Sony Open offers insight to 2011
BY Bruce Young | 2011 The Sony Open | Preview | 12 Jan 2011
The second event of the 2011 PGA Tour season, the Sony Open, is played this week at the Waialae Country Club in Hawaii.
The tournament was first played as a PGA Tour event here when Gay Brewer won in 1965 over the Seth Raynor designed layout which was originally built in 1927.
While always played early in the season, the event has in more recent years established its position as the first full field event of the year, a week after the Tournament of Champions. As such the Sony Open provides an insight into not only how the established players have come through a winter break but also just how many of the new recruits to the PGA Tour will handle their first exposure to the big-time.
The defending champion is Ryan Palmer who defeated Robert Allenby by one shot last year in a dramatic final day duel. Palmer birdied the final hole to outlast the Australian with Steve Stricker and Retief Goosen closing fast to finish 3rd and 4th respectively.
Stricker is the leading world ranked player in the field and although a little disappointing in his final round last week at the Hyundai he still managed to finish 4th in his opening event of the season. Stricker has been three times inside the top five in his last four starts in this event and sharpened by last week’s outing he should again do well.
Jim Furyk is another leading world ranked player who plays this event well enough and who finished inside the top ten last week. It has been three years since Furyk played this tournament and 14 years since his one and only victory at Waialae but he should be some sort of factor late in the event.
A player with a very good record in this event is Charles Howell 111 who although not winning has put together a stunning five top five finishes in his nine appearances. He closed with a final round of 64 last year which must give him good memories and good thoughts about this week as he heads into his first event of the season.
Howell began to play very well towards the end of 2010 and if he is able to carry that form over to this week then he stands a chance of winning his third PGA Tour title.
Earlier in his career, this was a tournament that Ernie Els all but owned. He won in 2004 and 2005 and during a period of five years around that time never finished worse than 5th including those victories. Els won recently in South Africa and although disappointing last week he has generally been in solid form over the past few months.
Dustin Johnson may well have been one to consider this week given his recent form and great year in 2010 but he has been a late withdrawal from the event citing personal reasons.
Zach Johnson is a previous winner of this event having won in 2009. Johnson made it all the way to the Tour Championship last year and finished off the season solidly. He was ordinary last week but should improve significantly this week.
There is a strong line-up of Australians headed by last year’s runner-up Robert Allenby. Allenby might not have won late in 2010 but his form was generally solid enough. Allenby opened with a round of 65 last year and stayed in contention throughout before Charles Howell birdied the final hole to win.
Adam Scott is Australia’s next best in this field and although he has not played well in recent starts he did finish runner-up in this event the last time he played here in 2009.
Jason Day just keeps getting better and did well last week on his debut at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. Now a winner on the PGA Tour, Day is expected to show further improvement in 2011 and although he has not played this event well on the two occasions he has appeared he is a much improved player now.
Nine other Australians are in the field including; Stuart Appleby, Matt Jones, Aaron Baddeley, Nathan Green, John Senden, Marc Leishman, Michael Sim, Steven Bowditch and Jarrod Lyle.