Justin Thomas turned in an all-time great performance at the Sony Open last week, winning by seven shots and posting the lowest 72-hole score in PGA history. Thomas was in complete control of his game, and his victory makes him just the second player to sweep the two Hawaii tournaments in the same season (Ernie Els, 2003). Justin Rose shot 64 on Sunday to take second place, and Jordan Spieth’s final round 63 (remember the no-pressure-Sunday rounds) was good enough to finish third.
But enough about the tournament...let’s talk fantasy.
Sony Open in Hawaii recap
165 points; Season Rank – 1,318 (96th Percentile)
Overall, it was a solid week, although I didn’t follow my own thoughts. I specifically warned you to stay away from Russell Knox on Sunday. So what did I do? I waited until Sunday to play him, benching runaway leader Justin Thomas in the process. That isn’t a bad strategy, but it should have been done Saturday. Having the winner on the roster always helps the total, and Spieth added five bonus points to the mix. What else went right or wrong, you ask?
Fairway – Most of my ‘A’ and ‘B’ group predictions were spot on. Hideki Matsuyama finished T27, firmly in my predicted 20-30 range. Charles Howell III made the cut and didn’t win. So did Leishman. Even my gut play of Russell Knox ended up T11 after a listless Sunday. Many other points I made last week played out to be true. Honestly. It’s scary. Go back and read the article. But then…
Rough – Pat Perez. He sat at eight under par coming into Sunday, and a decent round would have put him squarely in the top 20… but the locks didn’t flow so happily from his head, as he ended the tournament T69 following a final-round 76. To be fair to me (because why wouldn’t you be?) he did make the cut and contributed some ‘C’ points the first three days. But, no ‘mahalo’ is owed to me.
We thank Hawaii for two weeks of riveting golf in prime time paradise as we head for the mainland and the CareerBuilder Challenge!
2017 CareerBuilder Challenge Yahoo! fantasy golf picks
- Bill Haas – He’s the all-time tournament earnings leader, and he’s back to being the unspectacular fantasy horse. Haas has finished 6-1-9 the last three years with no round worse than 69. He probably won’t win this week, but he hasn’t shot a round over par in this tournament since the Civil War, so you can fire him up early.
- Patrick Reed – There seems to be few reasons to pull Haas from the starting lineup, and I don’t fancy Reed as much as others in the group. Sure, he won here in 2014. Yes, he’s the class of the field. Yet, something feels funny. Finishes of 24-56 in his last two turns here are uninspiring. He could win or finish 40th, and I’d bet closer to the latter.
- Brendan Steele – The ‘A’ list has a few players who could take the place of Reed in the second ‘A’ spot, and Steele qualifies. His final-round 74 last year broke a run of seven consecutive sub-69 rounds here and has had a strong start to the season, including a sixth-place finish at the Tournament of Champions. Checks most of the boxes…
- Roberto Castro – Thus begins the boring backside of the ‘A’ group – past four CareerBuilder finishes of 42-37-25-56 get my attention, and Castro played well toward the end of 2016. If you want to save Reed starts, Castro is a wildcard option who won’t be heavily owned. Top-30 is not out of the question.
- Kevin Streelman – Again, nothing to make you go outside the Haas box, but Streels has had some success here, finishing 10-33-MC-10-41-11 in his last six tours. We haven’t seen him since the RSM Classic, but he finished 2016 in decent form. Plus, I played baseball against him many years ago. Good ballplayer.
- Charles Howell III – I’m going to copy my blurb on CH3 from last week. Verbatim. ‘He’s here every year, he makes the cut every year, and he’s never won the tournament. If you want a guy in good form who guarantees you’ll have a ‘B’ player on the weekend, CH3 is your man. If you want a player who could actually win the tournament, look somewhere else.’ Yep. Nailed it.
- Jamie Lovemark – Fired a 73 on Sunday last year after three straight rounds of 65 to finish T6. Not much success here before 2016, but when you need a boatload of birdies, Lovemark answers the bell. He gets hot in spurts, and this appears to be a solid stretch, as his fourth-place finish last week suggests. Fire him up!
- Webb Simpson – He has become consistently uninteresting of late. Contracted a mild case of Howell-itis, in that he won’t threaten the leaders, but his steady record can help you get through the cut sweats. His finishes of 23-7-17 in his last three here are tidy, and his final round average of 66 since 2011 is something to keep in mind.
