Horses for Courses: Sony Open in Hawaii

Waialae Country Club and the famous “W” set the backdrop for the first full field event of 2021.

Waialae has hosted all 55 previous editions and Cameron Smith is back to defend his title.

I’m ready for another week of surf, sand and stupendous views from the islands of Hawaii!

This week Honolulu takes center stage for the 56th time since 1965 and will host the first full field event of 2021. The 144 players teeing it up at Waialae Country Club, the host course since the inception of the event, will be chasing a prize pool of $6.6 million with the winner pocketing $1.188 million and 500 FedExCup points.

Cameron Smith will look to join Jimmy Walker (2014-15) and Ernie Els (2003-04) as the only repeat champions this century. Veterans have ruled the roost as only Jerry Kelly (2002) and Russell Henley (2013) have cashed their first TOUR checks with a win here this century. It’s even worse for those playing for the first time as only Henley and Bruce Lietkze (1977) are the only two to win on debut.

The only course to host this event, Waialae plays only 7,044 yards (Par-70) and plenty will feel they have the opportunity to kick start the New Year with a chance at victory. Large Bermudagrass greens will provide ample targets to attack but fairways prove some of the most difficult on TOUR to hit. Professional putters who handle the humps and bump on the short grass are usually around on the weekend. So are those who make tons of birdies and keep it in the 60s.

RELATED: Power Rankings | Expert Picks | The First Look

Recent Event Winners Stats

 Cameron SmithMatt KucharPatton Kizzire
MOVPlayoff (Brendan Steele)4Playoff (James Hahn)
Cut141 (1-over)138138
All Drives142041
Putting: Birdie or Better %T14T6
SG: Off-the-TeeT18767
SG: Approach-the-Green5373
SG: Around-the-Green92934
SG: Putting133
SG: Tee-to-Green30320
Bogey AvoidanceT9T2T3
Par-3 ScoringT6T5T1
Par-4 Scoring3T2T4
Par-5 ScoringT13T4T58

2020: Cameron Smith (-11, 269)

Defeated Brendan Steele on the first extra hole for his second win on TOUR. … Birdied the last hole to force playoff. … Played final group with Steele. … Began the day three shots back. … Highest winning score since 2012 (-13) because of wet, gusty conditions all week. … Circled 21 birdies (T-most entered 2021). … Led the field in Strokes-Gained: Putting and co-led in Putting: Birdie or Better Percentage. … Won in his fifth start at Sony. … T10 Australian PGA in his previous event entering the week. … Second win on TOUR after joining forces with Jonas Blixt to win the Zurich Classic.


Brendan Steele (P2) co-led after 36 and was three clear after a 64 on Saturday in only his second visit to Waialae. … Webb Simpson (3rd) also made 21 birdies and was the only other player 10-under or better. … Kevin Kisner (T4) shared the low round of the week with 64 on Saturday. … 2010 winner Ryan Palmer (T4) joined Kisner in posting all four rounds in the 60s. … Lanto Griffin (T7) closed with 64 to join Ted Potter, Jr., (T7) on 8-under. … Cameron Davis (T9) shared the 36-hole lead with Steele. … Bo Hoag (T9) picked up his first and only top 10. … Henrik Norlander (T9) picked up his second top 20 finish in as many starts. … Preferred lies in closely mown areas used all four rounds. … Weather was wet, windy and gusting up to 40 MPH. … Scoring 70.51.

2019: Matt Kuchar (-22, 258)

Became second consecutive winner of Mayakoba to follow with a win at Waialae. … Won by four after leading by two after 54. … Finished the week in the top 10 of every statistical category minus Strokes-Gained: Around the Green. … Led the field with 24 birdies. … Kept the streak going of winners being inside the top five in Strokes-Gained: Putting as he was third. … The last six winners have finished T4 or better in Par-4 scoring as he was T2. … Opened 63-63, closed 66-66. … Made only one bogey in his first 54 holes. … T19 at Kapalua week before.


Andrew Putnam (2nd) holed over 430 feet of putts, his career best, and carded 62 in Round 2. … Marc Leishman (T3) had 64 in both Rounds 2 and 4. … Chez Reavie (T3) opened 65-65. … Hudson Swafford (T3) opened with 65 and closed with 64. … Davis Love III (7th) closed 64-65. … Charles Howell III (T8) has never missed a cut here. … Brian Stuard (T8) also plays great at Mayakoba. … Sung Kang (T10) was only player in the top 15 to have a round in the 70s. … Sebastian Munoz (T10) picked up his first top 10 on TOUR. … Defending champ Patton Kizzire was T13. … Sungjae Im (T16) and Keith Mitchell (T16) posted the only two rounds OVER PAR in the top 20. … Stewart Cink (T20) posted 62 in Round 2. … Cameron Smith (T22) made 21 birdies, third-most. … Cut was 2-under 138. … Top 22 players 10-under or better. … Scoring 68.92.

