Pat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg preview the course and run through the odds while making their 2022 Sony Open Picks. The guys give their fantasy golf picks, provide their one and done strategy for the event from Waialae CC.
2022 Sony Open: Field
Field: 144 Players
Cut: Top 65 and Ties
Lineup Lock: Thursday, January 13
Defending Champ: Kevin Na
The Tournament of Champions is essentially a highly lucrative preseason event. Great weather, easy course, everyone gets paid. Fun times. We’re back to real business at the 2022 Sony Open. A total of 144 players, top 65 and ties make the cut. No more perfect six-of-six lineups for everyone on DraftKings.
Bryson DeChambeau (Bryson has withdrawn), Cameron Smith, Hideki Matsuyama, Sungjae Im, Harris English, Abraham Ancer, Talor Gooch, Billy Horschel, Jason Kokrak and defending champ Kevin Na are the biggest names of the 24 holdovers from last week’s Tournament of Champions. Seven of the past eight winners of the Sony Open have played in the ToC.
Beyond those who won a year ago, Webb Simpson, Corey Conners, Russell Henley, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Lanto Griffin, Ryan Palmer, Troy Merritt and Maverick McNealy are all making their 2022 debuts.
The world’s top-ranked amateur Keita Nakajima is in the field on a sponsor’s exemption. As are Takumi Kanaya (world rank No. 51), Chan Kim (No. 62) and Rikuya Hoshino (No. 92). Kanaya, 23, has a top-seven finish in six of his past seven events, including a T7 at the Zozo Championship during the swing season. He’s played the Sony Open twice and missed the cut both times. Hoshino has also played the Sony the past two years, making the cut in each appearance (T45/T67).
If you’re targeting players who played in last week’s event, don’t worry if they played poorly. Na was an abject disaster at the 2021 ToC ...
Matt Kuchar wasn’t much better at Kapalua the week before he claimed victory at Waialae in 2019 either ...
2022 Sony Open: Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Approach
Par 4s Gained
Good Drives Gained
Mayo’s Key Stats powered by FantasyNational.com
2022 Sony Open: Course
Course: Waialae CC
2022 Sony Open: Past Winners
2021: Kevin Na -21
2020: Cameron Smith -11
2019: Matt Kuchar -22
2018: Patton Kizzire -17
2017: Justin Thomas -27
2016: Fabian Gomez -20
2015: Jimmy Walker -23
2022 Sony Open: Notes
This won’t be a huge advantage, but in single-round, DraftKings Showdown contests, any edge is worth exploiting. The groups will alternate going off spilt tees (half the groups start on hole No. 1 and half on hole No. 10) the first two rounds, and targeting the players starting on hole No. 1 should yield a slight advantage. A birdie streak on holes 8, 9 and 10 is more likely, per birdie/bogey averages, than 17, 18 and 1 or 18, 1 and 2 with holes No. 1 and No. 2 ranking as the third and fourth-most difficult holes at this venue.
After a one-year blip when Cameron Smith claimed victory in 2020, Na made it so that seven of the past eight winners at Waialae were a player who competed the prior week at the Tournament of Champions. Is this random chance? Maybe. But having a week of competitive play appears to serve the winners well.
Smith’s -11 winning score was the highest since Vijay Singh won in 2005 also at -11. A coastal course, Waialae experienced massive wind gusts and rain during the first few rounds in 2020. Those winds were a massive outlier, however. Extreme wind that tends to be commonplace at Kapalua rarely emerges at Waialae to that extent. The conditions returned to normal in 2021, and Na was able to clear the field at -21. Five of the past seven champions have finished with scores beyond -20.
Waialae CC is the fourth longest-serving host venue on TOUR. The Honolulu course has been played every year since 1965, except for 1970 when there was no event. That trails only Augusta National (1934), Colonial CC (1946) and Pebble Beach (1947).
