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PGA DFS: Vegas Report - Sony Open

Welcome back to the PGA DFS: Vegas Report. What a start to the 2019 calendar year on the PGA Tour! Xander Schauffele captured the fourth victory of his career, ransacking the title away from Gary Woodland. Schauffele tied a course record on Sunday with his 11-under par 62 effort, eclipsing Woodland by one shot for the win. With the triumph, the 25-year-old moves up to sixth in the Official World Golf Rankings and books his ticket back to the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Webb Simpson, our pick to win at odds of 25/1, finished in a share of eighth place. The American put together a brilliant Sunday himself, shooting an eight-under par 65 to catapult his way up the leaderboard. Simpson was excellent with his irons all week, gaining 7.212 strokes on his approach shots -- good for second-best in the field, and he concluded the tournament in a share of first for eagles made and fifth in strokes gained tee-to-green. Unfortunately, despite gaining 3.411 strokes putting during the final round, Simpson still ended the tournament ranked 26th out of 33 golfers in strokes gained-putting. A better putting week could have given him a chance to compete, but that same sentiment could be said about a handful of guys every event.

All things considered, the Sentry Tournament of Champions was a pretty thin betting card for us. We had no head-to-head wagers and only two outright selections. Things will begin to pick up as the season rounds into form, but discipline and bankroll management will always be what is most important. I don't believe in forcing inordinately large betting cards for the sake of the article looking better. What I mean by that is, I am not going to recommend a ton of names from the top of the betting board to make it more likely that we find a winner in the article. Sure, we would hit a champion more frequently by doing that, but we wouldn't be profitable by always chasing the top of the board. Golf betting is enticing because there are so many different routes you can take for every event, but your exposure needs to be controlled. Alternative thought processes will regularly be mentioned, and I will do my best to provide other options to consider weekly. With the Sony Open on tap for this week, let's get into some plays that we will be targetting.

For an in-depth breakdown of the top DraftKings and Fanduel plays, check out Joe Nicely's weekly Horse For The Course that highlights the best fits for the week's course.

Editor's Note: Our friends at Fantasy National have built some incredible DFS Golf lineup tools including a Lineup Optimizer, Stat Engine, Ownership Projections and Course Breakdowns. They are by far the best daily fantasy Golf tools in the industry. Seriously. You can read all about them here and see screenshots. 

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2019 Sony Open - Waialae Country Club - 7,020 Yards - Par 70 - Greens Bermuda.

Located in Honolulu, Hawaii and designed by Seth Raynor in 1925, Waialae Country Club will be hosting an event on the PGA Tour for the 54th consecutive year. Tom Doak made some minor restorations to the course in 2016, restoring it to its original layout.

Just like Kapalua last weekend, Waialae is one of the easier courses on tour but will play vastly different than its predecessor. Kapalua featured a hilly course that played almost 7,500 yards and was susceptible to extreme gusts of wind. Waialae can be described more like a flat, boring bayside track that will emphasize par-four scoring and ball-striking with it being a Par 70 that plays just over 7,000 yards. The only line of defense for the course is wind, which can cause approximately a three-shot difference per day in calm versus windy conditions. However, the fairways are lined with trees that do mitigate some of the weather. Driving accuracy is well below the tour average, but the rough is innocuous, and players will have clean second shots as long as they avoid the trees.

There are 12 par-fours on the course, with 10 of them ranging between 400-500 yards. The four par-threes extend between 176-204 yards and the two par-fives play 506 and 551 yards, respectively. The par-fives are the easiest holes to score on, featuring roughly a 71 percent and 55 percent birdie or better percentage. Those holes are reachable in two shots for just about every player in the field, so golfers that can give themselves an opportunity for quality eagle looks should make a few during the week. In general, Waialae is a second shot course that will reward players that are good with their irons, can score on par-fours and gain a lot of opportunities because of a high percentage of greens in regulation hit.

Pick to Win

Before I get into my pick to win, I want to discuss a common mistake I see golf bettors make. The idea isn't as cut and dry as I am going to make it, but it is something that I see far too many people doing wrong.

I think one of the biggest misconceptions in the industry is what happens when you take a name from the top of the betting board. Far too often I see a player like Justin Thomas as the selection and the rest of the card is filled out with three or four additional players at odds of 30/1 or less. There are a few reasons this doesn't work from both a logical and mathematical perspective.

In an ideal world, you want "to win" the same amount on every bet you make. The differences can be subtle, but it allows cleaner hedge spots or buyouts. Plus, it should keep you from over investing into an event. Let's say your bankroll can afford up to $50 worth of outright wagers for every tournament. That may sound like a lot to some and a little to others, but it works the same way regardless of how big your bankroll is. If you hypothetically selected golfers that had odds of 8/1, 15/1, 20/1, 25/1 and 30/1, you would be betting the following amounts to win around the same total :

$20 to win $160 (8/1)
$10.60 to win $159 (15/1)
$8.00 to win $160 (20/1)
$6.40 to win $160 (25/1)
$5.30 to win $159 (30/1)

That may seem reasonable to some, but it is a mathematical situation that you can't win at long-term. Outside of your win amount getting depleted by doing this strategy, you have to hit a winner during 31.25 percent of the events to break even! This example goes hand-in-hand with my point I made during the beginning of the article, people can show a lot of winners during the year, but it doesn't mean they are showing a profit.

