Sony Open in Hawaii
Waialae Country Club
W as in victory, people!
Waialae CC Cheat Sheet
|Yards (per official scorecard):||7,044|
|Rough:||Bermuda at 2.5″|
|Architects:||Seth Raynor (1927)|
|Purse:||$6.4 million; $1.152 million, 500 FedExCup points (winner).|
|Defending Champion:||Patton Kizzire (-17; 263)|
|Notes:||144 players, first full-field event of 2019.|
|Notes II:||Top 70 and ties play the weekend.|
If last week wasn’t enough to make you long for golf in the islands, you’re in luck again this week.
Back at it again in 2019 as Waialae hosts again in the third-longest running event on TOUR.
The field of 144 was set after the Monday Qualifier so there is plenty of action to be had.
If you missed my almost-full player preview, it’s in the PREVIEW section.
If you weren’t around last week and wondered how it all went down at Kapalua, I have four Emergency 9 columns for you to catch-up on in the RECAP section.
As always, the comments are always open as is email, carrier pigeon and signal flags. My New Year’s resolution is to continue to have fun, provide information and keep the discussion going with all who choose to engage. It’s a community that I love being a part of and want to make it even better in 2019. I’m listening, as always, so make your voice heard!
And as always, GOOD LUCK!
Previous Winners (since 2010)
|2018||Patton Kizzire||-17||Won on 6th hole of playoff|
|2017||Justin Thomas||-27||Record total plus opening 59|
|2016||Fabian Gomez||-20||Playoff winner over Snedeker after closing with 62|
|2015||Jimmy Walker||-23||Won by NOYNE|
|2014||Jimmy Walker||-17||Closed with 63 to win by one|
|2013||Russell Henley||-24||First start with a TOUR card|
|2012||Johnson Wagner||-13||Highest winning score in last 10|
|2011||Mark Wilson||-16||Not entered|
|2010||Ryan Palmer||-15||Not entered|
|2009||Zach Johnson||-15||Has won both Hawaii events|
|Safeway Open||Kevin Tway**|
|CIMB Classic||Marc Leishman|
|CJ CUP @ NINE BRIDGES||Brooks Koepka|
|Sanderson Farms Championship||Cameron Champ**|
|WGC-HSBC Champions||Xander Schauffele|
|Shriners Hospitals for Children||Bryson DeChambeau|
|Mayakoba Golf Classic||Matt Kuchar|
|The RSM Classic||Charles Howell III|
|Hero World Challenge*||Jon Rahm|
|Sentry TOC||Xander Schauffele (2)|
(* unofficial event; **First-time winner)
Facts and Figures:
|Tournament Record:||253 (-27); Thomas|
|Course Record:||59; Thomas (2017)|
|Recent Defending Champion(s):||Four in history; last was Walker.|
|Multiple Winners (entered)||Walker|
|First TOUR Win (last):||Henley|
|First-time (event):||Bruce Leitzke (1977), Henley|
|Low Round 2018:||62; James Hahn, Round 4.|
|Odd Fact:||13 of the last 20 winners have played Kapalua the previous week.|
|Odd Fact II:||Henley, Thomas and Paul Stankowski (1997) are the only 20-somethings to win here since 1997.|
The Confidence Factor is the weekly column I write for PGATOUR.COM. I’ve included the link here for you. Please read as I’m not going to write it all out AGAIN.
Inside the ropes
Lovely Hawaii is front-and-center again this week. Unlike the sparsely populated field and crowds on Maui, the bustling Honolulu scene will have 144 players grinding and traffic snarled as the first full-field event of 2019 takes place.
Waialae CC has been around forever and, thanks to usually perfect weather, yields low scores and exciting golf. The old-school course tempers power for precision but there haven’t been many short hitters win recently.
If the highest winning score in the last five years is 17-under on this Par-70, I’m just smart enough to figure out that rounds of par aren’t going to fly this week. The weather doesn’t suggest anything but low numbers. The history points out experience and playing last week should point you in the proper direction.
Here are the keys this week:
Can’t be rusty! The highest the cut has been the last three years is 2-under 138. Pars are great if bogey is the other choice but scores will need to be posted this week.
Check the notes in the table above and get back to me if you are riding underdogs this week. There are always exceptions to rules but not very many in his storied history. When in doubt, I’ll lean on a guy who’s been here, done this. The newbies will get a chance on the easiest courses on TOUR next week in the Coachella Valley.
Trend or Not a Trend?
2018: Talor Gooch (T18) was the only one in the top 20. He Monday Qualified this year.
2017: 0 first-time players hit the top 10. Mackenzie Hughes (T27) was the best first-time player.