2018: Patton Kizzire (-17, 263)

Defeated James Hahn on the sixth playoff hole. … Never led after any round but was only one back heading into Sunday. … Opened Round 3 with a double but posted 64, same as Round 2. … Mayakoba champion from November. … Only second start at Sony. … Hit it tight and made the ones that counted. … T15 at Kapalua previous week. … None of the last six winners have been better than T13 in fairways as he was T56.


James Hahn (P2) fired the low round of the week, 62, to get into the playoff. … 54 hole leader Tom Hoge (3rd) made double on No. 14, shot 70 and missed the playoff by a shot. … After making the cut by a shot, Webb Simpson (T4) stormed home 63-65. … Brian Stuard (T4) posted nothing worse than 67. .. Brian Harman (T4) opened 64-63 and led by three after 36 holes. … Chris Kirk (T10) opened with 63 and the first round lead tied with 2009 champ Zach Johnson (T14). … Russell Knox (T10) moves his streak to four straight cuts made after 2020. … Kyle Stanley (T10) cashed in seven straight before last year. … Cut was 2-under 138. … Top 31 players 10-under or better. … Scoring 68.90.

Key stat leaders

Top golfers in each statistic on the 2019-2020 PGA TOUR are listed only if they are scheduled to compete this week. * – Top 10 finish here since 2016 or past champion

Rounds in the 60s

 1  Mark Hubbard

 1  Sungjae Im

 3  Harris English

 4  Daniel Berger

 6  Hideki Matsuyama

 6  *Brian Harman

 9  Brendon Todd

 9  Lanto Griffin

12 Collin Morikawa

16 Abraham Ancer

16 Talor Gooch

20 *Kevin Kisner

23 Harry Higgs

23 *Webb Simpson

23 *Henrik Norlander

23 *Sebastian Munoz

Strokes Gained: Putting

3  *Andrew Putnam

 5  Kevin Na

 6  *Matt Kuchar

 8  Mackenzie Hughes

13 *Webb Simpson

14 JT Poston

15 *Kevin Kisner

17 Daniel Berger

18 Harris English

20 Brendon Todd

21 Richy Werenski

25 *Patton Kizzire

Strokes Gained: Approach

2  Collin Morikawa

 3  *Russell Henley

 5  Hideki Matsuyama

 6  *Webb Simpson

13 Emiliano Grillo

14 *Jim Furyk

15 Joaquin Niemann

16 *Brendan Steele

20 Branden Grace

23 Matthew NeSmith

25 Harris English

26 *Russell Knox

27 *Jimmy Walker

Horses for Courses

Player (starts/cuts made)Top 10sTop 25Most Recent (season)Notes
Charles Howel III (19/19)1013T8 (2019)All time money leader; 7 of last 9 T13 or better
Matt Kuchar (8/15)67Win (2019)Top 10 in six straight before last year’s MC
Zach Johnson (12/15)46T6 (2017)2009 winner; T28 in six of last eight
Brian Stuard (7/8)45T8 (2019)30-under combined 2018-2019
Webb Simpson (10/10)373 (2020)T4 2019; Six straight T20 or better
Marc Leishman (11/11)36T3 (2019)In 45 rounds nine are 65 or better
Ryan Palmer (10/14)35T4 (2020)2010 winner
Kevin Kisner (6/9)34T4 (2020)Top five three of the last five years; Six straight
Hudson Swafford (6/7)34T3 (2019)T13 or better in four of seven
Harris English (7/8)34T3 (2015)Capped three straight T9 or better
Other Past Champions
Cameron Smith (5/5)13Win (2020)T27 or better in his last four
Patton Kizzire (2/4)12Win (2018)T13 defense; 67.67 avg
Fabian Gomez (6/8)11Win (2016)Not much before or after
Jerry Kelly (19/23)913T9 (2016)2002 winner
Jimmy Walker (9/14)34Win (2015)Lyme disease has slowed him
Russell Henley (5/8)13Win (2013)24-uner on debut, T13 is next best

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