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Sony Open 2022 picks: Steer clear of Hideki Matsuyama

January 11, 2022
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With each passing year, it seems the scores are getting lower and lower on the PGA Tour. Birdie-fests don’t just happen in abundance, they are the new norm, especially when the wind is down and conditions are on the softer side, as Justin Thomas explained last week after setting the Kapalua course record on Saturday, which was matched by Jon Rahm later that day and by Matt Jones the following day.

Oh, right, none of those guys even won the Sentry Tournament of Champions, all three failing to chase down Cameron Smith, who shot a PGA Tour record of 34 under over 72 holes. Unfortunately, for carnage-lovers/masochists, more of the same is expected at the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club this week, as the early forecast shows the wind will be down again, and the fairways will be soft. Birdies, birdies and more birdies.

Can Smith keep that ridiculous pace up and win for a second consecutive week, which would be his second Sony victory? At +850 (bet $10 to win $85), our experts aren’t rushing to the window. Instead, we’re highlighting all the other guys who know how to fill up the cup, because if you don’t reach 20 under late on Sunday afternoon, you probably aren’t raising a trophy this week.

Scroll down to see who else we like at the 2022 Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Sony Open 2022 picks: Our experts' outright predictions

Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Abraham Ancer (32-1, FanDuel) — He knocked off the rust last week, and though he didn’t play great, Waialae is more of the right course fit. There’s some higher rough than usual this week, so that should play even more into his hands. Perhaps the International Presidents Cup team will make it 2-for-2 in ’22!

Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Seamus Power (40-1, DraftKings) — Power picked up a victory at the Barbasol alternate event in 2021 and just kept his momentum through the swing season, notching top-25 finishes in 11 of his past 15 starts. He was fine at Kapalua (T-15; -20), and though 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 T-11 at Mayakoba in November and should continue to cruise at a course that fits his skill set.

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Abraham Ancer (32-1, FanDuel) — Ancer struggled last week, and he’s dealing with new equipment. However, 16 of the past 23 winners here have played the week prior at the TOC, and he is set up well for success at a course that doesn’t demand driving distance. My model thinks he should be 26-1, not 32-1.

Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Sungjae Im (16-1, DraftKings) — Only 20 rounds into his 2022 season and Im is already in the midst of a career campaign. The advanced metrics show a career high in strokes-gained/off-the-tee, SG/approach and SG/around-the-green, via the RickRunGood.com golf database. He was stellar on Maui last week, finishing T-8, marking his fourth consecutive top-20 finish with three top 10s in that stretch.

Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Corey Conners (26-1, FanDuel) — Ball-striking precision is the key to Waialae, and that’s Conners’ game. As Gehman pointed out in our DFS column this week, only Jon Rahm and Collin Morikawa have better ball-striking stats than Conners over the past 100 rounds. His putting can be … not so good. But his numbers at Waialae are much better than his baseline.

Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Maverick McNealy (50-1, BetMGM) — I’ve seen the “X number of Sony Open winners have played the week before at TOC” trend and I’m choosing to simply ignore it. I just can’t quit on McNealy, who has drifted back up to this juicy 50-1 number after creeping down to the 30s this past fall. He’s been a model of consistency of late, making 12 of his last 13 cuts and finishing inside the top 25 in eight of those starts. Also, his career-best results have come at Waialae comp courses like Harbour Town and Pebble Beach. It’s probably best to wait on Mav until the Cali swing, but I’ll happily take a shot here.

Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Webb Simpson (16-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — Simpson showed just enough form toward the end of last season. If he’s back close to his baseline of the past five years, he makes an excellent case to be this week’s winner. Simpson ranks first in the FanShare Sports’ course-suitability ranking this week, largely thanks to his excellent off-the-tee game. He also ranks second for SG/total in the field over the past two years, and he’s sixth for SG/total over the past three months.

Past results: Golf Digest's betting panel had another strong season in 2020-’21, correctly predicting 14 winners in the last 28 events of the year. We’re already off to a hot start in the new season, too, with Rick Gehman hitting Sam Burns (16-1) at the Sanderson Farms Championship and Viktor Hovland (19-1) at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba. Brandon Gdula also hit on Hovland at Mayakoba, and Stephen Hennessey cashed on Hideki Matsuyama (12-1) at the Zozo Championship.