Ernie Els (2003) and Justin Thomas (2017) are the only two players to complete the Hawaii Slam in the same year and Smith will have an opportunity to join that club this season.
Waialae typically ends up being among the courses with the most difficult fairways to hit, just a shade over 53% compared to the TOUR average of 62%. This shouldn’t bother anyone, though. The USGA isn’t involved in rough control this week. The field is more concerned with setting up the proper angles than landing in the fairway. Despite almost half the approaches coming from the rough, the field hits more GIRs at the Sony than an average event, posts a higher scrambling percentage and an almost identical average proximity from the pin on GIRs. So, the stat “Good Drives Gained” will outweigh “Strokes Gained: Off The Tee” this week.
When tracking the Strokes Gained data, Around the Green means less and less the more you rise on the leaderboard. Logically, that makes sense at most courses, but it’s far more pronounced at Waialae. Since Waialae is one of the most generous courses for GIR (66%), the more the field utilized their short game, the fewer birdies they’re likely to make. Not a great plan when the winning score will generally breach the -20 barrier.
For correlation courses, the obvious is El Camaleon, host of the Mayaboka Classic. In 2018 and 2019, Patton Kizzire and Matt Kuchar won both events in succession. It’s helpful the fields tend to have similar strength as well. There’s a lot of crossover between them, outside of the very high end. If you’re wondering what happened in 2021 at El Camaleon, wonder no longer.
Beyond El Camaleon, The Honda Classic (PGA National), Harbour Town (The Heritage), Colonial CC (Charles Schwab) and Sedgefield CC (Wyndham Championship) have seen similar names pop up on leaderboards over the years — most of which are some combination of or all of short, par 70, Bermuda and coastal courses.
Using the tools at Fantasy National, and filtering by “Last 24 Rounds + Par 70s + Under 7,200 Unders”, you’ll find ...
If we filter by just the correlation courses, there are a few more names added into the mix.
Henley (2013) was the last player to make the Sony Open his first career win. Before that, it was Jerry Kelly in 2002. Henley is also the last player to win in his first appearance at the course, as well. That makes sense, since, as stated, seven of the past eight winners since Henley’s win played the Tournament of Champions — an event that requires a victory to enter — the week before.
Here’s a look at the players with at least three starts over the past five years who have not missed a cut: Marc Leishman, Webb Simpson, Matt Jones, Stewart Cink, Charles Howell III, Hideki Matsuyama, Hudson Swafford, Kevin Kisner, Lanto Griffin, Emiliano Grillo, Brian Stuard, Sungjae Im, Cameron Smith, Corey Conners and Joel Dahmen. Of note, Brendan Steele has played this event the last two seasons and never finished outside of the top four.
2022 Sony Open Picks
Seamus Power ($8,100)
Since last year’s Wells Fargo Championship, Power has been a completely different player. He picked up a victory at the Barbasol alternate event and kept his momentum through the swing season, notching top-25 finishes in 11 of his past 15 starts. He was fine (T15; -20) at Kapalua, and while he’s never experienced much success at Waialae in the past, he seems to have jumped a level in talent at this point. He picked up a T11 at Mayakoba in November and should continue to cruise at a course that fits his skill set.
Corey Conners ($9,600)
We’re back to the age-old question, “Can Conners make enough putts to win?” Usually, “NO” is the correct answer, but for whatever reason, Conners has been excellent with the flat stick at Waialae in his career. The Canadian has played Sony three times, never missing a cut, and is averaging +4.37 SG: PUTT per start. Considering he loses an average of -1.1 SG: PUTT per start for his career, there must be something there. Can we attribute it to a random small sample? For sure. But you can make that case for almost any golf stat. Eventually, you need to pick something to go with. Conner just needs his regular, elite ball-striking this week and to remind his caddy to pack that magic Hawaii flat stick.
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Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was a finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting), genre (Humor), and game formats (Daily Fantasy and Traditions Season Long). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
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