The Aloha Swing could be mistaken as a brand name for a hammock, but as we witnessed on Sunday, a trip to the 50th state isn't always devoid of the pressure that the weightless feel of a relaxing sway alleviates.
The back half of the fortnight to open the calendar year is this week's Sony Open in Hawaii. Reservations for 144 golfers give it the distinction of the first full-field after the holiday break, so the midseason grind will continue with a standard cut after 36 holes.
Waialae Country Club in Honolulu has been the only host site in tournament history. For what's expected on the short par 70, cemented patterns and more, scroll past the ranking of 15 who are projected to contend for the title.
Kevin Kisner, Cameron Smith and former champions Zach Johnson (2009) and Jimmy Walker (2014, 2015) will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
Of the 34 participants in the Sentry Tournament of Champions, 23 have made the short trip to Oahu to take full advantage of the 2019-20 season resuming in Hawaii. Only four of those committed as of midday Monday finished inside the top 10 last week, but since Kapalua first hosted the winners-only event in 1999, 15 of the 21 champions of the Sony Open in Hawaii competed the previous week on Maui. That's the value of hitting the islands running.
The trend dates back to Jimmy Walker's first of two consecutive titles in 2014. The year prior, then-rookie Russell Henley became the first entrant since the tournament's inaugural edition in 1965 to prevail in his first appearance at Waialae.
Just as gusty winds governed scoring last week at Kapalua – the 14-under 278 that was good enough to get into the playoff was the highest winning aggregate in regulation in 13 years – the field at Waialae is bracing for similarly challenging conditions.
Strong trade winds and an elevated threat of rain hog the forecast for the first three rounds. Typically in these elements, patience and the experience borne from it are rewarded more than anything strategic, but the low ball flight of defending champion Matt Kuchar is the preferred method for cutting through and soaring beneath the breezes.
It's been 10 years since the field averaged over par at Waialae (70.06 in 2010), but it cannot be ruled out this week. Distance off the tee on the 7,044-yard test is all but irrelevant, but piling up the par breakers on the pair of par 5s (Nos. 9 and 18) is all but a prerequisite for success. (Kuchar ranked T4 on them en route to victory.) As a set, they've ranked as the easiest par 5s in each of the last five seasons. That includes a PGA TOUR record-low 4.30 in 2018.
In advance of last year's edition, the 551-yard finisher was fitted with a new green that was one-third larger than its previous iteration. Its scoring average of 4.486 established a four-year high, but only as a matter of fact as it remained the second-easiest hole in relation to par.
There are no significant changes for this year's tournament. TifDwarf bermudagrass greens are prepped to run no longer than 11 feet on the Stimpmeter due to the impact of the wind.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.