Sony Open 2022 picks: Sleepers/Dark horses who could win

Caddie: Matt Jones (50-1, Bet365) — Jones really played well last week. He’s not a “birdie fest” type of player typically … succeeding mostly at tougher tracks. And still he shot 23-under over the past two days at Kapalua. I’d say 23-under in four days at Sony should get the win!

Mayo: Jason Kokrak (45-1, DraftKings) — Like Ancer, nothing from a Kapalua points to a good week from Kokrak. No big deal. When Na and Kuch won two of the last three years, they too were awful at the Tournament of Champions. Kokrak has been the king of the spike putting week the last 18 months, and when that happens he’s been great at closing the door, notching three wins over that span.

Gdula: Brendon Todd (75-1, FanDuel) — Todd is one of the longshots who is popping in my model for the week. My win simulations see him closer to 65-1 than 75-1, so there’s value on the short hitter with elite Bermuda putting.

Gehman: Chad Ramey (150-1, DraftKings) — Ramey was splendid on the Korn Ferry Tour last season, racking up a staggering 16 top 20s in 21 starts. That includes a victory at the Maine Open and now he turns his attention to the PGA Tour. In just a few starts this year, he’s already earned top 20s at the Bermuda Championship and Shriners Open. His trajectory is exciting as he continues to get comfortable on the tour.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Maverick McNealy (50-1, BetMGM) — CP and I were on the same page in this week’s “Be Right” podcast, and it starts with Mav. Harbour Town and Napa are comp courses, and he contended at both events last year. This event can be a big type of breakout victory for young guys on tour (i.e. Marc Leishman, Russell Henley, Patton Kizzire, etc.), and I expect Mav to join that group.

Powers, Golf Digest: Denny McCarthy (80-1, DraftKings) — Arguably the best Bermuda putter on the planet in a potential putting contest and a guy that is trending very nicely with four top-17 finishes in his last six starts. McCarthy might never win a big-boy event, but against a weaker field like this one he has just as good a chance as anybody else.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Russell Henley (35-1, Caesars Sportsbook) — Henley comes into this event ranked fifth in the field for SG/total over the last two years and 10th for SG/total over the last three months. He also ranks 13th in the FanShareSports CSR so he will be approaching this week brimming with confidence.

Sony Open 2022 picks: Players we're fading

Caddie: Cameron Smith (+850, FanDuel) — It’s so difficult to follow up a win with another solid week. He will make the cut but finish outside the top 25.

Mayo: Hideki Matsuyama (18-1, DraftKings) — You can make the case that the Masters champ is the best player in the field. The issue is, looking at his wins, this isn’t the type of tournament where Deki excels. Unless we get unexpected weather like in 2020, the winning score is going to be well into the -20s. He just doesn’t make enough putts to get there, especially on Bermudagrass. Looking back at his victories, the mid-teens under par, mainly on Bentgrass is the Hideki sweet spot. One hot putting week can change that, obviously, but we’ve seen no reason to believe this will be that week.

Gdula: Cameron Smith (+850, FanDuel) — I’ll be fading Smith as a back-to-back win option this week at such short odds. He’d have to be at least 12-1 to want to back outright, based on his win odds in my model.

Gehman: Hideki Matsuyama (18-1, DraftKings) — It’s a little scary to fade the reigning Masters Champion and one of the best ball-strikers on the planet… but here we go! There’s something about Waialae that doesn’t seem to suit Matusyama’s game. He’s played this event eight times and has never finished inside the top 10. It’s actually the event that he’s played the most in his career without a top-10 finish.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Cameron Smith (+850, FanDuel) — If you are betting this, I want to shake your hand. I’m as big of a Cam Smith stan as there is, but he’s being treated like Dustin Johnson … in a full-field event.

Powers, Golf Digest: Cameron Smith (+850, FanDuel) — Winning in consecutive weeks would be an absurd feat, one that I’m not willing to bet on at single-digit odds.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Hideki Matsuyama (18-1, DraftKings) — Matsuyama is historically too bad of a putter to be such a low price this week. He ranks second-to-last in this field for SG/putting on Bermuda over the last two years, losing 1.4 shots to the putter per round statistically.

