The PGA Tour hopped breathtaking Hawaiian islands, going from Maui to Oahu for this week’s Sony Open at Waialae Country Club – the first full-field event of the calendar year.
Patton Kizzire returns to Honolulu as the tournament’s defending champion, after outlasting James Hahn in a six-hole playoff a year ago.
Xander Schauffele, who won on Sunday at Kapalua, is not in the field – so there won’t be a chance to do what Justin Thomas did in 2017 by pulling off the Hawaii-double.
Though the first two events of 2019 are in Hawaii, it should be noted that the two courses could not possibly be more different. Unlike the steep, rolling hills of Kapalua, Waialae is as flat as a surfboard.
Something both tournaments do have in common, however, is that they’re both very much “birdie-fest” events.
Birdies, eagles… you’ll see plenty of them this week.
To protect their identity, we had three caddies on the ground at the Sony Open anonymously give us three players they’ll be keeping a close eye on and why. These are the players they like…
- Patton Kizzire, “Yes, he’s the defending champ. But he’s also trending in the right direction. Not only is his coming off a T8 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions – his first top 10 in an official Tour event since last year’s win at Sony – but he also teamed up with Brian Harmon to win the QBE Shootout in December. Patton is trending in the right direction.”
- Bryson DeChambeau, “He had three victories a season ago. In just two starts this season, he’s already got a win and a seventh. He’s earned the reputation as a player who is a threat to win every week. On top of that, he’s out to prove you can win with the flagstick in!”
- Justin Thomas, “Speaking of guys who are a threat to win whenever they tee it up… JT swept the Hawaii swing two years ago, which included an opening-round of 59 right here at Waialae. Two of his three starts in the new season have resulted in top-5 finishes, including his third-place showing a week ago in Maui. His success here before, along with the solid finish in Maui makes him a smart bet.”
- Troy Merritt, “Troy is one of the few players who can say they already have five starts this season. And he’s played well in those events, too, highlighted by a T4 at the Safeway Open. Put that together with his win at the Barbasol Championship last July and it’s obvious he’s feeling good about his game. I expect that to continue this week in Honolulu.”
- Justin Thomas, “A past winner and a guy who is always playing well. A birdie-machine, which is exactly what this place calls for.”
- Gary Woodland, “Woodland is out for revenge this week. The man took a 3-shot lead into the final round in Maui last week, fired a 5-under 68 AND LOST! Xander Schauffele played lights out with an 11-under 62 to win, but Woodland didn’t do anything wrong. He should be riding high on confidence since he didn’t do anything to lose last week. I think he bounces back right away. He’s got four, top-10 finishes in five starts already, so he’s playing great.”
- Kevin Kisner, “This just feels like a good course for Kisner. His ball-striking and driving statistics set up well for this course where finding the fairway is a key element to going low.”
- Charles Howell III, “How can you not pick CHIII? Even coming off a win to close out the year, I guarantee no one worked harder in the offseason. CHIII has never missed the cut in 17 starts at Waialae and has been a top-10 machine here. I look for him to post another one this week.”
- Andrew Landry, “Andrew is a great all-around player. This guy is a bulldog (well, actually a Razorback) and has a killer instinct. If he’s on this week… lookout.”