2016: 1 first-time player hit the top 10 as Si Woo Kim was fourth.
2015: Three first-time players in the top 10 with Zac Blair, Max Homa and Justin Thomas all cashing T6. One of these is not like the other.
Americans have won nine of the last 10 as Gomez is the only international winner since K.J. Choi in 2008.
Justin Thomas: Not hard to pick out the best player in the field this week! He opened up his season with a quiet solo third at Kapalua and looks to win for the second time in three seasons at Waialae. The course and tournament record holder’s stroke average here is 66.43. Hahahahahahaha.
Gary Woodland: I don’t think many will argue that he “lost” last week but was rather beaten. All it took to knock off the 36 and 54 hole leader was tying the course record of 62 (-11) and that’s exactly what happened. Four top-10’s and a two solo seconds in his last five.
Marc Leishman: Woodland may be hot but Leishman has already won, finished second and was T4 last week in his last four starts worldwide. He’s never missed in nine previous trips to Waialae and seems to have ascended to the “next level”.
Charles Howell III: I know I’m not the only one to have OAD regret this week but I’m over it. He plays so well this time of year it almost doesn’t matter. His current form? Yeah, WIN and T14. His course form? Funnier. Automatic in every format this week.
Bryson DeChambeau: He won on Bentgrass in Las Vegas. He led the field in Strokes-Gained: Putting last week on Bermuda at Kapalua (7th). Don’t get lost in the side show. This man isn’t a circus act and it’s not his first time at Waialae.
Zach Johnson: He made me look like a right numpty before The RSM Classic as he went on to pickup his second top-10 paycheck in his last two starts on “home” soil. The 2012 champ has posted a round of 64 (T9), 61 (T6) and 63 (T14) the last three seasons at Waialae.
Jordan Spieth: Honestly, I have no idea where to put him. None. He needs discussion this week because this will be event No. 1 since his Thanksgiving weekend nuptials. He’s 30-under in his last two visits but those followed warm-ups on Kapalua. His last two top-10 finishes were Carnoustie and Augusta National. I’ll be interested to see if class trumps form and what shape his putting is in currently.
Kevin Kisner: Here’s another putter that flashed at The RSM Classic (T7) the last time he officially put a pair of spikes on. This will be trip No. 8 to Waialae and he’s figuring it out. He’s 43-under in his last three and that includes three rounds of 70 or worse! You know and I know that when it’s Bermuda, we have his undivided attention.
Scott Piercy: Of the seven times he’s cashed a check here, six have gone for T25 or better, including four in the top 15. Quietly, he knocked out a run of T5, T10 and T6 in the fall before knocking the rust off with T19 last week.
Matt Kuchar: The last five times Kuchar has teed it up here his worst finish was T13 in 2016. It’s also his only finish outside T8 during that streak. He’s back again with a win under his belt from Mayakoba and a holiday rust-buster (T18) at Kapalua. It’s 500 yards shorter this week so he moves up.
Cameron Smith: He defended his Australian PGA title to wrap up 2018 and is back for a fourth time in Honolulu. The kid claimed T10 at the Australian Open and T7 at the CJ CUP so I’m not worried about his form. He makes his money on and around the greens and that should fly again this week.
Kyle Stanley: His advantage tee-to-green this week should have him lining up birdie putts all weekend. Last year he sat just two shots off Tom Hoge’s lead on -16 before stalling out with 71. He’s never MC in six and he’s 36-under the last three years.
Paul Casey: I like him even more after breaking in his new Honma irons in tournament play last week. With nothing worse than T18 in four starts in the new season and previous round of 62 here, I could do worse.
Andrew Putnam: His last MC was at Greenbrier but since then he’s won his first TOUR event, placed T4 in his first WGC (HSBC Champions) event and cashed T14 at Kapalua last week. He was second in Strokes-Gained: Putting on Bermuda last week.
Back for More
Pat Perez: Life as dad isn’t bothering him much as he’s cashed T7, T37 and T6 in his last three on TOUR. His record here is also excellent so let’s hope he’s golfing and not on vacation.
Jimmy Walker: Before MC the last two seasons he ran riot here with 17 consecutive rounds in the red and two titles. He’s never been known for painting sprinkler lines but he makes birdies for breakfast. Lyme disease has caused uneven results but if he’s feeling good, he can torch this joint.
Adam Scott: He hasn’t won in two calendar years anywhere. He’s juggled caddies and juggled his schedule but nothing is clicking to his expected level. I saw clues at the PGA Championship and even during the Asian Swing (T10, T18). As I wrote earlier, experience will get the nod this week.
Chris Kirk: Something about the Colonial-Sea Island-Waialae triangle that gets the boys from Georgia on their toes. They don’t mind working the golf ball or making birdies.