Sony Open 2022 picks: Matchups

Caddie: Kevin Na (-105) over Corey Conners (Betway) — You’re getting the defending champion who played well last week, getting tournament reps, against Conners, who has decent history here but not as good as Na.

Mayo: Abraham Ancer (-110) over Russell Henley (DraftKings) — Looking at last week’s numbers won’t get anyone on Ancer, that’s for certain. However, this venue should set up a whole lot better for him. The uber-popular Corey Conners and Ancer share similar games, except Ancer sometimes putts well. Henley, despite his win here in 2013, is overvalued in this field. He’s priced on the wrong tier of talent.

Gdula: K.H. Lee (-118) over Stewart Cink (FanDuel) — Cink bested Lee last week at the Tournament of Champions (T-21 versus a T-33), but the past half year has shown a massive gap between these two that favors Lee pretty heavily.

Gehman: Maverick McNealy (-130) over Christiaan Bezuidenhout (DraftKings) — We are seeing real progression in the game of McNealy over the past 12 months. He’s been plugging the leaks in his game and it’s turning into decent results. He’s piled up 11 top-30 finishes in his last 14 starts, including three straight top-25 finishes to complete his fall. Waialae should offer plenty of opportunity for McNealy to add another great finish to his resume.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Chris Kirk (-112) over Brian Harman (FanDuel) — In this battle of Georgia Bulldogs, Kirk is a clear choice for me. Kirk has two runners-up at Waialae, so even though Harman has decent course history, too, Kirk’s is even better. And the stats—other than a Bermuda putting advantage for Harman but not by much—all point to Kirk over Harman.

Powers, Golf Digest: Kevin Na (+100) over Hideki Matsuyama (DraftKings) — As almost everyone pointed out in the fades section above, you need to make a million putts to have a chance this week, which is not Matsuyama’s strong suit. That’s how Na makes a living, and he obviously knows these Waialae greens well, winning the Sony a year ago and owning three other top-8 finishes in this event in his career.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Webb Simpson (-137) over Abraham Ancer (Betfair) — Simpson is my pick to win this week while Ancer ranks just 92nd in the FanShare Sports’ course-suitability ranking. His form of late is also a concern, ranking just 51st in the field for SG/total over the past three months.

Matchup Results from the Sentry Tournament of Champions: Caddie: 1 for 1 (Im (-112) over Matsuyama); Gdula: 1 for 1 (Leishman (-102) over Reed); Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Schauffele (-143) over Burns); Powers: 1 for 1 (Spieth (-120) over Ancer); Mayo: PUSH (Morikawa (+125) over Thomas); Gehman: 0 for 1; Alldrick: 0 for 1

Matchup Results from this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Mayo: 8-1-2 (up 6.34 units); Powers: 8-2-1 (up 5.52 units); Caddie: 6-5-0 (up 0.55 units); Gdula: 4-7-0 (down 3.27 units); Hennessey: 5-6-0 (down 3.5 units); Gehman: 3-7-1 (down 4.49 units); Alldrick: 3-7-1 (down 4.5 units)

Sony Open 2022 picks: Top 10s

Caddie: Marc Leishman (+225, Unibet) — I’d expect his buddy’s win at Kapalua will motivate him. He got super hot on Sunday at Napa at a course that demands a similar skill set. He can play on a course with thick rough because he’s so strong … we saw that at Torrey Pines when he won. Plus, he’s a former winner here.

Mayo: Joel Dahmen (+600, DraftKings) — Another holdover from Kapalua, the shorter course plays much better into Dahmen’s skills. Per Fantasy National, Dahmen ranks top 20 in this field in approach, Opportunities Gained, Par-4s Gained and Good Drives Gained over the past 50 rounds. And he’s improved on his finishing placement in each of his three Sony starts.

Gdula: Talor Gooch (+320, FanDuel) — Gooch does everything well and is golfing better than most in the field (datagolf’s true strokes gained has him fifth over the past six months). He was 15th at the TOC last week but gained strokes tee to green and simply struggled on the greens.

