2023 Sony Open in Hawaii first-round leader picks and model
Fantasy Golf & Golf Betting

2023 Sony Open in Hawaii first-round leader picks and model

A picture of golfer Tom Kim

Each week of the PGA Tour season, the first-round leader market is one of the juciest and most difficult to predict. With such a small sample size of first rounds, the fickle nature of form and the vagaries of splits, tee times and weather, there's a good reason these bets pay off so well when hit.

Now, we're going to try to help you win more PGA Tour first-round leader bets. In addition to our weekly model, which has a great track record of identifying PGA Tour winners every week, we're launching a first-round leader model that looks at the players most likely to wind up with at least a share of the first-round lead.

2023 Sony Open in Hawaii: Tournament Model | Field | Rankings | Horses for Courses | DFS Picks | Betting Odds and First Looks | First-Round Leader Picks | One and Done | Course Breakdown | Past Results | Cheat Sheet | Recent Form | Finish Database | Discord

How the rubric works

Finding a first-round leader is difficult, so our model uses several factors to identify a potential FRL.

I've started the model by looking at first-round strokes gained against the field in the last 50, 20 and 10 tournaments played. I also include first-round strokes gained in those timeframes against courses with similar first-round scoring averages in the last five years. Then I add in a player's first-round history at the host golf course. Add it all together, and that's our projected FRL number for a player.

There are plenty of factors data can't quantify, including luck of the draw, playing partners, hole locations, weather and sheer random stuff. However, all told, the model is designed to point out quality players and boost those middling players who have good current form or good course history.

2023 Sony Open in Hawaii rankings

With this being an experimental feature subject to tweaking, it will remain available for free until I feel it's dialed in properly. Then it will only be available for GNN members.

We hit on Rahm last week in a three-way chop, but that's a good start for the model. This week, we introduce a full-field event to the model.

I've listed the top 20 here based on their total model score. I've also listed the top eight in average first-round strokes gained in this event in the last four years.

Click header to sort; the better their position, the more the rubric likes them

1 Gordon, Will 2.005
2 Kim, Tom 1.639
3 Spaun, J.J. 1.539
4 Griffin, Ben 1.455
5 Kim, Si Woo 1.431
6 Henley, Russell 1.288
7 Bezuidenhout, Christiaan 1.164
8 Conners, Corey 1.16
9 Scott, Adam 1.143
10 Woodland, Gary 1.125
11 Kuchar, Matt 1.105
12 Lipsky, David 1.003
13 Hughes, Mackenzie 0.979
14 English, Harris 0.94
15 Harman, Brian 0.852
16 McCarthy, Denny 0.815
17 Simpson, Webb 0.807
18 Matsuyama, Hideki 0.804
19 Montgomery, Taylor 0.799
20 Smalley, Alex 0.705

Most Sony Open first-round strokes gained in the last four years

1 Svensson, Adam 6.330 2
2 Kuchar, Matt 3.991 3
3 Kizzire, Patton 3.493 4
4 Thompson, Michael 3.243 4
5 Conners, Corey 3.218 3
6 Poston, J.T. 2.991 3
7 Kirk, Chris 2.657 3
8 Putnam, Andrew 1.993 4

About the author


Ryan Ballengee

Ryan Ballengee is founder and editor of Golf News Net. He has been writing and broadcasting about golf for nearly 20 years. Ballengee lives in the Washington, D.C. area with his family. He is a scratch golfer...sometimes.

Ballengee can be reached by email at ryan[at]thegolfnewsnet.com

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