Fantasy Golf picks for the 2018 Sony Open in Hawaii

January 10, 2018

[This article originally appeared on FanSided.]

Welcome back, fantasy golf fans! We hope you enjoyed your winter break, and we’re ready to go for the 2018 PGA Tour season! We’ve got all your DraftKings and daily fantasy strategy covered all year long.

The first full-field event of the year is just around the palm tree-lined corner, with the Sony Open in Hawaii set to tee off on Thursday. As always, it’s the second event of the two-week “Hawaii Swing”, and Waialae presents a challenge totally opposite to the one from Kapalua a week ago.

Waialae isn’t a track that will inspire fear from the masses, at least not by its design alone. Arguably one of the easier tracks on TOUR, it gets the vast majority of its defenses from the coastal winds. If they pick up, things can get hairy. However, most of the time, the breeze is more than manageable. This week’s forecast calls for more of the same, with winds perhaps picking up around 10 mph on Sunday.

The field this week at Waialae is strong, with several past champions in the lineup, including 2017 winner and FedEx Cup champion Justin Thomas. How does that effect your DraftKings strategy, though?

For those of you joining for the first time, this isn’t meant to be a “perfect lineup” column. Each of my picks will fit together under the DraftKings $50,000 salary cap, but I specifically don’t lay out a full six-man team for that reason. Think of this as a building block for you to build the foundation of your team.

With no further ado, it’s time to jump into the rankings. Let’s get going!

5. JASON DUFNER (DraftKings daily salary: $7,300)

To paraphrase one of the legends who adorned Jason Dufner’s headwear this past week at Kapalua, sometimes mo’ money doesn’t equal mo’ problems. Dufner boasted a colossal cadre of caps at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, including one with the late, great Notorious B.I.G. front and center. Eat your heart out with that Hawaiian shirt, Rickie.

This, of course, is due to Dufner opening the season without a cap sponsor, and while he may be missing the extra coin from Titleist, that didn’t stop him from impressing in the 2018 opener. Dufner kept himself in contention throughout the week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, finishing T11 despite a disappointing Sunday 74.

He’s had his fair share of ups and downs at Waialae over the years, but when he’s on his game, he can more than hold his own. Dufner has a pair of top-25s in his last six trips to Honolulu, including most recently a tie for ninth in 2016.

At $7,300, Dufner also represents outstanding value for your DraftKings lineup. We’d all love to go top-heavy, but the $50,000 salary cap can put more of a drain on the pocketbook than we’d like. Based on what I saw at Kapalua, I have no problem gambling a little bit, especially with one of the lowest-priced players on my roster.

4. PETER UIHLEIN (DraftKings daily salary: $7,700)

The old adage is that these Hawaiian courses, deceptively simple on paper, require a surprising degree of experience to truly succeed. Learning the subtle curvatures of the greens, testing the trade winds, and doing it while coming off a long winter break adds a degree of difficulty to the first full-field tournament of 2018.

Why, then, do I have such confidence in Peter Uihlein, making his Sony Open debut this week? Well, experience at Waialae may be an issue, but Uihlein is a special case. The son of former Titleist/Acushnet CEO Wally Uihlein, the 28-year-old has lived, eaten, breathed and slept golf for his entire life. He’s played sparingly on thw PGA Tour throughout his professional career, but he’s ready to come home after several years in Europe.

Now ranked No. 52 in the world, Uihlein enjoyed some early success on this side of the Atlantic last season. He scored top-25 finishes at the Puerto Rico Open (T5), the Shell Houston Open (T23), and the Memorial Tournament (T25).

The 2017-18 season is off to an even better start, as Uihlein bounced back from a missed cut at the Safeway Open to post back-to-back top-tens at the CIMB Classic and the WGC-HSBC Champions. It’s been ten weeks, but if he maintained any semblance of that form over the winter break, he’ll be just fine.

At $7,700, Uihlein is a bit of a risk-reward pick, but in tournament format, he could be the difference maker with otherwise low ownership numbers.

3. CHARLES HOWELL III (DraftKings daily salary: $8,800)

If you’ve followed these power rankings and sleeper picks over the course of the last year or so, you know how much I love me some CH3. He’s still one of the more underrated talents on the PGA Tour, but when it comes to fantasy, he finds his way into my lineups several times.

The reason is pretty simple – Howell III has plenty of courses on the TOUR calendar that he finds consistent success at, and this early stop at Waialae fits the bill perfectly.

Howell will be making his 17th consecutive start at the Sony Open in Hawaii, and the stats speak for themselves. According to official TOUR records, Howell ranks third in career earnings at Waialae, and he’s got four top-ten finishes in his last six starts.

The 38-year-old Augusta native enjoyed a solid fall campaign, scoring three top-25s in his five starts in October and November. He peaked with a tie for fourth place in the OHL Classic at Mayakoba – yet another course for this particular horse. Like most other players, he’s rested from a seven-week break, and he should come in charged up for success.

The $8,800 salary on DraftKings is more than fair for Howell, and it won’t restrict you at all from targeting at least one five-figure player, if that’s your preferred strategy. Look for the veteran to pay off big this week in Hawaii, and beyond this year.

2. TONY FINAU (DraftKings daily salary: $8,900)

Tony Finau is still one of those guys who looks like he’s about two weeks away from just opening the floodgates and becoming a true force on the PGA Tour. That might sound odd when we’re talking about a guy with around $8 million in career earnings and a win, but here we are.

When you’re building your DraftKings team for the Sony Open, though, have no fear when it comes to putting Finau on your roster. He’s steadily on the rise thus far in the 2017-18 season, and this trip to Waialae could be coming at the absolute perfect time.

The former “Big Break” contestant headed into the winter break in outstanding form, with three top 25 finishes in four starts. He peaked early, with a runner-up at the Safeway Open, and he narrowly missed a fourth top-25, tying for 26th at the CJ Cup two weeks later.

Finau’s reputation as a bomber precedes him, currently leading the TOUR in driving distance. However, his is a game that carries over to all types of tests. He last missed a cut at The PLAYERS back in May, and he closed the season with top tens in four of his last eight.

Look for Finau to surpass his personal best (T-20) from last year at Waialae, and to help your Fantasy team to success.

1. KEVIN KISNER (DraftKings daily salary: $10,100)

This was a much easier pick before the happenings of Monday night in Atlanta. The University of Georgia alum was all set to celebrate a Bulldogs national championship in front of playing partner – and Alabama product – Justin Thomas. Then things went sideways in the second half.

No, football won’t have any impact on this week’s tournament in Hawaii, but gridiron ties run deep in SEC country. The story practically writes itself.

On a more serious note, Kisner looks like a strong bet for the Sony Open, especially when it comes to DraftKings daily fantasy. He’s only played two official events since the end of the 2016-17 season, finishing tied for fourth at the RSM Classic in November, then returning to action with a T17 at last week’s Sentry Tournament in Champions. In between, he finished T12 at the Hero World Challenge, and T11 at the QBE Shootout. He’s not white-hot by any means, but he’s stayed active and steady throughout.

Kisner is heating up at Waialae, too. After missing four straight cuts in Honolulu from 2011 to 2015, he’s put together back-to-back top-five finishes in the first full-field event of the year. Statistically, there are no glaring weaknesses to be worried about, either.

At $10,100 on DraftKings, Kisner provides a ton of value, while leaving you enough money to balance the lower portion of your lineup. It’s almost impossible to pass on that kind of potential – and we’re not.