- Lucas Glover – He started the 2016-17 campaign with finishes of 5-3-36, and he’s hit the top-20 in his last two runs here. Seems like a sneaky play in a group without major class at the top. If he brings his putter along, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a top-15 finish.
- Francesco Molinari – His recent globetrotting has produced excellent results, finishing in the top-six in his last four starts. Faded to a 62nd place finish here last year after a top-10 in 2015. He comes out of the gates hotter than arrabbiata sauce, and he could spice things up a bit this week.
- Kevin Na – His third-round 62 en route to a third-place finish last year is enough to draw a look. Hasn’t played well of late, and his 36th last week at the Sony Open was disappointing. He has too much class to completely ignore, and good history at a familiar place could cure his ills. Slowly.
- Paul Casey – He was a surprise MC last week and his only turn around these courses resulted in an MC in 2015. I still feel like he’ll make the cut and finish mid-range, but there is no reason to use him in Yahoo! unless you want a classy, contrarian play.
- Chez Reavie – His 61 on Sunday last week made his tournament look better than it was. He did play well here last year with a T17, but the only reason to play him is because nobody else will. Or because you like his name.
- Adam Hadwin – Here’s my gut play of the week. Finished 48th here in 2015 before a final-round 72 dropped him to sixth last year. He was hot toward the end of the 2016 season and played well in the World Cup. I’m rolling the dice on him as my fourth ‘B’ player and hoping I don’t regret leaving out Molinari.
- Phil Mickelson – There simply is no reason to take a roster spot from another solid ‘B’ player to gamble on an old man coming off hernia surgery. Could he play and make the cut? Possibly… but there is no upside here. Pass.
- Zach Johnson – You just never know. I wasn’t wild on ZJ last week and he cruised to a sixth-place finish. I’m still not wild on him, having missed the cut in his last two loops here. There are plenty of other ‘C’ players begging to be recognized that leaving ZJ off the team isn’t an awful wager. Rain makes courses longer, and that’s not good for Johnson.
- Emiliano Grillo – He has never played here, but his form and budding class are too much to ignore. He was simply fantastic over the last few months of the 2016 season, and he hasn’t finished worse than 33rd in any tournament in the last six months. If you don’t like the lack of course history, look somewhere else.
- Luke List – Here’s my other gut play this week - perfect trends coming together of form and history. List has been nearly as hot as Grillo of late, and he finished sixth here last season. He hits the ball a mile, and if the clouds open up as predicted, his length will carry him toward the top of the leaderboard.
- Jason Dufner – The defending champion has been less than exciting lately. You could say his game is Dufnering right now. You’d be looked at funny if you said that. Don’t say that. He has tremendous history at this event, but there seems to be several others who are more likely to hit the podium.
- Jon Rahm – Another blossoming star with no course history… Rahm has the ability to post a top-10 every week, and this tournament is no exception. If you want a wildcard who isn’t so wild, throw Rahm on your team and cross your fingers.
- David Lingmerth – Top shelf reach here… played well at the end of 2016 overseas, and though he didn’t play great at the Sony Open, he still survived the cut. Probably a better DFS play than Yahoo! but if he finished top-20, don’t say I didn’t hint at that in my blurb.
My Yahoo! fantasy golf lineup
(* - denotes first round starter)
- A – Bill Haas* and Brendan Steele
- B – Jamie Lovemark*, Adam Hadwin*, Charles Howell III and Kevin Na
- C – Zach Johnson* and Luke List
I hate my roster. I want to throw Reed in there because you have to, but I think Steele could win the tournament. I’d love to run Emiliano Grillo out there instead of Zach Johnson, but List and Grillo have the same course rotation and I love List’s distance in a monsoon. Molinari seems like a good bet to be the day one leader, which counts for something. Follow me on Twitter @commishjoe in case I change my mind a few times before Thursday.
In short, with a pro-am format, anything can happen, so I’ll gamble by leaving Reed out and taking a ride with Adam Hadwin. The gut plays of the week are Hadwin and List, and I’ll take Steele for the win. Nickel’s worth of free advice – stay away from the Stadium Course. Good luck!
Follow me on Twitter @commishjoe for any last minute thoughts or changes.