Now let's take the same example of taking Justin Thomas at 8/1 but let's attempt to win $360 on him this time. If we keep with the same $50 bankroll total, we could place $45 on him to win $360. That would leave us with an additional $5 that we could invest into either one extra player or possibly multiple other golfers. However, remember we need to bet to win around the same amount. As an example, it would look something like this if we chose to take one golfer:

$45 to win $360 (8/1)
$4.50 to win $360 (80/1)

We are now winning $200 more and only need to hit a winner 13.8 percent of the time. I still think this example is slightly too bullish and would prefer to find a range for my bankroll that allows me to hit at under 10 percent. But it gets the point across that the lower in odds you go, the fewer golfers you can take, and the higher in odds your guys are, the more golfers you can bet for that week. It doesn't mean that every event needs to have the same win total as the one before, but you should be trying to stay within a similar weekly wager amount until your bankroll allows a progression.


Justin Thomas (8/1, DK Price $11,400, FD Price $12,300)

The Sony Open provides another slightly awkward betting card for us. Depending on what your wagering options are, there are a few different ways to play this. If I had each-way betting, it would change a lot of how I viewed this event. The possibility to get paid out for the top five to seven finishing positions would allow us to explore further down the leaderboard in what appears to be a wide-open event if you remove Justin Thomas from the equation. I believe we have about 40 players that are all viable options to win if Thomas doesn't, and the field is weak enough that multiple options could land inside the each-way finishing positions.

Unfortunately, I don't have that choice available to me inside the United States and would rather condense my selection down to the player that I think is going to win, mainly because it feels like throwing darts at a board this week. If I was to recommend what my card would look like with each-way betting, players such as Scott Piercy (60/1), Chez Reavie (80/1), Sungjae Im (80/1), Danny Lee (90/1), Ryan Armour (110/1), Sam Ryder (110/1) and Ollie Schniederjans (150/1) are all names that I would be considering. Jordan Spieth (16/1) and Hideki Matsuyama (30/1) are other viable routes to start your card with regardless of the gambling options that are available to you, but I decided to go a direction that I usually wouldn't and take the favorite in this tournament.

I think roughly 10/1 is about where we could expect long-term expected value on Justin Thomas, but there are ways to push his 8/1 price above that. We could parlay him with an event on Wednesday to bolster his odds to 16/1 or above. I typically like this approach, and it can put us in a much more optimal position, but there are two things I would advise if doing this. The first would be to make sure you parlay it with an event before the tournament starts. Nothing would be worse than Thomas holding a six-shot lead on Sunday, and you have to sweat out either side of the Philadelphia Eagles and New Orleans Saints game to see if you win. The second suggestion would be to cut the bet amount that you were going to make in half. The wager should be treated like a 16/1 selection and not 8/1, allowing us to save some money on the week but giving us the same win total as before. This, of course, assumes we can have the first leg of the bet come in successfully.

Fourteen of the past 20 winners of the Sony Open played the Tournament of Champions the week prior, including each of the last five. Twenty-two players are making the trip from Kapalua to Honolulu this year, and perhaps nobody looked more ready to win than Justin Thomas. The American concluded the event with an eight-under 65 on Sunday and would have most likely eclipsed his third-place finish if it weren't for his abnormally poor production with his driver and putter. Thomas lost 0.433 strokes off-the-tee and 0.762 putting on the week. Both of those statistics placed him outside of the top-20 and diminished his stellar 10.805 strokes gained approaching the green, which ranked him first overall in the field.

Thomas has had the majority of his success on the PGA Tour outside of the lower 48 states, winning two of his nine titles in Hawaii and three in Asia. He has three top-14 finishes here in his four attempts, which includes a victory in 2017. If there is anything that could hold him back this weekend, it is his greens in regulation percentage, where he ranks just 26th in the field over his past 50 rounds. Game-theory suggests that there could be some value in fading him in DFS contests this week since he is projected to be the highest owned player on the slate, but I will be overweight with him in all game types. Hopefully you can get his outright price propped up through a two-team parlay.

Chez Reavie (80/1, DK Price $7,600, FD Price $9,400)

While Chez Reavie isn't entering this year's Sony Open with the same form that he possessed last season, it seems reasonable that we could see another early season push from the 63rd-ranked golfer in the world. It is not to say that he has been bad recently, making six straight cuts and providing a share of seventh place at the CJ Cup in October, but last season Reavie entered this event having made sixteen consecutive weekends, which included 11 top-25 finishes. Sadly, his 2018 season faltered slightly after that, and the restart to 2019 couldn't come soon enough.

