By Ann Miller, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HONOLULU — Waialae Country Club is the home of the Sony Open in Hawaii, the PGA TOUR’s first full-field event of the year.
It shares two common elements with Kapalua Plantation, where the wind-shortened Hyundai Tournament of Champions finally concluded Tuesday after a three-day delay.
Both are in Hawaii and enjoy 80-degree weather almost everyday.
Designed in 1991 by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw, Kapalua is vast and carved into the West Maui mountains overlooking the Pailolo (crazy fishermen) Channel and Molokai. The resort course has the largest greens and widest fairways on TOUR. Par is 73 after you finish the 663-yard final hole.
Waialae is located in the quiet and luxurious Kahala neighborhood, its 16th and 17th holes steps from the Pacific Ocean. Designed by Seth Raynor in 1927, it had to be stretched to 7,000 yards. Par is 70 after a meandering tour of tiny fairways, multiple doglegs and small, confusing Bermuda grass greens.
“It’s a flat, easy golf course to walk, classic, tree-lined,” defending champion Johnson Wagner said. “And Kapalua is wide open, you can hit the ball anywhere and just tee it up and hit it as hard as you can.”
Chances are even Hyundai TOC champ Dustin Johnson, who pulled out his driver every chance he got at Kapalua, won’t use it more than eight times at Waialae.
That is not a bad thing, but it does make you think.
“I like it,” says Donald Constable, one of 23 rookies in the field this week. “There’s a lot of doglegs. I think there’s only two straight holes out there, 9 and 10. You get a lot of crosswinds with those doglegs and kind of got to play to the wide side of them.
“I like that if you’re on the short side of the dogleg you’re kind of blocked out, but they give you a fair shot at the fairway and the rough. It’s not too bad, just got to keep the ball in the right place and try to keep it out of the wind."
Ah, the wind. After last week’s big breeze the gusts are forecast to calm on Oahu. Normal tradewinds are expected to shift to light Kona winds (from the southeast) over the weekend, then gust up to 20 mph for Sunday’s final round.
That’s pretty much the weather Wagner won in a year ago.