The PGA Tour's Aloha Swing continues (and concludes) this week in Honolulu.
Waialae Country Club has long been the host of the Sony Open, and it will reprise that role this week while welcoming the first full-field event of the new year. After long hitters were rewarded on the sprawling fairways of Kapalua, this week's test is among the shortest on Tour and will require players to dial in their iron play and lean on their putters.
This week's field includes headliners like major champs Webb Simpson and Collin Morikawa, while Cameron Smith returns to defend the title he won a year ago in a playoff over Brendan Steele. Of the 42 players who teed it up last week in Maui, 29 are expected to make the short trip to Honolulu. Last year Smith became the first player since 2013 to win Sony without playing the week prior at Kapalua.
From players who can serve as roster anchors to those who may give you pause, here are some tips to consider while finalizing lineups for this week's event:
Daniel Berger ($10,000 on DraftKings): If you need someone to build a lineup around, look no further than Berger. A resurgent 2020, highlighted by a win at Colonial, has the former Presidents Cupper back inside the top 15 in the world rankings and he heads to Oahu off a solid 10th-place finish at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. Berger has been remarkably consistent for months, with eight top-25 finishes over his last 10 starts. By comparison his T-38 result last year at this event is pretty pedestrian, but it's also well below his Sony norm: in five starts he has finished no worse than T-45 while cracking the top 15 twice. Not only has he never missed the cut at this event, he has never shot over par in a single round. Don't expect either trend to end this week.
Kevin Kisner ($8,800): Short-ish track where iron play is important and guys can get hot with putter in hand? It doesn't take long for Kisner's name to bubble toward the top. The veteran missed his first three cuts at Waialae but appears to have figured the place out, finishing T-5 or better three times in his last five appearances. That includes last year's T-4 showing, highlighted by a third-round 64. Kisner struggled last week on a big ballpark, but look at the results he racked up last year on courses (like this one) that more suit his style: third at the Rocket Mortgage, T-3 at Wyndham, playoff loss at RSM.
Hideki Matsuyama ($10,200): This is just too steep a price to pay for a balky putter. Matsuyama disappointed out of the gates last week, tying for last among the limited field at Kapalua, and his track record at this event is far from stellar. Last year's T-12 finish was his first top-25 here in seven trips, but even that came in spite of an opening 74. Matsuyama is starting to turn it around at Waialae, but there are simply more reliable options in this price range on a course where strong putters tend to shine.
Adam Scott ($9,000): Similar reasoning here as with Matsuyama, as Scott continues to toy with equipment on the greens. He ditched his recognizable broomstick putter last week in Maui but returned to it in early-week practice at Waialae, as the Aussie continues to put ample attention toward the one weak spot in his game. Scott has been feast-or-famine at this event, with four top-20s including a runner-up in 2009. But even after showing some strong ball-striking signs last week, I'm more inclined to believe that he puts up a result similar to his most recent appearance, when he left early after rounds of 72-75 two years ago.
Brian Gay ($6,700): Gay is only $400 more than he was heading into the Bermuda Championship in the fall, when he surprised with his first win since 2013. The veteran can now enjoy the spoils of what amounts to a three-year exemption, but this is the type of course that accentuates his strongest skills while all but eliminating the typical deficit he faces off the tee. Gay has won on oceanside courses like Bermuda and Mayakoba, and he's won on tight tracks like Harbour Town. His Sony record is predictably solid, with six top-25 finishes in his last 11 trips dating back to 2009, and he already has some competitive rounds under his belt after a T-29 finish in Maui.
Jimmy Walker ($6,500): It's been quite awhile since Walker has factored into a betting or DFS column, as this week he returns to Oahu ranked No. 413 in the world. But few courses bring a glint to his eye quite like Waialae, where he went back-to-back with wins in 2014 and 2015 and once recorded 17 straight rounds in the 60s. Walker's game has fallen off dramatically, but he still managed a T-45 finish here last year and he closed out 2020 with some minor signs of progress that included a made cut at the Masters. The former PGA champ is a long way away from the glory he reached at Baltusrol, but you could do far worse when looking for the final leg of a lineup and a player who should make the cut and retains some upside.