Bermuda Championship, T15 at the Houston Open, MC at the RSM Classic and T23 at the Mayakoba Golf Classic, in that order. Sticking greens at a high rate was his calling card during this run and since the start of November, Knox ranks 5th in GIR and 13th in SG APP. Additionally, the Scottish pro ranks 10th in bogeys avoided and 18th in SG on par fours over this time.
Now, for his first action in 2021, Knox will travel to Waialae Country Club, where he has made four straight cuts. He posted a T11 here in 2017 and a T10 in 2018. As of Monday night, Knox presents the best odds to win the Sony Open of all the golfers under $7,500 this week (+9000 via the DraftKings Sportsbook).
Scott Piercy, $7,300
Piercy is a consistent cut maker that loves making the trip to Honolulu every year. The 42-year-old is eight for his last nine in made cuts on tour and sports a nine for 12 record at Waialae. Piercy has been competing on the weekend in six consecutive Sony Opens, including a runner-up to Jimmy Walker in 2015. He has gained 5.3 total strokes per start across his last five and Piercy is without a doubt at his best on Bermuda grass.
In his last 15 appearances at courses that feature Bermuda, he has made 12 cuts and finished inside the top-ten three times. Another selling point for Piercy is that he is never a popular name in DFS. In his last ten tournaments, the veteran has garnered a low average GPP ownership of 4% on DraftKings, and I highly doubt he cracks 10% in this full field.
Anirban Lahiri, $6,700
Lahiri was playing some excellent golf before the new year. He is heading into the Sony Open on a four made cut streak, highlighted by a T6 at the Corales Puntacana Championship and then a T11 at the Bermuda Championship. The 33-year-old clearly has a knack for playing in tropical weather and his top attribute has always been his par four play.
When we analyze this entire fields last 12 rounds, Lahari ranks 2nd in SG on par fours and 6th in BOB%. He has shot under par in nine of his past 12 rounds on tour and while Lahiri’s record at Waialae is suspect (1/3), the reward outweighs the risk at his cheap salary.
Put your knowledge to the test. Sign up for DraftKings and experience the game inside the game.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL). Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ/WV/PA), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN), 1-800-522-4700 (NH/CO), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA) or TN REDLINE: 800-889-9789. 21+ (18+ NH). NJ/PA/WV/NH/IN/NH/IA/CO/IL/TN only. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for full terms and conditions.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is Hunta512) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.