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Sony Open Proximity Predictions – PGA DFS

Our PGA DFS season is continuing with the Sony Open in Waialae Country Club. Waialae is a Par 70 that plays a bit over 7,000 yards. If you’re interested in the typical course preview, you can check out last year’s version but we’re switching it up this year.

One of the ways we (attempt to) identify who’s going to do well at a given course is by looking at the proximity of approach shots at that course. We check “how the course plays” by looking at historical examples of where those approach shots come from and we try and identify golfers with a good fit based on that. Those numbers, though, assume that every golfer in the field is seeing the same distribution of approach distances.

Why Do We Care?

The methodology for figuring this out is reasonably simple. I took every golfer that has teed it up on the PGA Tour over the last 10 years and looked at their driving stats. That information went into a simulator and took a sampling of 150 predicted drives for each hole and found the average approach shot that a golfer would face given that driving distance.1 

Sony Open PGA DFS - Prox Predictions

As you can see in the graph, there’s a spike around 125-140 and then a larger spike of shots coming from 175-200. If we just assume that distribution for every golfer on Tour, we’re obviously going to be wrong. The type of approach shots Colt Knost2 will see compared to Rory McIlroy3 aren’t comparable. Anyone who’s ever watched or played golf understands this, but for some reason, people choose to ignore these differences. 

Proximity Predictions

This section will certainly evolve as the season goes on. I figured I’d give you guys access to how I’m looking at the stats so you can do your own digging. The table below has “Predicted” columns for different distances. The “Birdie or Better” columns tell you the percent of the time that a golfer cards a birdie or better from a particular distance. These are just estimates but should give you a better feel for where these shots are coming from and which golfer is likely to see shots that go along with their strengths or weaknesses. 