Cameron Champ: He’s going to divide many gamers this week. The faction without a hand brake will push all in based on what they’ve seen in a BLAZING HOT START to life with a TOUR card. They might not be wrong. History suggests they will be. I’ll hedge right here in the middle.
Ian Poulter: I’ll always lean in his direction when birdies are needed and the course doesn’t sit at 7,700 yards. Three of his four rounds last week were better than par but nothing spectacular. I’m trying to catch him on the “up”.
Kevin Tway: Let’s get him another ear infection/dizziness combo as it seemed to work last week! Beware the sick golfer as Tway led after 18 holes and cashed T11 in his first trip to Kapalua. In 20 rounds this year he’s posted 18 at par or better.
Abraham Ancer: He has six top-10 paydays since late June, including three in his last five starts worldwide. The final one was winning the Emirates Australian Open in late November. If I had any guts I’d move him up.
Si Woo Kim: If he’s in here, run away. I never get it right with him. With T26 or better in all of his fall starts plus solo fourth in his first effort here in 2016, that’s something to grind on.
Brian Harman: The benefit of the doubt is that he’s T20 or better here in his last four starts, including T4 last year after 64-63 to start, and is 50-under. The down side is the last time he appeared in the top 25 was T6 the week after the U.S. Open.
Russell Knox: In making the cut in three of the last four years he’s posted 38-under and cashed T13, T11 and T10. He was 27-under in the last two editions. He’s never been known for holing putts with frequency but he doesn’t miss many fairways and GIR either. There’s more than one way to compete each week. Of his last nine rounds, he’s posted a pair at 64, a pair at 65 and a 66. His recent form is less than stellar if you’re wondering why he is down here.
Coming in HAWT
Chase Wright: Two top-10’s in five.
Sam Ryder: Top-10’s in four of his last 10.
Patrick Rodgers: Solo second at The RSM Classic last time out plus four top-25’s in his last six.
Chez Reavie: Hasn’t MC in the new season plus T7 at CJ CUP.
Troy Merritt: He’s six-from-six in the new season with three top-25 paydays.
Patton Kizzire: Nine checks in his last nine starts and will defend.
Takumi Kanaya: Won the Asia-Pacific amateur in October and popped a top 20 at the Australian Open in December.
Shugo Imahira: He has ONE finish outside the top 16 since May on the Japan Tour. Fly away flier.
Emiliano Grillo: Time to pop one. His last MC was at Carnoustie. He should be up the list.
Corey Conners: Qualified on Monday as he tries to add to his solo second at SFC and T23 at RSM.
Long Shots, Course Horses, Wings, Prayers
Brandt Snedeker: Like this season, he’s all-or-nothing here. His putter is the evil temptress…
Sam Burns: The hope here is that he makes everything he sees. Led the Web.com in putting average last year.
Dylan Frittelli: He has four wins in 182 starts worldwide. Don’t let “rookie” cloud it. Cashed T7 at the DP World Tour Championship last fall.
Jerry Kelly: He’s old and this is his spiritual home. The only year in the last five he finished outside the top 14 was 2017 when he posted 68-70 to MC. Hahahaha.
Steve Stricker: No length, no problem. He’ll just wedge it to three feet and make all the putts, right?
James Hahn: His final-round 62 to force a six-hole playoff last year was something. He’s never missed in six tries but last year was his first top 25. Something.
Jamie Lovemark: Of his last 10 rounds here, one is 70, five are 65 or better and he’s only made two of three cuts! They both went for top-10 paychecks.
Harris English: Another Georgia/Sea Island guy who’s played really poorly here and really well. Better guess correctly but he’s worth a flier in a deep game.
Russell Henley: Another Georgia/Sea Island guy who’s played really poorly here and really well. Better guess correctly but he’s worth a flier in a deep game. Part II.
Hudson Swafford: Another Georgia/Sea Island guy who’s played really poorly here and really well. Better guess correctly but he’s worth a flier in a deep game. Part III.
Keith Mitchell: Another Georgia/Sea Island guy only made six bogeys for T25 in his debut last year. Part IV.
Brian Stuard: Six trips, three top-10’s all inside T6.
Kevin Na: Checks all the boxes this week but was diagnosed with a broken pinky last week. He DNS in a no-cut event with guaranteed money but he’s playing this week? Beware the injured golfer or something like that.
Hideki Matsuyama: New gamers will struggle to believe this but his best finish here in isn’t in the top 25. Wait for TPC Scottsdale.
Patrick Reed: He had plenty of course history on his side at Kapalua last week and laid a complete egg. Never game angry, my friends!
Yuta Ikeda: 0-3
Sung Kang: 0-4