Reavie is a player that can be taken out of an event if length off the tee is required. One of the shorter hitters on tour, the American does most of his work with his irons, accuracy and proximity to the hole. All those things can play to his advantage at a shorter venue but are negated at tracks that require distance. When we look at courses under 7,200 yards, Reavie's name begins to stick out in a lot of key statistical categories over the last 50 rounds compared to the field. The 37-year-old ranks fifth in strokes gained on par-fours, eighth in opportunities gained, 10th in strokes gained approach and 12th in greens in regulation gained

If we keep looking at courses under 7,200 yards but also add a filter to include venues with Bermuda greens, Reavie begins to excel even more. Over his past 50 rounds compared to the field, he ranks first in greens in regulation gained, second in strokes gained approach, fourth in opportunities gained and fifth in par-three scoring between 175-200 yards. Par-five scoring remains an issue regardless of where the tournament is being held, but Waialae Country Club provides some of the most friendly par-fives in the world.

Reavie enters the week as the 30th highest priced player on DraftKings, 29th on FanDuel and 34th in the betting market. He is currently projected to be owned around 13 percent on DraftKings and 12 percent on FanDuel, but I think he is a safe cash-game option that can still present upside in GPP events.


Head-to-Head Play of the Week

Jimmy Walker -115 over Kevin Na -105
Jimmy Walker $7,400 price tag on DraftKings vs. Kevin Na $7,200 price tag on DraftKings
Jimmy Walker 6.5 percent projected ownership vs. Kevin Na 1.3 percent projected ownership

Risk 1.15 Units to Win 1.00.

In theory, I should be going larger on this wager, but I am confused why it is still up on the board given all the uncertainty surrounding Kevin Na. The American was forced to withdraw from the Tournament of Champions with a fractured bone in his right pinky finger and was estimated to be out roughly four weeks.

Fast forward to the Sony Open one week later, and Na is planning to give it a go in Honolulu. There is a lot that can go wrong between now and Thursday, and it is possible that he never quite makes it to the first tee -- which would void all wagers for the event. But considering that there is a chance that he might actually attempt to gut this out, I would feel negligent if I didn't use this as my bet of the week.

In my opinion, the only reason why this is even an option for Na stems from him already being in Hawaii. I am slightly perplexed why he didn't just head home after withdrawing last week, and it does worry me somewhat, but all he has to do is hit one ball and pull out for our bet to be graded a winner. That alone is worth a wager in my opinion, but there are some statistical issues that both Na and Walker are facing.

If we weren't dealing with an injury to Na, this line should probably be reversed. Walker at +100 is where I would have placed it, which means we are technically looking at a negative -3.5 percent implied probability on the wager. However, there is an injury to account for that could affect him if he does play, and there is a definite withdrawal percentage that we need to take into account. Unless the books have inside information that he will be fine and this is a trap wager -- which can't be completely discredited, I would have hung this line closer to -150 for Walker. That gives us about a 6.5 percent edge when we try to estimate how impactful the injury will be.

If Kevin Na pulls out of the event in a timely manner on Wednesday, I will try to edit this post with another head-to-head bet. For what it is worth, Jimmy Walker graded 35th overall for me this week. That is much lower than I would ever want to go with my head-to-head selection, but this situation is anything but conventional.


2019 Head-to-Head Record (4-2-1)

+2.70 Units Year-To-Date From H2H Bets

Tournament Head-to-Head Bet Bet My Picks Finish Opponent Finish Result Total
Safeway Open Sangmoon Bae +130 Over Chris Kirk 1.00 Units to Win 1.30 MC (+2) MC (E) Loss -1.00
CIMB Classic Kevin Na -120 over Kevin Tway 1.50 Units to Win 1.25 T19 (-17) T27 (-13) Win 1.25
CJ Cup Paul Casey +100 over Marc Leishman 1.25 Units to Win 1.25 T18 (-8) T18 (-8) Push 0
WGC-HSBC Thomas Pieters +120 over Kevin Na 1.00 Units to Win 1.20 T18 (-1) T54 (+10) Win 1.20
Shriners Austin Cook +100 over Russell Henley 1.00 Units to Win 1.00 MC (+1) MC (-1) Loss -1.00
Mayakoba Kevin Chappell +100 over Charley Hoffman 1.25 Units to Win 1.25 T41 (-9) MC (+2) Win 1.25
RSM Classic Patrick Rodgers -105 over Bronson Burgoon 1.05 Units to Win 1.00 2nd (-19) MC (+2) Win 1.00

2019 Outright Bets That Have Finished Inside the Top-10




Finish Position

Matt Kuchar

Mayakoba Golf Classic



Chesson Hadley

CIMB Classic



Ryan Palmer

CJ Cup



Sam Ryder

Shriners Hospitals



Jason Day

CJ Cup



Zach Johnson

RSM Classic



Kevin Kisner

RSM Classic



Webb Simpson




J.B. Holmes

Safeway Open



Shubankar Sharma

CIMB Classic




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