Sony Open continues PGA Tour season

Posted on Jan 11 2018 - 2:12pm by Cody Flavell
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Justin Thomas won last year’s Sony Open. Can he repeat in 2018? (Photo: Brian Spurlock/USA Today)

After Dustin Johnson wrapped up the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Sunday in convincing fashion, the PGA Tour continues it’s Hawaiian swing as the Sony Open begins Thursday.

While it won’t be littered with the star power from the past weekend’s tournament, the field will include Jordan Spieth and last year’s winner Justin Thomas. Johnson will not be defending his win last week.

The Course

Waialae Country Club in Honolulu is home to the Sony Open as it hasn’t been played at any other course in it’s 53 years as the tournament’s home.

Stretching 7,044 yards over its entirety, the course records were rewritten last year when Thomas took home the crown. He shot the lowest round (59) and lowest 72-hole score (253) in Tour history at the course.

It’s got some tenure to it as only three other venues have hosted a tournament every year consecutively longer than Waialae. You want tradition and beautiful views to hold you over before golf season kicks into gear locally again? Waialae has you covered.

The Field/Feature Groups

12:50 PM ET: Marc Leishman, Si Woo Kim, Webb Simpson. This group includes one of my favorites for breakout candidate of the year in Leishman, who has been finishing very well as of late. He’s got five Top 10’s in his last eight outings. Kim has been placing in the top ten a lot recently including last week. Simpson is golfing for the first time since the fall after his dad’s Parkinson’s Disease got worse to the point where his father passed away just a week after Simpson’s final outing of last year.

1:00 PM ET: Xander Schauffele, Daniel Berger, Jordan Spieth. Schauffele is coming off of a 4-under 288 from last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions. He was tied for 22. The 2017 Rookie of the Year surely will look to improve upon that this weekend at Waialae. Berger and Spieth were paired together last year at the tournament for three rounds. Spieth took third while Berger finished in 45th. He will want to be better for sure.

5:40 PM ET: Justin Thomas, Kevin Kisner, Jason Dufner. Thomas, of course, was last year’s winner so all eyes will be on him to see if he can repeat his performance. Kisner and Thomas actually placed a bet on the National Championship game — Thomas is an Alabama alum while Kisner went to Georgia — and Kisner will be forced to wear an Alabama jersey on the 17th hole Thursday since they emerged victoriuos. Dufner, another SEC grad (Auburn), will join these guys.

Defending Champion

Thomas was the big cat at Waialae last year after shattering course records with his play. Despite owning a seven shot lead heading into Sunday, it didn’t stop him from feeling nervous.

“All I could hear about from everyone and reading everything is no one has ever blown a seven-shot lead before. A lot of things go through your head when you wake up at 6:30 and you don’t tee off until 12:40,” Thomas said.

He was 1-over through seven holes to begin Sunday but his lead still hadn’t been jeopardized. It was the scoring record he was beginning to chase now. After paring the three holes leading up to 18, Thomas needed just one birdie.

“I knew I needed to birdie 18 on Sunday to break Tommy Armour’s record so it was something to aim at for sure,” Thomas said.

Thomas didn’t win last weekend so he can’t be the first person ever to win three straight Hawaiian events but repeating as Sony Open champion should be a solid consolation if he does.

News/Notes

  • In December, Sony extended it’s commitment to sponsoring the event through 2022. 2018 will be the 20th year in which Sony has sponsored the event.
  • Brian Harman was ranked 136th after the Sony Open in 2017. He enters 2018’s version of the event ranked in 23rd? Flying high much?
  • Chances of rain are at 20% or less for all four days so the event should be played on time and uninterrupted.
  • Last year, the par-5 ninth hole saw an average score 4.214. That is the lowest average score among all 900 holes played last year. 36 eagles and 286 birdies were also the most that any hole produced on Tour.

Prediction

I took Justin Thomas last week and it didn’t work, but I’m going to make the mistake of betting against Spieth and take Thomas again this week.

The field doesn’t have the same star power as last weekend at Kapalua. What it does have is the intrigue of some of golf’s hottest players on Tour such as Leishman and Kim. Thomas had such a strong tournament last year, though, that I believe he may even break another 18-hole scoring record with a 58 this year. That’s my bold prediction on the weekend.

Waialae should provide yet another great backdrop and some more parity throughout the field instead of Johnson seemingly running away with things like he did last week. Then again, Thomas’ seven shot lead heading into Sunday last year didn’t provide a ton of intrigue, either.

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