There's not going to be a sweep of the Aloha Swing this year.
Dustin Johnson did not commit to this week's Sony Open in Hawaii. For those who did, this fact is more than fine after DJ lapped the field at the Sentry Tournament of Champions over in Maui.
This also gives Justin Thomas a clearer path to defending his title, but he transitions from the relatively open road of just 34 at Kapalua to 144 at Waialae Country Club for this is the first full-field event of the calendar year. More on the course and a telling trend in the 50th state beneath the ranking.
Two-time Sony champion Jimmy Walker, Webb Simpson, Bill Haas and Kevin Na will be among the notables to appear in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
When Thomas prevailed at Waialae last year, he joined Ernie Els (2003) as the only winners of both of the tournaments in Hawaii since they conjoined to open the calendar year in 1999. Only two other champions at Kapalua recorded top 10s at Waialae the following week, but Thomas extended the oft-discussed trend of Sony champions who opened their seasons at Kapalua. He became the 13th of 19 winners of the Sony Open who tuned up at the Sentry TOC. Therefore, it's no coincidence that nine of the golfers in the ranking above opened 2018 on Maui.
While Kapalua and Waialae will never be confused for each other, they share a similarity in terms of experience required to win. Johnson extended the drought for winners among first-time participants to 10 straight editions last week, while Russell Henley (2013) is the only first-time winner at Waialae since the inaugural edition in 1965.
Henley, Fabian Gomez (2016) and Thomas have reversed the long-standing expectation for veteran ball-strikers to emerge victorious, so there's evidence that the tide is shifting along the southern coast of Oahu. However, the focus of the sea change falls squarely on the ease of the course, which is directly proportional with the wind. It's a fact that affects most tracks, especially those hard on any coastline.
As it did last year when Thomas opened with 11-under 59 en route to a PGA TOUR record-low aggregate of 27-under 253, the wind is going to lay down again this week. Last year's field averaged 12.72 greens in regulation, good for the highest clip since the course was converted to a par 70 in 1999. Its scrambling rate of 62.52 percent was the best the tournament has yielded since that data was first maintained in 1992. And the pair of par 5s (Nos. 9 and 18) averaged just 4.31, lowest of any course in recorded history (1983-present).
All of that occurred as golfers were seeing new greens at Nos. 1, 11 and 13. This year's modifications include overhauls of the greens on the par-4 sixth hole and par-3 17th. All are perennially among the hardest holes on the 7,044-yard test.
Oh, there's one other connection in the islands worth mentioning. After Sentry was introduced as the new title sponsor of the Tournament of Championship through 2022, Sony extended its agreement through the same season. This week marks the company's 20th anniversary as host.
ROB BOLTON’S WRITING SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Columnist Rob Bolton will be filing his usual staples leading up to this week’s event. Look for the following columns this week.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, which also publishes on Tuesdays.