NameSalaryPredicted - <125Birdie or Better (<125)Predicted - 125 to 150Birdie or Better (125-150)Predicted - 150 to 175Birdie or Better (150 to 175)Predicted - 175 to 200Birdie or Better (175 to 200)Predicted - 200+Birdie or Better (200+)
Justin Thomas12000526%322%421%323%141%
Webb Simpson11100222%522%218%613%137%
Patrick Reed10800324%425%314%515%132%
Hideki Matsuyama10500426%326%318%516%135%
Collin Morikawa10300437%314%39%530%139%
Matt Kuchar9900228%419%316%613%130%
Sungjae Im9600326%417%318%516%136%
Joaquin Niemann9400524%320%315%412%133%
Marc Leishman9200420%314%319%520%131%
Charles Howell III9100522%220%417%417%132%
Abraham Ancer9000223%518%217%612%134%
Corey Conners8900526%222%316%515%130%
Alex Noren8800522%215%311%59%135%
Kevin Kisner8700224%424%314%610%128%
Brandt Snedeker8600226%422%318%611%129%
Cameron Smith8500224%518%219%614%130%
Chez Reavie8400226%420%319%614%129%
Brendon Todd8300223%318%215%75%227%
Brian Harman8200221%419%316%612%133%
J.T. Poston8100328%420%316%515%132%
Andrew Putnam8000229%423%320%613%131%
Sebastian Munoz7900525%220%314%517%139%
Brian Stuard7900226%324%217%710%227%
Aaron Wise7800524%216%413%424%138%
Russell Knox7800225%417%318%67%130%
Carlos Ortiz7700522%215%314%511%134%
Dylan Frittelli7700427%316%315%511%132%
Rory Sabbatini7600326%424%214%615%133%
Emiliano Grillo7600327%416%317%512%132%
Ryan Palmer7500528%227%415%416%130%
Lanto Griffin7500525%320%314%419%140%
Kevin Na7500225%425%213%711%130%
Zach Johnson7400228%418%212%714%127%
Pat Perez7400232%418%320%611%125%
Vaughn Taylor7400229%423%316%614%132%
Daniel Berger7300519%220%317%510%135%
Shugo Imahira73003NA4NA3NA5NA1NA
Brian Gay7200228%317%216%78%227%
Matt Jones7200424%317%312%514%136%
Keegan Bradley7200519%220%316%517%130%
Scott Piercy7100322%419%315%515%132%
Joel Dahmen7100321%422%315%515%134%
Russell Henley7100327%420%316%513%126%
Kyle Stanley7000327%421%215%68%131%
Ryan Armour7000225%424%117%811%125%
Bud Cauley6900426%318%314%513%138%
Brice Garnett6900222%520%216%68%131%
Fabian Gomez6900223%422%315%611%131%
Sung Kang6900323%420%313%514%134%
Patton Kizzire6900319%419%316%514%133%
Keith Mitchell6800617%224%416%315%133%
Adam Long6800223%518%212%614%129%
Tyler Duncan6800320%417%212%611%131%
Graeme McDowell6800219%413%217%715%128%
Jimmy Walker6800418%314%39%514%132%
Nate Lashley6800228%520%216%613%131%
Kevin Tway6800620%216%410%317%133%
Talor Gooch6800524%217%317%514%135%
Chris Kirk6700225%40%30%650%125%
Henrik Norlander6700323%415%323%58%130%
Nick Taylor6700324%421%316%510%133%
Xinjun Zhang6700527%220%323%521%138%
D.J. Trahan6700528%213%37%59%143%
Harry Higgs6700521%225%418%418%129%
Charley Hoffman6700520%224%314%516%133%
Zac Blair6700233%39%29%610%331%
Doc Redman6600536%216%316%519%130%
David Hearn6600222%424%213%712%127%
Luke List6600622%317%314%318%136%
Hudson Swafford6600525%213%312%516%134%
Kyoung-Hoon Lee6600221%420%311%616%132%
Sam Burns6600622%219%413%316%133%
Robby Shelton6600328%420%211%612%130%
Robert Streb6600323%415%311%515%128%
Aaron Baddeley6500323%419%314%514%135%
Kramer Hickok6500320%418%214%614%131%
Troy Merritt6500222%425%317%613%140%
Scott Brown6500223%419%317%613%131%
Jason Dufner6500221%518%214%611%130%
Mark Hubbard6500223%414%216%723%137%
Sam Ryder6500429%320%313%514%135%
Adam Schenk6500626%219%316%415%132%
Matthew NeSmith6400222%516%216%617%134%
Cameron Davis6400624%215%415%319%134%
Cameron Percy6400338%425%316%53%127%
Scott Harrington6400626%218%413%317%140%
Hank Lebioda6400328%418%320%514%132%
Chesson Hadley6400320%417%314%513%132%
J.J. Spaun6400326%419%317%514%128%
Brendan Steele6400521%213%415%410%136%
Tom Hoge6300223%517%214%614%131%
Patrick Rodgers6300619%221%313%416%137%
Andrew Landry6300225%516%219%613%129%
Michael Thompson6300224%422%314%614%130%
Peter Malnati6300228%419%210%717%132%
Mackenzie Hughes6300322%416%314%512%131%
Chase Seiffert6300523%218%320%511%131%
Matt Every6300330%420%310%528%131%
Doug Ghim6300228%524%35%517%121%
James Hahn6300331%422%314%521%132%
Sepp Straka6200525%225%413%417%134%
Jamie Lovemark6200512%310%39%432%128%
Roger Sloan6200323%422%315%511%130%
Bo Hoag6200318%411%39%512%133%
Anirban Lahiri6200329%415%313%512%127%
Jim Herman6200323%420%318%511%125%
Jerry Kelly62002NA3NA2NA6NA3NA
Tyler McCumber6200621%324%315%320%129%
Satoshi Kodaira6200218%419%314%611%128%
Kristoffer Ventura6200616%227%429%327%130%
Brandon Hagy6200717%29%39%310%134%
Ben Martin6100223%437%312%60%111%
Rikuya Hoshino61005NA2NA4NA4NA1NA
Ryan Brehm6100716%215%313%332%135%
Graham DeLaet6100519%212%329%58%112%
Rhein Gibson6100422%323%35%516%135%
Ted Potter Jr.61002NA4NA2NA7NA1NA
Will Gordon6100716%214%312%37%132%
Rob Oppenheim6100224%414%211%715%128%
Joseph Bramlett6100528%220%313%510%130%
Ryuko Tokimatsu61002NA4NA2NA7NA1NA
Rafael Campos6100323%424%311%516%133%
Mikumu Horikawa61002NA3NA2NA7NA2NA
Ben Taylor6100430%315%314%515%124%
Chris Baker6000212%411%317%65%121%
Michael Gellerman6000517%216%322%516%122%
Kazuki Higa60000NA0NA0NA3NA1NA
Tim Wilkinson6000226%413%15%823%120%
Vijay Singh60002NA5NA2NA6NA1NA
Mark Anderson6000221%418%310%610%117%
Alex Beach60003NA4NA3NA5NA1NA
Tyler Ota60000NA0NA0NA3NA1NA
Eric Dugas60003NA4NA2NA6NA1NA
Smylie Kaufman60005NA2NA3NA5NA1NA
Bo Van Pelt6000218%530%210%60%126%
Parker McLachlin6000230%40%20%70%18%
Martin Trainer6000518%215%510%39%131%
Colt Knost60002NA3NA2NA6NA3NA
Michael Gligic6000524%218%319%515%120%
Image Credit: Dannie Walls/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Hideki Matsuyama.

  1. This isn’t an absolutely perfect representation, but it gets us very close to the actual results from prior years.  (back)
  2. one of the shortest hitters on Tour  (back)
  3. not one of the shortest  (back)

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