THE SONY OPEN PREVIEW
Whilst the 2019 season actually started in October 2018, we are now already one event down on the calendar year on the PGA Tour. Xander Schauffele winning the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the Plantation Course at Kapalua, the opening tournament of the year is for winners on the PGA tour from the previous season. This means that it is an incredibly strong field, but invariably it is used by players to feel their way into the new year after spending time away from the game over the festive period. Rory McIlroy for instance hadn’t played since the Ryder Cup, which was 100 days ago.
That being said I’m sure that we will see a similar thought process from the expanded field this week at The Sony Open. Again it is played in Hawaii, but they have moved to Waialae CC. For the vast majority of the field this week, this will be the first tournament of 2019. We will see some rust from some players and some early season form from others. Some notable names making their 2019 debut are Luke Donald, Hideki Matsuyama, Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth.
Waialae Country Club is the only home the Sony Open has ever known, this means that players will have a good idea what they will need to do. Usually this means having a lot of birdies and shooting four rounds in the low 60’s. Justin Thomas proved this with his record score at the tournament of -27 in 2017, this included a first round 59. So to win this week, the players will have to limit mistakes and take advantage of the course, at just over 7000 yards this is by no means a long course by modern standards. And even high winds that the course can get won’t be able to stop the modern breed of player overpowering the course.
It is also worth mentioning that an interesting trend has emerged in recent history. Since the Sentry Tournament of Champions moved to Kapalua, fourteen of the last twenty winners of The Sony Open have played in the in Kapalua. This being said, below are our top tips of the week.
TIPS FOR THE WEEK
Justin Thomas: He has an amazing record around this course and as mentioned above holds the course record and the tournaments lowest winning score. He has a new look on the course this year - read all about it here - but the golf game remains the same. He snuck into a solo third finish last week, so his game is in great shape already and he has blown off the rust. Expect him to contend this week.
Bryson DeChambeau: He arrives looking to notch win number five in the last six months. It has been a meteoric rise for the self titled Golf Scientist. He led the strokes gained putting stats last week at Kapalua, having taken advantage of the new rule enabling players to but with the flag left in. it will bring into question whether leaving the flag in gains an advantage, but Bryson is happy to take it.
Gary Woodland: He did everything but win last week at Kapalua. It just proves how difficult it is to win on the PGA Tour. It does however prove his game is on good shape, the work he has done with Phil Kenyon is obviously paying dividends, he is now able to take advantage of his immense long game by holing putts.
Cameron Smith: The baby faced Australian last played at the Australian PGA Championship, where he won. This is his first tournament on the PGA since then, he will be hoping for a fast start to his year to build on amazing last six months of golf.