The First Look: Sony Open in Hawaii
January 05, 2018
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
Thomas completes Hawaii swing with victory at 2017 Sony Open
Justin Thomas returns to the scene where he opened last year’s event with a 59 on the way to a major rewrite of the PGA TOUR’s scoring records, defending the second of back-to-back Hawaii titles at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Jordan Spieth and two-time Sony winner Jimmy Walker also highlight the lineup for the first full-field event following the calendar’s turn to 2018. In all, Waialae Country Club figures to welcome six of the top 30 in the year’s first world rankings.
FIELD NOTES: Thomas, Spieth and 2017 Rookie of the Year Xander Schauffele are among 20 players slated to hop a flight from this week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions on Maui to play both ends of the Hawaiian double. … Luke Donald, forced to withdraw before The RSM Classic when he experienced chest pains, is ready to tee it up again. Tests while in Georgia turned up no medical concerns. … Sangmoon Bae will make his fifth TOUR start since returning last fall from military duty required of all Korean males. He’s made one cut thus far. … Former Sony winners Jerry Kelly (2002) and Vijay Singh (2005) are back to give the event some PGA TOUR Champions flavor. … Sponsor exemptions include a trio of Japan Tour players currently ranked among the world’s top 85 – No. 50 Yusaku Miyazato, No. 51 Satoshi Kodaira and No. 85 Shugo Imahira.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
STORYLINES: Si Woo Kim, winner of THE PLAYERS back in May, is among a dozen Asian pros seeking to become the fourth from that continent to win at Waialae. Korean K.J. Choi was the last Asian to win the event, preceded by Fiji’s Singh (2005) and Japan’s Isao Aoki (1983). … Webb Simpson tees it up for the first time since losing his father over Thanksgiving. Simpson withdrew from The RSM Classic to be at his side. … Kim and current FedExCup points leader Patton Kizzire are among eight golfers set to make their TOUR-high seventh starts. … Since the Tournament of Champions relocated to Hawaii in 1999, 13 Sony Open winners have triumphed after playing Kapalua the previous week.
COURSE: Waialae Country Club, 7,044 yards, par 70. The only home the Sony Open has ever known, Waialae’s 53rd consecutive year as a PGA TOUR host is now exceeded by only three other venues. Opened in 1927 on land leased from the Bernice Bishop estate, Waialae joined forces 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, evident from the very start as No. 1 introduces features found at the “Road Hole” of St. Andrews’ Old Course. Also, the seventh green is bisected by a deep “biarritz” gully and No. 17 has a sharply sloping “redan” green.
72-HOLE RECORD: 253, Justin Thomas (2017).
18-HOLE RECORD: 59, Justin Thomas (1st round, 2017).
LAST YEAR: After opening with a 59, Thomas spent the next three days putting his name next to the TOUR’s scoring records. He rewrote the mark for lowest 36-hole score (123), matched the lowest 54-hole tally (188) and finished with a two-putt birdie at No. 18 that left him at 27-under-par 253 – one better than Tommy Armour III posted at the 2003 Texas Open. It was Thomas’ third win of the young season, joining Johnny Miller (twice) and Tiger Woods (three times) to win three of their first five starts to a season. Justin Rose led the chase pack after a 64 that still left him seven shots back. Combined with a three-shot win at Kapalua, Thomas became the first man since Woods (2009) to win back-to-back events by at least three strokes.
HOW TO FOLLOW
TELEVISION: Thursday-Saturday, 7-10:30 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Sunday, 6-10 p.m. (GC).
PGA TOUR LIVE: Returns Jan. 18 at the CareerBuilder Challenge.
RADIO: Thursday-Saturday, 5-11 p.m. ET. Sunday, 5-10 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.COM).