Quick look at the Sony Open in Hawaii
January 10, 2018
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Inside the PGA TOUR
2018 Sony Open preview
Marc Leishman is running at three-quarters speed entering this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii. Consider his recent results:
At the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in late October, he posted rounds of 71-79-68-71 to tie for 38th. In the 764 rounds he’s played in his PGA TOUR career, just four have been worse than the 79 he shot in that second round.
At the Australian PGA Championship in early December, he shot 67-65-74-68, tying for fourth. Had he broken 70 in the third round, he would’ve won; instead, he finished four strokes out of a playoff claimed by fellow Aussie Cameron Smith.
Then at last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Maui, he shot 67-69-76-67 to tie for seventh. While no one was going to catch runaway winner Dustin Johnson, Leishman would’ve tied Jon Rahm for second place by shooting even par in the windy third-round conditions.
The last time Leishman avoided the crippling high round was the CJ CUP @NINE BRIDGES in mid-December, when he shot 66-72-71-70 to force a playoff against Justin Thomas (with Thomas winning on the second sudden-death hole in Korea).
The 34-year-old Leishman is consistently putting himself in contention, which is why expectations are so high for him in 2018. But to reach that next level, he’ll need to find consistency for 72 holes and avoid that one-round speedbump.
“Just got to put four good rounds together,” Leishman said after finishing Sunday at Kapalua. “Unfortunately, it was only three this week but certainly something to build on for the rest of the year.”
Waialae should be a good place to find that week-long consistency. He’s shot in the 60s in his last eight rounds at the par-70 course; in his last 17 rounds, just two have been over par (and both of those scores were 71). Three years ago, he shot 62, which ties his career low on TOUR.
Leishman’s best finish in eight previous starts at Sony is a fifth in 2014; given his current form, he’ll tee off Thursday as one of the biggest threats in the 144-man field.
“Confidence is pretty high; game’s in a good spot,” Leishman said. “There’s no reason why I can’t go over there and put four good rounds together.”
In other words, time to start running full-speed for 72 holes.
The 13th was once a par 5, but a redesigned forward tee allows the tournament to play it as a par 4 at 477 yards, making it the longest par 4 on the back nine and second longest on the course. It’s been the most difficult hole on the course in the last four years of the Sony Open.
THE LANDING ZONE
The 551-yard par-5 18th played as the second-easiest hole on the course last year at a stroke average of 4.404 (only the par-5 ninth was easier). Bunkers guard either side of the elbow on this dogleg left, although some players will take an aggressive line to cut the corner. Here is where all tee shots landed last year.
From PGA TOUR meteorologist Wade Stettner: “Expect partly cloudy skies with an afternoon high in the lower 80s. Generally dry conditions are forecast from Friday through Sunday with rain chances less than 20 percent each of those days. Light winds are expected this upcoming week with afternoon highs in the lower 80s each day.”
For the latest weather news from Kapalua, Hawaii, check out PGATOUR.COM’s Weather Hub.
SOUND CHECKI love coming here. I think this is one of, if not the best golf course we play all year. I think it's just a great shot-making course. It gives you a lot of opportunities. You have to have creativity and it's just a classic design. I love everything about it.
BY THE NUMBERS
4.214 – The scoring average last year at the 506-yard par 5 ninth at Waialae. That’s the lowest average among all 900 holes played on the PGA TOUR during the 2016-17 season. The 36 eagles and 286 birdies at the ninth were also the most given up by any hole.
21 – Rounds of 62 or better shot at Waialae since 2012. That’s the most on any PGA TOUR course in that span (Sedgefield is next on the list at 19). Defending champion Justin Thomas is the only player with multiple rounds of 62 or better.
27 feet – Average proximity to the hole for the 5,368 approach shots hit from the fairway at last year’s Sony Open. That’s the shortest distance of any tournament on TOUR.
134 under – Cumulative total by Jimmy Walker since 2011 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Sony Open – the lowest score of any player during the Hawaii Swing in that span.
Watch out for Zach Johnson in Friday’s second round. Since 2004, he is 40 under in the second round at Waialae, the best performance of any player at the Sony. Overall, he’s a cumulative 68 under for all rounds. …
Reigning PLAYERS champion Si Woo Kim has played 22 rounds this season. In his first 12, he was a cumulative 27 over; in his last 10, he’s 23 under. …
The first full-field event of the new year traditionally brings out the PGA TOUR rookies. This week, 22 of the 23 TOUR rookies are in the field, led by Austin Cook, who won The RSM Classic in the fall and has made all five cuts. The only rookie not playing this week is Denny McCarthy.