2023 Sony Open: Keegan Bradley, Brian Harman Attracting Sharp Money
Pictured: Keegan Bradley. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
The PGA Tour is in Hawaii for the second consecutive week, but the two venues couldn’t be further from one another in terms of the statistical metrics. Waialae Country Club, the host of this week’s event, provides a flat, methodical setup — vastly different than last weekend’s course, which often turned into a wide-open paradise.
Players have averaged a 21% decrease in fairways hit over the past five years when teeing it up at the Sony Open instead of Kapalua. The condensed proximity totals that place this venue at a 13% enhancement in second shots ranging from 125-200 yards, only adds to this outlook that will reward a particular sort of golfer.
Essentially, if you aren’t finding greens in regulation, you are struggling to score, and this is one of those shorter venues that flips the new-school moniker of distance over accuracy on its head by generating nearly two times more impact in finding fairways versus length.
All of that renders an interesting model-building week since we have the long-term data to try and take advantage of past performances, and the fact that the venue grades as the second-highest on tour in terms of rollover predictably only generates more for us to work with when running numbers.
If you aren’t doing so already, you can find me on Twitter @TeeOffSports. There I will provide a link to my pre-tournament model, a powerful and interactive data spreadsheet that allows user inputs to create custom rankings for golf. That sheet is released every Monday, so be sure to check it out and construct your own numbers from my database of information.
Where Is The Sharp Money Heading To Start The Week?
I don’t know if I am backing Brian Harman as aggressively as others in the space, but it has been a noteworthy few days in various sectors of the market. Harman has become the third betting favorite at some of the sharper shops in the world, and we see that with him landing as a rather sizeable favorite in head-to-head matchups against Tom Hoge, Russell Henley, Hideki Matsuyama, Corey Conners and Jordan Spieth.
In my opinion, you have entirely missed the value if you lost out on the 28% drop from his opener of 25/1 to 18/1, but perhaps DFS gamers might want to take that information into account since it has yielded a higher potential ceiling than my model initially believed to be the case.
Harman has shot par or better in a tournament-leading 27 consecutive rounds, and his third-place mark when combining total driving, weighted proximity and Bermuda putting placed him behind only Tom Kim and Sungjae Im.
Kyoung-Hoon Lee lands as a betting favorite over Si Woo Kim, J.J. Spaun, Taylor Montgomery, Billy Horschel, Matt Kuchar, Adam Scott (another late mover), Maverick McNealy and Cameron Davis, and Lee’s outright price has shrunk into the 30/1 range at most shops.
The 31-year-old ranks ninth in my model when recalculating all the holes into one weighable metric, and his 35-spot improvement in Strokes Gained: Approach over the past 24 rounds, compared to my two-year running data, helps explain why big money seems to be entering the space.
I don’t understand the long-term intrigue here, but Matt Kuchar has moved between 8-18% on most outright boards from his Monday opener.
My model can’t get past a ball-striking total that places 93rd and a weighted proximity output that lands 92nd, but I can only assume some in the space are hanging their hats on his Bermuda putting acumen and helter-skelter upside at the track.
My Favorite Sharp Mover
I wouldn’t call this an astronomical move by any stretch of the imagination, but I have seen Keegan Bradley steadily slipping from the mid-30s at most locations down to more of a 30/1 expectation at a few of the sharper shops.
Bradley’s upside does generate a few question marks, which was one of the reasons I avoided placing an outright ticket on him when I initially started my card. However, if we remove the recalculated birdie or better percentage my model derived for him at Waialae — a total I’m not sure is accurate since we have seen him provide two top-12s at this stop in the past three years — and instead replace it with my two-year data for him, we get a new rank for him of fourth overall in my model.
I like focusing on minor changes like that when it propels someone up my sheet who may have been missing in action otherwise. I believe there is a reason we are starting to see Bradley favored against most of his opponents throughout the industry.