Twenty-three of this year's class of 31 rookies are scheduled to compete this week. That includes five that will be making their PGA TOUR debuts. Of the 67 to tee it up at Waialae in the previous three editions, only 37 made the cut (55.22 percent) and just six posted top 25s, none of which went for a top 10.
So why is Waialae so demanding? After all, it lists at only 7,044 yards. Well, it's always windy along with southern shore of Oahu. Combine that with fairways that annually measure among the most difficult to find off the tee, and it's no wonder the field of 144 goes into self-preservation mode.
Waialae's driving-accuracy percentage of 46.61 and greens-in-regulation clip of 63.03 percent were six-year lows in 2012. The putting surfaces average a relatively standard 6,500 square feet, but proximity to the hole last year ranked 10th-longest on TOUR at 37 feet, six inches. Because over 53 percent of drives found lies off the fairway, it's relevant to cite that proximity from the rough averaged 44'9", which was actually closest in eight years.
While finding fairways and hitting it tight are sound goals, historically the valuable objectives are to load up on birdie opportunities and take advantage of the par 5s. Last year, the 506-yard ninth and 551-yard 18th combined to average a TOUR-low 4.39 strokes. The ninth alone was the second-easiest of 158 par 5s, checking in at 4.183. It surrendered 39 eagles, most of any hole all year.
Defending champion Johnson Wagner ranked T10 in greens hit (51 of 72; 70.83 percent) and third in strokes gained-putting. On the pair of par 5s, he netted two eagles (both on 18) and five birdies to co-lead the field in par-5 performance.
The 20 golfers expected to make the trip west from Maui to Honolulu will bring the gusty trade winds with them, but the breezes are forecast to abate as the tournament moves along. Temperatures will top out right around a seasonable 80 degrees. As usual, rain can't be ruled out at any time.