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Horse For The Course: PGA DFS Course History - 2023 Sony Open

Well...that was an interesting way to start the year. As someone that was holding a Collin Morikawa outright ticket at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, I'm still feeling a little gut-punched as I continue to process his historic collapse down the stretch at Kapalua. This one is gonna sting for a while.

If there's a silver lining to what transpired Sunday, it's that Jon Rahm was this article's Horse last week and it always feels good to get a winner for you guys! It was an overall excellent week for us here at HFTC – Morikawa was also featured in our Sentry writeup – and we'll try to keep the positive vibes going for this week's Sony Open.

Horse For The Course is an article that highlights players in this week's field with elite course history and is part of our free PGA DFS content here at RotoBaller. For my favorite DFS plays of the week check out my Core Four article here at RotoBaller every Wednesday. It's part of our amazing PGA Premium package that includes an all-new PGA Research Station, Lineup Builder & Optimizer, and some of the best articles in the PGA DFS industry! You can sign up now using Promo Code: NICE for an extra discount at checkout!

Featured Promo: New for 2023, we've added A LOT of new exclusive PGA articles, picks, and tools to our PGA Premium Packages! Spencer Aguiar, one of the most successful PGA bettors in the industry, now features 10+ weekly articles with his exclusive picks, rankings and models in the TeeOffSports VIP subscription. Win big in 2023! Sign Up Now!


2023 Sony Open

After knocking the rust off last week at Kapalua, the Hawaiian Swing continues this week with the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu. While these are both Hawaiian events, it would be a mistake to consider them similar tournaments. It's an interesting juxtaposition, as last week's Plantation Course featured some of the widest, easiest-to-hit fairways on the PGA Tour, while this week's Waialae Country Club layout has some of the toughest fairways to find on the schedule, with just around half of tee shots landing in the short stuff on average.

As a result of the premium placed on accuracy at Waialae, the Sony Open has been a true safe haven for the plodders of the PGA Tour, a group that is fast becoming extinct in the modern bomb-and-gouge game. The Sony is one of the few events on the schedule in which distance is of almost no value.

Ball-striking extraordinaires Hideki Matsuyama and Russell Henley dueled it out down the stretch in last year's Sony with Matsuyama coming out on top. Last year's final pairing is indicative of just how well this layout suits - and rewards- elite ball-strikers. The Japanese superstar will be back to defend this week against a field that includes Henley, Jordan Spieth, Tom Kim, and Sungjae Im.

You can also find out who the smart money is on by checking out Spencer Aguiar's PGA DFS: Vegas Report every week. And be sure to read all of our other top-notch weekly PGA DFS articles to help you win big!


The Course: Waialae Country Club

Par 70 - 7,044 Yards, Greens: Bermuda, Architect: Seth Raynor

We get another beautiful Hawaiian golf course this week in Waialae Country Club, the long-time host of the Sony Open. It would be easy to lump this course in a similar bucket as last week's Kapalua layout, but that would be a huge mistake, as the courses are drastically different. Waialae's fairways routinely rank as some of the toughest to hit on the PGA Tour, while Kapalua's huge fairways are hard to miss!

As always, approach play will be of huge importance this week, with sharp DFS players zeroing in on those golfers that are strong from 150-200 yards. Par-4's measuring between 400 and 500 yards comprise 10 of the 18 holes players will face at Waialae. We routinely see the same cast of characters playing well in this event. As a result, course history gets a bigger bump than normal for me this week, with Russell Henley in 2013 being the last player to win the Sony in their tournament debut.

Check out RotoBaller's PGA Course Breakdown by Josh Bennett for an in-depth breakdown of this week's golf course!


Recent Sony Open Winners

  • 2022: Hideki Matsuyama (-23)
  • 2021: Kevin Na (-21)
  • 2020: Cameron Smith (-11)
  • 2019: Matt Kuchar (-22)
  • 2018: Patton Kizzire (-17)


The Horse

Corey Conners

  • Event Scoring Average: 67.06 (Four career starts)
  • Notable Course History: 11th (2022), T12 ('20), T3 ('19)
  • DraftKings Price: $9,600 FanDuel Price: TBD

Since I write a course history article every week, I'm obviously a bigger believer in its importance than most. That's especially the case this week at the Sony Open, an event in which past success is a strong indicator of continued prosperity.

Corey Conners has not yet lifted a trophy at Waialae Country Club, but he's quickly displayed a love for the ball striker's paradise. The Canadian has looked at home on this Hawaiian layout, carving out a 67.06 scoring average over his four career Sony appearances. He has finished T12 or better in his last three starts in this event.

As he exits this week's Sentry Tournament of Champions with a T18 and a $229k payday, it's a nice reminder of just how far Conners has come since scoring a T3 in the 2019 Sony Open after earning entry into the field via a Monday qualifier.

