THE FIRST LOOK
First Look: Sony Open in Hawaii
January 08, 2016
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
- Can Jimmy Walker achieve the three-peat at Waialae Country Club? (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
• FIELD: Click here for the full field.
• COURSE: Waialae Country Club, 7,044 yards, par 70. Now in its 51st year as a PGA TOUR host, Waialae’s staying power is exceeded by just four other venues. Built on land leased from the Bernice Bishop estate, Waialae opened in 1927 in partnership with the Royal Hawaiian hotel as a draw to help attract travel to the islands. Designers Seth Raynor and Charles Banks borrowed liberally from signature ideas at other courses – the seventh green is bisected by a deep “biarritz” gully; No. 17 has a “redan” green that slopes sharply back-to-front and right-to-left. Also, No. 1 introduces features found at the famed “Road Hole” of St. Andrews’ Old Course.
• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
• CHARITY: Friends of Hawaii Charities, which provides funding for more than 350 non-profit endeavors that benefit Hawaii’s women, youth and needy. Over the past 17 years, the Sony Open has raised more than $15 million, distributed over some 350 local charities.
• FIELD WATCH: World No. 11 Adam Scott, returning after a year’s hiatus, leads a group of seven men among the Official World Golf Ranking's top 30 seeking to deny Jimmy Walker a Waialae three-peat. … Walker, Open Championship winner Zach Johnson and FedExCup points leader Kevin Kisner are among 22 entrants slated to hop a flight from this week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Maui to play both ends of the Hawaiian double. … Vijay Singh, the 2005 Sony champion, heads a trio of 50-and-over players entered. Davis Love III and Fred Funk are the others. … Sponsor exemptions include a trio of Japan Tour players currently ranked among the world’s top 120 – No. 91 Yusako Miyazato, No. 110 Satoshi Kodaira and No. 116 Hideto Tanihara.
• 72-HOLE RECORD: 256, Russell Henley (2013).
• 18-HOLE RECORD: 61, David Toms (3rd round, 2006), Justin Thomas (2nd round, 2015). Note: Davis Love III carded a 60 in 1994, before course renovations in 1999.
• LAST YEAR: Six days after getting pipped in a Kapalua playoff, Walker kept the pedal down in a nine-shot runaway that gave him back-to-back Sony crowns. The Texan shot 62-63 on the weekend, taking a two-shot lead into the final day and separating himself from everyone else with seven birdies in his final 11 holes. It wound up being the largest margin of victory on the PGA TOUR in 5 ½ years, when Brian Gay won the 2009 RBC Heritage by 10 shots, and was a measure of redemption after Patrick Reed made up three shots on Walker over the final five holes at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Scott Piercy topped the chase pack after a Sunday 66.
• STORYLINES: Walker’s quest for a third straight Sony crown would make him the first to do that since Steve Stricker won three John Deere Classics from 2009-11. Ernie Els nearly did it at Waialae in 2005, finishing one shot behind Singh. … Since the Tournament of Champions moved to Hawaii 16 years ago, 11 Sony Open winners have done it after playing Kapalua the previous week. Els is the only one to sweep both events, doing so in 2003. … Charles Howell III remains in pursuit of his first Sony Open victory, though he has posted as many top-5 finishes (seven) as not. He tied for 26th last year, and has never posted worse than a 70 in 24 weekend rounds.
• SHORT CHIPS: Though Waialae no longer is the traditional coming-out party for PGA TOUR rookies, nine still will make their first Sony Open start. That includes Emiliano Grillo, who won last year’s Web.com Tour Championship and his Frys.com Open debut two Sundays apart. … Russell Knox and Peter Malnati, fall winners coming over from Kapalua, are set for their TOUR-high seventh starts on the young season. Another 45 will make their sixth starts. … Gay, an ironman himself until missing all of last season with thumb and neck injuries, is primed for his first competitive shots since the 2014 Wyndham Championship.
• TELEVISION: Thursday-Saturday, 7-10:30 p.m. ET (Golf Channel); Sunday, 6-10 p.m. (GC).
• RADIO: Thursday-Saturday, 6-11 p.m. ET.; Sunday, 5-10 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.COM).