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 finale with Justin Thomas edging Xander Schauffele and Patrick Reed in a playoff to claim his second victory of the early season.
Contested at Waialae on the island of Honolulu, the Sony Open will feature a full 140 player field with plenty of big names, headlined by 2017 winner Thomas, and defending champion Matt Kuchar.
Tournament: Sony Open
Dates: Jan. 9-12, 2020
PGA TOUR Week: 12th (of 44)
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
Win Share: $1,188,000
FedEx Cup/OWGR Points: 500/50
2019 Champion: Matt Kuchar
Marquee Players: Justin Thomas, Webb Simpson, Collin Morikawa, Patrick Reed, Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedeker, Kevin Kisner, Charles Howell III, Keegan Bradley, Matt Kuchar
TV & Online Coverage
Rd 1: 7-10:30 PM
Rd 2: 7-10:30 PM
Rd 3: 7-10:30 PM
Rd 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 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, 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 Winners
2019: Matt Kuchar*
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: Wailalae CC
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: 2019 Sony Open
Matt Kuchar shot a final-round 66 to claim his second victory of the season at the 2019 Sony Open in Hawaii.
The 40-year old American finished his final day at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu with seven birdies against three bogeys en route to four-day score of 22-under par.
Final Top 5
Pos-Players-To Par (Final Round)
1. Matt Kuchar -22 (-4)
2. Andrew Putnam -18 (-6)
3. Marc Leishman -17 (-6)
3. Hudson Swafford -17 (-6)
3. Chez Reavie -17 (-3)
3. Corey Conners -17 (-6)
The field in Honolulu this week features just one player ranked in the world top 10 – Justin Thomas, No. 4, who enters off a win last week in Maui.
Other top-30 ranked players include Patrick Reed (No. 11), Webb Simpson (12), Hideki Matsuyama (22), Matt Kuchar (24), Kevin Na (27), and Marc Leishman (28).
In addition to Thomas (2017) and Kuchar (2019), the Sony field also features several 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 will be Keegan Bradley, Kevin Kisner, Brandt Snedeker, Chez Reavie, and Daniel Berger.
Full Field & Odds
As the top-ranked player this week – and coming off his 12th career win, Justin Thomas is listed as a strong favorite by bookmakers.
At 5-1, JT is the only player in the Sony field with odds in the single digits. In five starts this season, Thomas has banked two wins and two additional top-5s.
World No. 11 Patrick Reed, who lost in a playoff to Thomas, is offered at 12-1. The 29-year old Texan has made just two starts in the new season yet owns a pair of top-3 finishes.
Also at 12-1, and rounding out the top-3 favorites in Hawaii, is Webb Simpson, a teammate of Reed and Thomas on the victorious U.S. Presidents Cup team.
Book Rank-Player-Odds (World Rank)
1. Justin Thomas 5-1 (4)
2. Patrick Reed 12-1 (11)
2. Webb Simpson 12-1 (12)
4. Hideki Matsuyama 16-1 (22)
4. Collin Morikawa 16-1 (55)
Joel Cook contributed to this report.
Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images, ASAP Sports, Bovada, Wikipedia