Power Rankings: Sony Open in HawaiiAUGUSTA, GA - APRIL 14: Tim Clark of South Africa hits a tee shot during the final round of the 2013 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 14, 2013 in Augusta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)January 06, 2014
By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM fantasy columnist
The passage of time will come to define whether the 2013 edition of the Sony Open in Hawaii was a precedent-setter or an anomaly. Champion Russell Henley punctuated his three-stroke, breakthrough victory with a 24-under 256 aggregate, tied for third-lowest in PGA TOUR history. Consider that runner-up Tim Clark's 21-under 259 is the sixth-lowest aggregate in TOUR annals and would have won every previous edition of the tournament in Honolulu that began in 1965.
En route to becoming the easiest par 70 on TOUR in 2013 -- the field of 144 averaged 68.901 -- the 7,044-yard Waialae Country Club surrendered its highest greens-in-regulation percentage (67.49) since it was reduced to a par 70 (from 72) in 1999. Its par-breaker split of 21.01 percent was also the high-water mark of the last 15 years. Waialae's pair of par 5s (holes 9 and 18) averaged 4.35, lowest among all sets of par 5s on TOUR for the second consecutive year (and inside the top three for the eighth straight season).
Short of increasing the level of difficulty of hole locations, wind is Waialae's primary defense, but even moderate trade winds failed to lift scoring last year. Henley circled 26 birdies against only two bogeys. The defending champ accomplished what has always been the objective at Waialae in splitting split 31 (of 56) fairways (to rank T8) and landing 60 greens in regulation (solo second). He slammed the door by finishing first in strokes gained-putting (3.042) and second in total distance of putts made (419'8"). He didn't miss on 47 tries from six feet and in. Like most winners, he led the field in par-4 scoring at 3.65.
Weather conditions similar to last year are in store again this week. Sunshine periodically shrouded by passing clouds and the occasional rain shower are expected, as are manageable trade winds and seasonable highs right around 80 degrees.
Power Rankings: Sony Open in Hawaii Rank Player Comment Zach JOHNSON The 2009 champ has just one other top 30 (T12, 2010) in eight appearances, but he's been on top of his game for months. Jordan SPIETH First appearance. In his own league and showing no signs of fatigue. Ranked 37th in GIR and T8 in par breakers on the PGA TOUR in 2013. Matt KUCHAR Capped 2013 with four top-seven finishes. Tied for fifth in last two starts at Waialae (2011, 2013), averaging 66.50 in those eight rounds. Adam SCOTT Last start before six-week break. Co-runner-up at Waialae in 2009. Two wins, one second and a third -- all in Australia -- to conclude 2013. Charles HOWELL III Seven top-fives at Waialae where he's 12-for-12 and second in all-time earnings. Three top-seven finishes already in 2013-14. Tim CLARK Runner-up in last two trips to Waialae (2011, 2013) where he's averaged 66.27 in last 11 rounds. Tied for second at McGladrey in November. Jason DUFNER Despite an inconsistent record at Waialae (two top 20s in six appearances), his ball-striking demands respect as does his current form. Harris ENGLISH Recorded a career-low 62 in the third round of last year's edition en route to a share of ninth place. Twice a PGA TOUR winner since. Jeff OVERTON First start as a married man. Four top 25s in five starts to begin 2013-14. Solo eight at Waialae last year; ranked fifth in the all-around. Hideki MATSUYAMA Polished off 2013 with a T6 at the Dunlop Phoenix and a one-stroke victory at the Casio World Open, his fourth win of the year. Chris KIRK T5 at Waialae last year. Carded a career-low 62 in the second round. Ranked sixth in the all-around. Winner of the 2013 McGladrey Classic. Brian GAY Three top 10s and another trio of top 25s in 14 tries at Waialae. Par or better in his last 20 rounds on the host track. T4 at McGladrey. Brendon de JONGE Arrives having posted five consecutive top-16 finishes worldwide. The birdie machine has a T20 (2011) and a T10 (2012) at Waialae. Brian STUARD Off to another fast start this season, with a T15 in Vegas and a solo second at Mayakoba. Shared fifth at Waialae last year; T25 in 2010. Chris STROUD Recorded two T3s in the fall (CIMB; Mayakoba). Ranks 20th in fairways hit and 29th in adjusted scoring. Tied to 13th at Waialae in 2012.