Conners has carved out a place for himself on the PGA Tour thanks to his consistently elite ball striking. He grades out second in this week's Sony field in both SG: Ball Striking and Good Drives Gained over the last 50 rounds. The Canadian has gained a combined 12.9 strokes with the irons over his last three trips to Waialae and profiles as a rock-solid fantasy option on this slate.


The Ponies

Russell Henley

  • Event Scoring Average: 67.44 (10 career starts)
  • Notable Course History: 2nd ('22), T11 ('21), T13 ('17), Win ('13)
  • DraftKings Price: $9,800 FanDuel Price: TBD

Watching Collin Morikawa's Sunday collapse at Kapalua was a bit reminiscent of Henley's back-nine decline in last year's Sony Open, as he made the turn in 29 and held a five-shot lead over Hideki Matsuyama, only for the Japanese superstar to come storming back and defeat him in a playoff.

It was a round indicative of Henley's volatile history at the Sony Open. His track record at Waialae is marked by impressive highs that include a win in his 2013 tournament debut and last year's runner-up finish but also contains a 30% missed cut rate.

I'm willing to chalk Henley's erratic output at the Sony up to the many ups and downs he's had in his career overall, as the fabulous ball striker struggled with his game for multiple years. He's rediscovered whatever he lost, however, as he capped off a strong 2022 with a win at Mayakoba in the fall. With the rust sufficiently knocked off at Kapalua last week, Henley's sharp ball striking should once again be an asset that puts him in the hunt at Waialae.


Keith Mitchell

  • Event Scoring Average: 67.22 (Five career starts)
  • Notable Course History: T7 ('22), T14 ('21), T16 ('19), T25 ('18)
  • DraftKings Price: $8,300 FanDuel Price: TBD

Although Keith Mitchell left 2022 without a win, it was perhaps his most complete season on the PGA Tour. Mitchell made 20 of 26 cuts with six top-10s last year. His consistency was spurred by his elite ability off the tee, as the driver was a true weapon for him last year. He finished the season ranked second on Tour in Total Driving and fourth in SG: OTT.

His excellence off the tee has served him well in previous trips to this tight Waialae layout that demands a lot off the tee box. Over his five career Sony starts Mitchell has recorded four top-25 finishes with last year's T7 standing as the highlight.

In addition to his prowess with the big dog, the UGA alum has historically found his most success with the flat stick on Bermuda greens such as he'll see this week in Hawaii. Mitchell grades out 52nd in this field in SG: Putting on all surfaces but that rank jumps all the way up to 28th when we're talking about Bermuda-specific putting splits.


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Webb Simpson

  • Event Scoring Average: 67.70 (12 career starts)
  • Notable Course History: T4 ('21), 3rd ('20), T4 ('18), T13 ('17)
  • DraftKings Price: $7,400 FanDuel Price: TBD

When Webb Simpson teed it up in this event in 2021 he was ranked eighth in the OWGR. Last year he was 29th in the world. This year? 127th.

Yeah...it's been a sharp and dramatic decline for Simpson over the last two years. He's battled neck and back injuries, as well as a coaching change when he moved from his long-time instructor Butch Harmon to Cameron McCormick last year.

The progress has been slow, as the North Carolina resident hasn't recorded a top-10 finish in over a calendar year and missed the cut in two of three swing season starts. However, if Simpson is going to find his form, it might be on this Waialae track on which he's been dominant throughout his career. He's scored top-four finishes in three of his last four Sony Open starts and has never missed a cut in 12 career starts on the short Seth Raynor design.

Chris Kirk

  • Event Scoring Average: 67.63 (12 career starts)
  • Notable Course History: T27 ('22), T2 ('21), T10 ('18), T2 ('14)
  • DraftKings Price: $7,400 FanDuel Price: TBD

After taking a leave of absence from golf to deal with his abuse of alcohol, Chris Kirk resuscitated his career with a runner-up finish at the Sony in 2021. It was his second career runner-up at Waialae and fourth top-10 in the Sony Open.

Kirk followed up with a T27 in last year's edition and went on to post some impressive 2022 results, including top-five finishes at both the API and the PGA Championship.

The UGA alum has been rather quiet since the end of the 2021-22 season, posting four made cuts in six fall starts. However, he's demonstrated his ability to get out of the gates quickly at Waialae in the past, and his 22.03 SG: Total over the last five years is the seventh-best mark among this week's entrants.


Win Big With RotoBaller

Golf is back, and it's time for you to win big with RotoBaller! Our PGA DFS Premium Package features several savvy analysts and proven DFS winners.

Our very own Joe Nicely recently took down a big DraftKings DFS tournament for the Travelers Championship. And as an encore, RotoBaller subscriber @tenndolly2 won $100K on FanDuel with the help of Joe and the rest of our Premium PGA team: Between all the incredible Premium PGA DFS content and tools we put out each week, and our Premium Slack Community where we chat with our subscribers before lineups lock, RotoBaller PGA subscribers are armed with the tools, analysis, and advice to win big.

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