From Maui to Honolulu, the first two weeks of January might be the best time to be a member of the PGA Tour. Those fortunate enough to be invited to the year-opening Hawaii swing enjoy prodigious paychecks, immaculate weather, and maybe the most striking scenery the United States has to offer – particularly in early January.
The first Hawaiian event, the Sentry Tournament of Champions, featured an epic comeback by Xander Schauffele, who shot a final-day 62 to edge 54-hole leader Gary Woodland by one stroke, and claim his second victory of the early season.
Contested at Waialae on the island of Honolulu, the Sony Open will feature a full 138 player field with plenty of big names, headlined by 2017 winner Justin Thomas, and three-time major winner Jordan Spieth.
Tournament: Sony Open
Dates: Jan. 10-13, 2019
PGA TOUR Week: 9th (of 42)
TV Network: GOLF Channel
Course: Waialae Country Club
Where: Honolulu, Hawaii
Distance: 7044 yards, Par 70
Architect: Seth Raynor
Field/Format: 140 players; 72-hole stroke; 36-hole cut
Purse/Win Share: $6,400,000 / $1,152,000
FedEx Cup/OWGR Points: 500/50
2018 Champion: Patton Kizzire
Marquee Players: Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama, Gary Woodland, Cameron Champ, Marc Leishman, Bubba Watson, Adam Scott, Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Kevin Kisner, Charles Howell III, Keegan Bradley, Matt Kuchar
PGA TOUR VIDEO PREVIEW
TV & ONLINE COVERAGE
Round 1: 7-10:30 PM
Round 2: 7-10:30 PM
Round 3: 7-10:30 PM
Round 4: 6-10:00 PM
All times EST. Golf Channel.
Like its sister tournament of the Hawaii swing – the Sentry Tournament of Champions, the Sony Open has been a part of the PGA Tour for over half a century.
Beginning in 1965, then simply called the Hawaiian Open, the first tournament winner was American Gay Brewer.
In the 50-plus tournaments that have been played since (it was skipped in 1970 as it moved from the fall to its early-winter slot), bigger-name winners have included Lee Trevino, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Corey Pavin, Lanny Wadkins, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, and Justin Thomas.
Pavin, Wadkins, Els, Hubert Green, and Jimmy Walker are the only golfers with multiple Sony wins – each with two victories. Interestingly, all but Wadkins won their two titles in back-to-back years.
Walker is the only one of that group in the 2019 field, so he has a chance to become the first three-time winner. Walker’s 2015 win was by a whopping nine strokes, the largest margin of victory in tournament history.
The 2017 winner, Justin Thomas, shot a 59 en route to a tournament record 27-under 253.
The Sony Open drew media attention last decade for giving sponsor exemptions to the LPGA’s Michelle Wie from 2004-2007. Wie missed the cut in each edition, but in her defense, all four of her appearances occurred under the age of 18.
HISTORY: RECENT CHAMPIONS
2018: Patton Kizzire*
2017: Justin Thomas*
2016: Fabián Gómez*
2015: Jimmy Walker*
2014: Jimmy Walker*
2013: Russell Henley*
*In the field
18-hole score: 59, Thomas (2017)
72-hole score: 253, Justin Thomas (2017)
Wins: (2) Corey Pavin, Lanny Wadkins, Ernie Els, Hubert Green, Jimmy Walker
THE COURSE: WAIALAE
Established in 1927, Waialae Country Club is a private golf club in Honolulu, Hawaii. The course’s initial design was by Seth Raynor with changes made by Desmond Muirhead in 1992.
Now a mature, lushly landscaped, and player-friendly championship course, Waialae features wide forgiving fairways lined with stands of coconut, monkey pod and kiawe trees and 83 strategically place bunkers that can be in play for any golfer.
The course plays to a par 70 for the Sony Open and measures 7,020 yards from the Championship tees. It is cooled by gentle trade winds and features well-tended and manicured Bermuda grass fairways and greens.
The course is nestled in the quiet neighborhood of Waialae-Kahala and its signature hole, the par-3 eighth hole, is bordered along its full 186 yards by the Pacific Ocean. The hole was patterned after the famous Redan hole on the North Berwick Golf Club in Scotland.
REWIND: 2018 SONY OPEN
Patton Kizzire carded a 2-under 68 in Sunday’s finale and then beat James Hahn on the sixth sudden-death playoff hole to capture the 2018 Sony Open at Waialae Country Club.
Kizzire couldn’t manufacture much of anything to start, and made the turn at even-par 34, on a card comprised of nine pars.
A chip-in eagle on the par-4 tenth hole, followed by a birdie on No. 11, briefly had the former Auburn star at 18 under. But a bogey on No. 13 dropped the 31-year old back to 17 under, where he finished, following five-consecutive pars to close.
“It wasn’t necessarily pretty, but it was nice to come out on top,” said a happy, but drained, Kizzire.
“James had a great round today. It was kind of a marathon playoff. I was hoping I could make an eagle on the first hole, but I’ll take it any way I can get it.”
FINAL TOP 5
1 Patton Kizzire -17
2 James Hahn -17
3 Tom Hoge -16
4 Webb Simpson -15
4 Brian Harman -15
4 Brian Stuard -15
The field in Honolulu this week features 10 of the top-30 ranked players in the world, headlined by No. 4 Justin Thomas, No. 5 Bryson DeChambeau, and No. 17 Jordan Spieth.
Other top-ranked players include Patrick Reed (No. 15), Bubba Watson (No. 16), Marc Leishman (No. 18), Gary Woodland (No. 22), and Hideki Matsuyama (No. 28).
In addition to Thomas, the Sony field also features nine former winners led by Jimmy Walker (2014-15), Russell Henley (2013), and Zach Johnson (2009).
Some of the other familiar names teeing it up this week are Keegan Bradley, Siwoo Kim, Paul Casey, Jason Dufner, Kevin Kisner, Matt Kuchar, Ian Poulter, and Adam Scott.
FULL FIELD & ODDS
As the top-ranked player this week – and coming off a 3rd-place finish at Kapalua, Justin Thomas is listed as a relatively strong favorite by bookmakers.
At 6-1, JT is the only player in the Sony field with odds in the single digits. In three starts this season, Thomas has banked two top 5s.
World No. 5 Bryson DeChambeau, who finished T7 last week, is offered at 10-1. The 25-year old SMU product has made just two starts in the new season and owns a win and top-10 (T7).
Xander Schauffele’s record-tying final round made a runner-up of Gary Woodland, but the 34-year old Kansan enters Waialae Country Club as one of the hottest players in the world, and is listed at 14-1, alongside a struggling Jordan Spieth.
Joel Cook contributed to this report.
Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images, ASAP Sports, Bovada, Wikipedia