Tournament: Sony Open, January 14-17, 2021
Course: Waialae Country Club, par 70, 7,044 yards (just outside Honolulu)
Purse: $6.6 million; $1,188,000 to the winner
Defending Champ: Cameron Smith. The young Aussie achieved the most unlikeliest win - he bogeyed the first hole and triple-bogeyed the second hole of the tournament but still came out on top. And considering he donated money for every birdie and eagle to the devastating Australian wildfires (remember that?), it was a great feel-good start to 2020.
Fun Fact: Besides the fact that tourney has always been played on this course, there are 4 palm coconut trees behind the 7th green that are planted and cross in such a way as to form a “W” to the eye when walking up to the green. It doesn’t technically stand for “Waialae”, it’s actually a homage to the 1963 film “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World”.
TV Times: Thursday-Saturday, 7 p.m.-10:30 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Sunday, 6 p.m.-10 p.m. (Golf Channel). Yayyyy! More golf in prime time!
‘Dawgs in the Field: 9. Russell Henley, Brendon Todd, Kevin Kisner, Harris English, Keith Mitchell, Chris Kirk, Sepp Straka, Hudson Swafford, Brian Harman.
The PGA Tour stays in Hawaii this week, after tending to the pocketbook on one Harris English last Sunday. Though we’re in the same state, the course and field couldn’t be more different.
Kapalua is known for dramatic elevation changes, ridiculously wide fairways, and as a remote paradise. Waialae Country Club is flatter than Folkston, super tight with tons of doglegs, and is just around the corner from Waikiki Beach and all its tourist wonderments. According to pros, there is no easier course to walk than Waialae, with tees being conveniently placed near the preceding green. At Kapalua, they have 3-4 places where carts ferry players and caddies to keep the action moving. At Kapalua, you can see humpback whales breaching just off-shore. At Waialae, you can see Justin Spieth surf-fishing Friday afternoon after he misses another cut.
The course is pretty old-school, due to it’s age (built in the 1950’s) and the fact there isn’t a lot of real estate available for expansion. So at just barely 7,000 yards, it’s one of the shortest. Today’s long hitters really don’t need to hit a driver all week, and there are almost as many doglegs as tube socks with sandals. The course is tight, packed together, and only a few coconut trees as demarcation between holes. But those trees play a mighty part and make shaping your shot a priority.
The Sony Open, and all of its incarnations, has been going on since 1956 and is known for a few things: a full-field PGA tournament in Hawaii in January, Michelle Wie competing against men in a PGA Tournament as a 14 year old and missing the cut by a single shot, and UGA golfer Russell Henley winning in his first PGA Tour start.
That’s right, you’re here to read about former UGA golfers and we have them in spades this week. Bubba Watson is the only current PGA Tour member and UGA former golfer that isn’t in the field. Word is he’s got his Corvette Stingray (the new version) in for service at his Milton, FL Chevy dealership. So then there were nine.
With the season a quarter over, but the big tournaments yet to play, let’s take a quick look at where they stand on the FedEx Cup points list. This is the season-long ranking, players get points for where they finish in each tournament they play (majors and a few others count more) and only the top 125 move into the post-season. I’ve previously written about this ad nauseum, never knowing if the readership is more than familiar with pro golf or just looking to see what old classmates are doing with their multi-million dollar earnings. Just leave a comment if you have any questions and I’m more than glad to answer.
Keith Mitchell is at #183 on the points list and could use a jump start. He’s missed 3 of 7 cuts and his best finish is T44.
Chris Kirk is #134 thanks to a top 20 at Sea Island a few weeks back. I’m pretty sure he’s on a medical extension so he doesn’t have a ton of time to earn points in order to keep his card.
Brendon Todd is #61 so sits in decent shape. Still - there are a lot of very good golfers not in the field this week so make hay while the sun shines.
Brian Harman is one spot above Todd at #60. He’s made the cut in 7 of 8 starts and has two top 25 finishes. Another here would be nice.
Sepp Straka is the youngest Bulldog in this particular litter and has done well for himself. His current #43 position can be attributed to three top 25s including a tidy T5 at Houston.
Russell Henley, aforementioned previous winner of the Sony Open, sits at #30 in FedEx Cup points. He had himself a nice fall, finishing top 30 in 4 straight events - including a T3 and T4 in consecutive weeks.
The affable Kevin Kisner resides 5 spots ahead in the 25 slot. He’s the kind of guy who doesn’t miss cuts, other than the two he’s missed this season. A 2nd place finish at Sea Island set him up well for a good spring. He also has 3 top 5 finishes in this tournament. `
Hudson Swafford occupies #18 on the list. No need to do a deep dive on his stats, as he won the Corales Puntacana Championship in September (very early season tourney in the Dominican Republic) and got a buttload of points for his efforts.
And then newly installed #2 Harris English. Thanks to his 500 points from last week’s win, plus 4 other top 10 finishes this season, he will likely make the playoffs even if he doesn’t make another cut. Let’s not try that theory out.
So there’s the quick and dirty that became long and windy. I personally love prime time golf, and it allows my wife to get about 3 episodes ahead of any series we happen to be watching together. What can I say? Golf is my hall pass. And as always...