The Sony Open provides similar great views like last week at Kapalua, but without as strong of a field. This week is the first full field tournament of the 2018 calendar and often provides an introduction to the new faces on the PGA Tour.
Waialae is very different layout than Kapalua last week. This week’s track is more old-school and traditional. Last week’s wide open fairways and long par-4’s and par-5’s are replaced by a tighter course at a par-70. With small greens and tight fairways, there is more of a premium on accuracy.
The signature hole is the par-5 18th. Although the yardage on the card is not intimidating, this is one of the trickiest par-5’s on the PGA Tour. The tee shot is a sharp dogleg left and with modern drivers, pros simply cannot hook the ball enough to keep the ball in the fairway, so many try and take it over the trees on the left. Even with that strategy, however, they often hit it through the fairway. Because length is of little concern, it always amazes me that players don’t take 3-wood of that tee more often. The angle of the tee shot is similar to that of the 13th at Augusta.
Most Memorable Moment
I’m gonna cheat and put two moments in this section. The first is from the 1983 Sony Open. Jack Renner had a one-shot lead in the clubhouse over Isao Aoki with Aoki playing the 18th. Aoki then holed out for eagle to win the tournament.
The second moment is not necessarily for a spectacular shot, but for the meaning of the victory. Paul Azinger was diagnosed with cancer in 1994 and had a very public battle with the disease. Azinger recovered and resumed a full tour schedule and in 2000, he won the Sony Open for his first victory after beating the disease.
Notable memorable moment came two years ago when Robert Allenby claimed to have been kidnapped from a bar, beat up, and left on the side of the road. However, it turns out just got blackout drunk at a bar and passed out drunk on the sidewalk as he was walking home.
Last Year’s Event
Justin Thomas completed his Hawaiian one-two punch last season as he earned his second victory in as many weeks with a seven-shot win over Justin Rose. Thomas took control of the tournament and made headlines throughout the golf world with a remarkable 59 in the first round. From that point, it was Thomas’ tournament to lose. He carded rounds of 64, 65, 65 after his 59 to run away with the title and cement his name as one of the best players in the world.
Many people questioned the validity of my Pat Perez dark horse selection last week seeing as those he is a top-25 player in the world. In a limited field event, the options are relatively scarce, so this week I am going with former No. 1 and current No. 144 Luke Donald. With small greens and tight fairways, Waialae is a similar layout to Harbor Town, a track where Donald has experienced a tremendous amount of success. Precision and wedge play is rewarded at the Sony and that plays into Donald’s strengths.
After a terrible opening round of 75 last week, Spieth rallied with rounds of 66, 70, 69 to tally a nine place finish at Kapalua. This week’s small greens play into Spieth’s hands because as long as puts the ball on the green in regulation, he will have a realistic shot at birdie. Combining the relatively flat greens surfaces and Spieth’s putting prowess should ensure a strong week for the Texan. Spieth finished at -19 and in third place at this event in 2017.