PGA:Preview of the Sony Open

By Ian Hudson
Allan Henry-US Presswire

The Sony Open on the US Tour begins on Thursday but at the time of writing on Tuesday morning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions had yet to finish. High winds have disrupted the first event of the new season but now sufficient holes are likely to be played for the tournament to have official status.

The Tour moves to Honolulu and weather could be a factor again. Tee times can be a significant factor at Waialae because of the impact of the wind. It is wise to check the weather forecast and if the wind is expected to get up or die down potential winners can be affected.

This tournament dates back to 1965. In recent years it has had a fixed slot in the week following the Tournament of Champions to form a ‘Hawaiian Swing’. As such both tournaments are susceptible to severe trade winds and the first event has already been disrupted.

After John Huston destroyed the course in 1998 at 28 under par there were radical changes. The par was cut to 70 including just two par 5s and the overall yardage left unchanged.  Among the pars 4s are several that are above average in length and others that are drivable.

The key at this course is to find the greens in regulation as inaccuracy off the tee does not seem to be too important. The greens are Bermuda and tricky. The wind always plays a part, favouring those players who can shape shots and keep the ball low.

In identifying potential winners accurate iron play to smallish greens is almost essential. However, it is possible to have an outstanding putting week and make the places with poor GIR stats.

Course experience continues to be significant on this track as the probable windy conditions present a unique and demanding challenge. Another feature of the tournament is that Waialae is not a catch up course as winners this century tend to have been first or second after round three.

Ben Curtis (pictured) finished inside the top 50 for greens in regulation and total putts last season. Other players figured prominently in one of each standings but only Curtis could be said to excel in both areas. However, those skills are compromised by a lack of course experience.

Brian Gay has the best course form of the entire field over the last six years, surprisingly in view of his average statistics for finding the greens in the correct number of shots. The key to identifying the potential winner is assessing the relative value of course form and key aptitudes.



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