Sony Open 2022 DFS picks: Should you play Cameron Smith?
As much as any event on the PGA Tour schedule, Waialae Country Club is a true staple, having hosted the Hawaiian Open, now the Sony Open, since 1965 (missing just one year, 1970).
Waialae is the first full field event of the year, meaning there will be plenty of roster combinations for you to consider this week. The Seth Raynor original design, then reworked over the years by Robert Trent Jones, Desmond Muirhead and Tom Doak, plays as a short par 70 with short rough, so there will be plenty of golfers with a chance to win. Past winners like Kevin Na, Cameron Smith and Matt Kuchar certainly represent the shorter hitters. This will likely turn into a wedge and putting contest.
Cameron Smith, the winner last week at Kapalua after breaking the PGA Tour mark for the lowest score ever in relation to par in outdueling Jon Rahm, won here in 2020. Is he an automatic play? Well, for DFS lineups, it might be hard to fit him in. Oddsmakers took notice, assigning Smith the most expensive price tag and the lowest odds on the board. If you’re going to roster Smith, you’ll need a group of players you feel strongly about in the $6,000 range, which is a tough ask in the first event of the year.
Here are my favorite plays (and fades) in every price range for the 2022 Sony Open.
Price range: $9,000 and above
High Upside: Corey Conners ($9,600 DraftKings | $11,000 FanDuel)
Corey Conners is an elite ball-striker. He also happens to be a terrible putter. Let me explain … Only Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa have been better ball-strikers (off-the-tee plus approach) than Conners in the last 100 rounds. That’s the elite of the elite. During that stretch, Conners has consistently lost strokes with the putter, and it has often limited his upside. However, the greens at Waialae have been a reprieve for Conners during his career. He has gained a staggering 13.1 strokes putting in his 12 rounds at the Sony Open. That’s, by far, the most at any course that he’s played at least three times.
Safest Option: Webb Simpson ($10,500 DraftKings | $11,700 FanDuel)
Simpson battled injury last year, but he’s as solid as they come. Now he gets to head to one of the few remaining courses on tour that are really good for him. He’s made the most of his 11 trips, finishing inside the top 10 on eight occasions. His last three have been even better: T-4, third and T-4.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Hideki Matsuyama ($10,600 DraftKings | $11,600 FanDuel)
There’s something about Matsuyama and Waialae that doesn’t quite click. This will be his ninth trip to the Sony Open, and he’s never once finished inside the top 10. That’s noteworthy for a player of his caliber and it’s the event that he’s played the most in his career without a top 10 finish, per the RickRunGood.com golf database.
Pick To Win: Sungjae Im ($10,300 DraftKings | $11,500 FanDuel)
The start to the new season couldn’t be going any better for Sungjae! He has four straight top-20 finishes, and he gained strokes across the board in Maui last week. He’ll be one of the two-dozen golfers who played the Tournament of Champions last week. He’ll be acclimated to the time zone and conditions, setting himself up for another great week.
$8,000 to $9,000
High Upside: Maverick McNealy ($8,300 DraftKings | $9,800 FanDuel)
McNealy has made tangible statistical gains in the past six months, and it’s showing up in his results. He’s earned a top-30 finish in 11 of his past 14 starts—including three straight top-25s to finish his fall. He’s plugging leaks across the board, and he seems poised to take a big step in 2022.
Safest Option: Cam Davis ($8,000 DraftKings | $10,000 FanDuel)
The term “safe” doesn’t necessarily pair well with Cam Davis, but I believe it does in fantasy golf. He’s such a prolific fantasy-point scorer that it’s hard to overlook. Davis scored the eighth-most fantasy points last week, despite finishing T-10 in the actual tournament. His style of play is more valuable in fantasy formats than anywhere else.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Matt Jones ($8,400 DraftKings | $10,600 FanDuel)
Jones was phenomenal last week, gaining strokes across the board en route to a third-place finish. However, that was his first top-15 finish since his victory at the Honda Classic in March. He relied heavily on his short game, gaining 2.93 strokes around-the-green and another 6.34 putting. That’s the second-best “short-game” week of his career, per the RickRunGood.com golf database. That’s unlikely to happen again.
Pick To Win: Russell Henley ($8,500 DraftKings | $10,300 FanDuel)
Henley is known for his ball-striking prowess, and he has cashed that in for eight top-25 finishes in his past 12 starts. The question always lies with his putter, but Henley’s best surface is Bermudagrass, and he has gained strokes putting in six of his nine career trips. It might feel like a long-time ago, but Henley won this event in 2013 and has three more top-20s since.
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$7,000 to $8,000
High Upside: Chad Ramey ($7,100 DraftKings | $8,500 FanDuel)
Ramey is getting his feet wet on the PGA Tour after a monster year on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2021. He didn’t miss a single cut in 2021, he won the Live and Work in Maine Open and piled up 16 top-20 finishes in 21 starts. So far on the PGA Tour this season, he has two more top-20s (Bermuda and Shriners).
Safest Option: Aaron Rai ($7,700 DraftKings | $8,900 FanDuel)
Rai didn’t want the fall season to end! He closed with a T-15 in Mayakoba, a T-19 in Houston and a T-16 at the RSM Classic. In the last two, he gained over five strokes on approach in each. Hopefully he stayed hot and continued to flush it during the break.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Branden Grace ($7,100 DraftKings | $9,400 FanDuel)
Grace made noise early in Maui but faded to a T-33 finish. When the dust settled, he lost strokes across the board. He has lost strokes to the field in four of his past five starts, and he missed the cut at the Sony Open last year. There’s not much to be excited about for Grace this week.
Pick To Win: Denny McCarthy ($7,400 DraftKings | $9,100 FanDuel)
McCarthy played seven times in the fall, earning a top 20 on four occasions. He’s always one of the best putters on tour, but we are starting to see him improve the rest of his game. Waialae, a par 70 at only 7,000 yards, should be one of the best stops on the schedule for McCarthy.
$6,900 and below
High Upside: Hank Lebioda ($6,800 DraftKings | $8,500 FanDuel)
I have no idea what to expect from Lebioda this week. In his last 12 starts, he has four top-15 finishes and the other (eight) are either a missed cut or a WD. It’s a tiny sample but his last two events were starting to look like his great run last summer. Maybe a few months off to reset is exactly what Lebioda needed.
Safest Option: Hudson Swafford ($6,800 DraftKings | $8,300 FanDuel)
Swafford has no problem getting acclimated to “Hawaiian Time,” making his ninth trip to the Sony Open this year. In his previous eight, he’s earned four top-15 finishes and has only lost stroked putting once. Clearly he’s got some great vibes at coastal courses with his history here and his victory at the Corales Puntacana Championship.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Kevin Tway ($6,400 DraftKings |$7,500 FanDuel)
Tway popped up recently with a runner-up finish at the Houston Open, but I’m much less optimistic about this week. Tway is no stranger to the Sony Open, but he is a stranger to the weekend at the Sony Open. He missed the cut in five of his six starts and finished T-69 in the other.
Pick To Win: Mark Hubbard ($6,600 DraftKings | $8,100 FanDuel)
Hubbard is one of the shorter hitters on tour, ranking outside the top 200 in driving distance this season. Good news for him: This is one of the best spots on the schedule for short hitters. He enters the week making three cuts in a row and showing an improved approach play. He’ll need to catch lightning in a bottle to actually win, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him on the first page or two of the leader board.
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Rick Gehman, founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.