Gehman: Webb Simpson (+190, Bet365) — Simpson battled injury and poor play in 2021 and posted his worst statistical season since 2017. Don’t let that fool you though, he gained 1.20 strokes per round which was 12th best on tour. Let me repeat: 12th best on tour in a down year! Now he heads to Waialae where he’s been phenomenal in his career. In 11 trips, he’s never missed the cut, he’s earned eight top-10 finishes and his past three starts have resulted in three top-four finishes.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Denny McCarthy (+850, FanDuel) — We love Denny this week. He’s tied with Brendon Todd as the best Bermuda putter in this field over the past 50 rounds, per Fantasy National. In my custom model this week, Denny ranks out second (behind Todd actually). But Denny is second in greens in regulation gained over the past 24 rounds and is 30th in fairways gained. If he can replicate his ball-striking from the fall, he should be dangerous.

Powers, Golf Digest: Charles Howell III (+470, FanDuel) — CH3’s history at Sony is alarmingly good, and he quietly put together a decent fall swing that included a top 20 at RSM despite some poor iron play. This top-10 machine’s last top 10 came at the Players Championship last March, so he’s due.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Denny McCarthy (+850, FanDuel) — McCarthy has not played an event at Waialae CC before but his excellent putting on Bermuda greens and sharp around-the-green play means he ranks 10th in the FanShare Sports’ course-suitability ranking this week. His recent form is also excellent too, ranking fourth for SG/total in this field over the past three months.

Top-10 results from the Sentry Tournament of Champions: Gehman: 1 for 1 (Cameron Davis +450); Everybody else: 0 for 1

Top-10 results from this season: Powers: 4 for 11 (up 14.75 units); Mayo: 2 for 11 (up 5.45 units); Gehman: 3 for 11 (up 3.2 units); Hennessey: 3 for 11 (up 0.47 units); Alldrick: 1 for 11 (EVEN units); Caddie: 3 for 11 (down 4.35 units); Gdula: 0 for 11 (down 11 units)

Sony Open 2022 picks: One and Done


Gehman: Corey Conners —
I’m very optimistic about Conners in 2022, thanks to his elite ball-striking and consistent results. Only Collin Morikawa and Jon Rahm have been better ball-strikers (off-the-tee plus approach) than Conners over the last 100 rounds, per the RickRunGood.com golf database. Conners is a notoriously poor putter, but he’s figured out these greens at Waialae. In three trips, he’s never lost strokes on the putting surface and has gained a total of 13.17 strokes in those 12 rounds.

Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Kevin Na; Sanderson Farms Championship: Mito Pereira. Shriners: Abraham Ancer. CJ Cup: Louis Oosthuizen. Zozo Championship: Hideki Matsuyama. Bermuda Championship: Seamus Power. Mayakoba: Abraham Ancer. Houston Open: Sam Burns. RSM Classic: Scottie Scheffler. Sentry TOC: Sungjae Im.

Hennessey: Marc Leishman — This is a dangerous week for One and Done—without a ton of elite players, many will go down the odds board, which can be the missed-cut zone. I think Leishman is pretty safe: He ranks second in SG/total at Waialae over his past 36 rounds and is coming off a 10th-place at Kapalua. His ball-striking numbers were good there, so I think he should continue that proficiency at a venue that suits his eye.

Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Emiliano Grillo; Sanderson Farms Championship: Carlos Ortiz. Shriners: Abraham Ancer. CJ Cup: Collin Morikawa. Zozo Championship: Takumi Kanaya. Bermuda Championship: Seamus Power. Mayakoba: Aaron Wise. Houston Open: Sam Burns. RSM Classic: Brendon Todd. Sentry TOC: Xander Schauffele.

Powers: Kevin Na — The defending champ has been on an absolute heater since July with three top-3 finishes. I’m not saying he’s going to go back-to-back, but I do believe he’ll post another strong result at a venue he loves this week.

Previous weeks: Fortinet Championship: Brendan Steele. Sanderson Farms Championship: Mito Pereira. Shriners: Aaron Wise. CJ Cup: Talor Gooch. Zozo Championship: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda Championship: Patrick Rodgers. Mayakoba: Jhonattan Vegas. Houston Open: Marc Leishman. RSM Classic: Corey Conners. Sentry TOC: Daniel Berger.

About our experts

Pat Mayo
is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, owner of the Mayo Media Network and host of The Pat Mayo Experience. (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 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 is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.

Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year *(congrats, Brandon!)*. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.

Rick Gehman is the 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.

Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.