Eat The Chalk or Make The Pivot, The Sony Open

The tour remains in Hawaii moving from Maui to Honolulu ending their two week visit. We have a decent but not stellar by any means field. The host course is Waialae Country Club which plays as a par 70 around 7040 yards. This course is the exact opposite of what we saw last week. Short and flat. Accuracy of the tee will trump distance. Strokes gained on approach is always important but for this tournament it’s slightly below tour tournament average. 125-200 yards is the sweet spot for iron play with 70% coming from this range.  The bermuda greens are larger than average making them easy to hit. Putting is key as it ranks higher than the normal tournament strokes gained. Interesting though is we have seen several bad putters do well here. So let’s take a look at who we can target in this field of 144 players which has a cut after round 2.

10k+ Price Range
We have four players to choose from with three of the four having inconsistent results at this tournament. Sungjae Im has played here four times and has progressively got worse each trip around. This is interesting as he is known for playing well at all bermuda courses. His form entering here has been good as he had T10 finishes at the TOC the past two years. PGA National, Colonial Country Club, Harbour Town and Sedgefield Country Club are all comp courses in which he has played well. Perhaps it’s just something with the eye for this course not matching up.

Jordan Spieth continues his up and down play. He showed positive signs mixed with negative at the TOC. This matches his history here finsihing 3rd, 18th and 2 missed cuts. Of the four I feel Spieth will be the lowest owned. Expect to hear the narrative that his lack of accuracy of the tee will keep people away. My concern with Jordan is he makes to many bogeys which negate his birdies. Currently I am not sure I can handle the ups and downs that come with Spieth.

Hideki Matsuyama started out his career by missing his first four cuts here. Since he has made 5 cuts in a row. He is the defending champion who carries two other T20 finishes here. Last week he struggled with his tee to green game along with his approach shots. It was the putter who that carried him to a 21st place finish. As a defending champion he will gain some attention but I am one to usually avoid these players.

This leaves us with Tom Kim, the most expensive player. The price and the course is a place we have yet to see Kim at. It will be interesting to hear if the price keeps people away. As for this being his debut at this tournament I am not worried as he continues to play first time courses very well. His game sets up great being accurate off the tee. This should allow plenty of irons from the fairways which is perhaps his strength currently. I do expect Kim to be the most popular in this range and it’s chalk I am willing to eat.

9K Price Range
This is a loaded range! While the price will be difficult to click on these players names I believe in the end people will do so. The course sets up well for the game of almost all these players. In addition several have solid course history. I fully expect many to start with 2 and sometimes 3 of these names on their teams. Corey Connors and Russell Henley should command ownership. Not far behind will be Tom Hoge and Taylor Montgomery. I also expect Billy Horschel and Brian Harman to fall into some lineups with the aforementioned players. I can’t blame anyone for clicking on any of these names but I will stay away. These players should keep the ownership moderate on Tom Kim. I prefer Kim for one simple reason, he has more win equity in my opinion than any of the 9k players.

If I do land on any 9k players it will be either Keegan Bradley or Mav McNealy. I avoided Bradley last week as it was his first competitive rounds in 10 weeks. He has a mixed bag here. His game sets up well for the course and a week to remove the rust should help. In general he is playing with more confidence over the past year. McNealy finished the swing season strong. We all know he can putt but his iron play is improving. He also plays very good golf on the west coast. I don’t know if I will get to either but if I do I will not being playing the chalk in this range. Roster construction in my opinion sets up better using Kim and no 9k players. I imagine a solid amount of lineups with Kim will try to force a Connors, Henley or one of the other names I mentioned above in with him.

8K Price Range
As good as the 9k range is I feel people will cross many names off this section. I see many saying they can get a similar type player in the 7k’s. This should also lead to the 9k range being popular with many builds starting with 2-3 or 1 10k+ and 1-2 in the 9k range. The biggest issue I see with this range is people having trust with these players. The one player who I can see being popular and the highest owned within this range is JJ Spaun. You can’t doubt his numbers and results recently. With the way my builds are currently looking I have no problem playing a little bit of Spaun.

My favorite play and perhaps the player who will fall behind Spaun in ownership is Keith Mitchell. Perhaps the price will keep some away and he comes in lower than I expect. If you go back and look at Mitchell’s results on courses less than 7200 yards you will note a bunch of T20 and better results. Cam Davis would be my next favorite. Davis came on strong last year and I look for him to take his game to the next level. Adam Scott disappointed last week making it a good bounce back. People will never play Si Woo at this price. The best Si Woo is a low owned one. He also plays well on the comp courses.  I like Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Andrew Putnam and Emiliano Grillo. When said and done these could be the three players I eliminate since I prefer this entire range over the 9k’s. I will entertain KH Lee as he continues to improve weekly and show he can play on all types of courses. Why do I like this range so much. They have just as much win and T10-15 equity as the players in the 9k range at what should be lower ownership.

7K Price Range
Two players that I see commanding ownership in this range are Alex Smalley and Ben Griffin. I see Smalley being the popular choice to finish rosters over the low 8k players. He finished the swing season strong and will be popular on models. The same can be said for Griffin. I have no issues with either but currently I think we have several other players who could perform better at lower ownership. After these two I see ownership being moderate at best on the rest. Look for the players who teed it up last week to get some of that ownership because they shook the rust off.

My favorite play and I am sure he will command some ownership is Hayden Buckley. He had a strong swing season while his game fits the course. Harris English and Gary Woodland are two pivots I like. English played decent in the swing season and he looks to get his game back to old form. Woodland is one I feel people will stay away from. He loves the west coast, hits his irons well and is a bad putter who can do well here. Ryan Palmer and Greyson Sigg also intrigue me. Palmer has solid course history while Sigg continues to impress in his early days on tour. Perhaps the player everyone will be wondering should I click on or not is Webb Simpson. He just hasn’t been the same since Covid due to lack of play, injuries and focus on family life. His course history along with the thought in the back of head saying he can come back makes it tempting. You have to think in Webb’s mind this is an important tournament. If he struggles at a course he has played well at in the past it could mess with the rest of his season. At this point I don’t mind having a small share as he should be lower owned.

The next few tournaments we have to endure some wonky west coast formats. Ones that have multiple courses and pro-ams. For those reasons enjoy the Sony Open as it should be good overall especially with cut sweats returning. Keep the momentum going and Run Pure!

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