I would like to welcome everyone to the 2014 edition of the Sony Open. The best golfers in the world will once again being teeing it up in Hawaii, a place that combines work and play. Players treat the beginning of the year as an opportunity to bring their families to one of the most beautiful places on earth. Last week Zach Johnson was the player who had the pleasure of celebrating his 11th career victory. In the first full field event of 2014, there will be 143 other players all looking to raise one of the seasons early trophy’s like Zach did. To do so they will have to conquer Waialae Country Club. Let’s take a closer look at this challenging course.
Waialae Country Club is not an easy way to start off the season, but it does provide plenty of excitement for the viewers. People enjoy seeing players challenged and having to create and shape shots. Though last week’s wide open style is nice every once in a while, it was far too easy of a golf course for Professionals.
Waialae measures only 7068 yards in length but plays as a Par 70. The course is actually played in reverse when the Pros tee it up, with the back nine becoming the front nine, and vice versa. With only two Par 5’s on the course (9 and 18), players will have to attempt to take advantage of the Par 3’s and 4’s for a change.
Tight fairways and extremely small greens are a common theme at Waialae. Look for players who are accurate off the tee and with their irons to have a large advantage at this difficult golf course. Players will also face the elements while playing this week. Undulation and wind never make for a favourable combination, but that is exactly what the players will face. While watching this week take note of how many times players completely misjudge club selection.
My favourite hole at Waialae is the 17th. A Par 3 measuring 189 yards, the 17th hole will give the players fits for various reasons. The green is surrounded by 5 bunkers (4 of them fairly deep), along with some very gnarly rough. The scenery around the 17th has the ability to distract anyone, even a professional, as it is absolutely stunning. Look for players to attempt to hit it at the centre of the small green and two-putt. Three is a great score on the 17th.
Things to watch for this week
Wind – We saw last week that on certain holes the wind was an issue for players. Holes that are open to coastal winds in Hawaii tend to cause players fits, especially with undulation changes. Club selection becomes a key and the ability to flight the ball properly is of the up most importance.
A Youth Movement – The PGA Tour will welcome 50 new members this season from the web.com Tour (14 of them Rookies). Many of the 50 players who graduated from the web.com Tour last season will be competing this week in Hawaii. We will have the pleasure of watching graduates such as Michael Putnam, Will Mackenzie, Ben Martin, Chesson Hadley, and John Peterson. It will be difficult for a rookie to win this week, as only one has won this event in January, but that did occur last season with Russell Hanley.
Possible 59? – Waialae may have very tight fairways but players in the past have gone extremely low. The course record since the renovations is 61, a sizzling round by David Toms in 2006. Last year Scott Langley shot an opening round 62, and Harris English matched that sizzling score in his final round. There were also seven rounds of 63 last season, including three by the 2013 Champions Russell Henley. Could this be the year someone goes Sub 60 at Waialae? I feel with great conditions expected this week it could very well happen.
Steve’s Six Pack System Picks for the 2014 Sony Open
Jason Dufner 20 TO 1 – Dufner could not be left off this list after watching how terrifically he hit his driver and irons last week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Jason was terrible on the greens last week as he ranked as one of the worst putters at Kapalua. Even with his struggles on the greens, Jason managed to finish solo 5th. We are getting his odds at 20 to 1 for this event because he has struggled at Waialae. It surprises me that he has struggled here because Jason is known as a great short iron player and someone who excels on Par 4’s. Last season Jason ranked 7th on Tour for the Par 4 Birdie or Better statistic. The Auburn Alum has a great temperament on the course and will not crumble under pressure on Sunday. After his victory at the PGA Championship last season, people began to pay more attention to Dufner. People will be paying even more attention to him in the coming years as Jason will be a mainstay atop leaderboards.
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