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January 11 2013

6:02 PM

Five for Friday: Sony Open in Hawaii

Scott Langley is trying to become the first player since Bruce Lietzke to win the Sony Open in his first try. (Petersen/Getty Images)

By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM

With some of the country under a snow blanket (or various depressing winter climes), scenic views of the Hawaiian Islands will be a welcome sight again this week. Hopefully this inaugural Five For Friday column will be, too, as I’ll tell you five things to watch for this weekend at Waialae. You can look for this each week in TOUR Report.

1. Scott Langley's opening 62 on Thursday was hardly a fluke. For one, the lefty was an NCAA champion in 2010. For another, he tied for 29th in last year's U.S. Open at The Olympic Club. You have to go back to 1977 and Bruce Lietzke to find the last player to win the Sony Open in Hawaii in his first attempt, and 2002 and Jerry Kelly for the last to record his first career victory. The flip side: It was only two years ago the last first-round leader (Ryan Palmer) went on to win at Waialae.

2. Dustin Johnson has acquitted himself well, going from the runway-wide fairways of Kapalua to the street-alley narrow ones of Waialae, but his chances of going back-to-back to open the season are, well, slim. Some major course differences aside, there's only been one player to open the season with wins in each of the first two events in Hawaii: Ernie Els in 2003. Editor's note: Dustin Johnson withdrew from the Sony Open in Hawaii on Friday after this article was published.

3. Charles Howell III, on the other hand, does have a good chance to be high on the leaderboard (though he has some work to do). He's had six top-5 finishes at Waialae, including a runner-up last year. He was fifth in 2010, fourth in 2009, second again in 2007, third in 2005 and fourth in 2002. Horses for courses ... which is why Tim Clark, a short hitter who is a big fairways-and-greens guy, should stay in contention, too. Clark has 10 career runner-up finishes on TOUR, including one in each of the last eight years.

4. Seeing Vijay Singh in contention isn't a huge surprise -- he's won there before and this is his 16th Sony Open in Hawaii. But can he stay there? Last year, he was an abysmal 149th in final-round scoring average.

5. This being the first full-field event of the year, there are naturally a lot of rookies teeing it up this week. Of the 30 in the rookie class for this year, 14 of them are age 25 or younger. Six have never played a TOUR event before this week. Don't be surprised if one of the 20-somethings, rookie or otherwise, wins. Fifteen players won in 2012 and I don't think that number will change much this year.

 

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