The PGA Tour cranked up 2017 with the Tournament of Champions last week at Maui. Justin Thomas captured the title shooting -22 on the Par 73 the Plantation Course in Kapalua. Super job by JT as he clipped Hideki Matsuyama (-19) by three shots.
This week the tour moves to Honolulu before heading back to the mainland. Waialae Country Clubthe hosts the Sony Open. The course is a Par 70 and measures 7,044 yards. There will be tons of birdies and some eagles on the course with the perfect weather conditions that Hawaii always offers. The defending champion is Fabian Gomez. Gomez defeated Brandt Snedeker in a playoff last year to win 500 Fed Ex points and a $1,044,000 check.
Golf Channel will televise on Thursday-Saturday from 6-9:30 PM CT and 7-10:30 PM ET. Sunday's telecast on GC will be from 5-9 PM CT/6-10 PM ET. Weather is perfect at 83-84 all four days with 4-9 MPH winds Thursday-Saturday and 7-10 MPH on Sunday. So wind is a little more of a factor on Sunday. Expect some bombs out there from the tee box. Should be pretty electric off the tee.
No. 1, 343 yards, par 4
This is the shortest par 4 on the course. The hole usually plays into the wind. Hitting a drive on the right side of the fairway is the best play to give the competitor his best angle to the green and keep the player from having to contend with the coconut trees that overhang the left side of the green. The green is also protected by three deep bunkers, one front left, one front right, and one middle right for errant or mis-hit shots. A good drive leaves a short iron to the green and a good shot at birdie. It's key to get out of the blocks with a birdie for the players because there will be many guys going low on this course.
No.8, 186 yards, par 3
This hole is considered Waialae's signature hole. A difficult hole that requires a short iron or a long iron depending on the wind and the pin location. The green is deep at 40 yards making club selection a premium. To make the hole even more challenging, the green is guarded by a very large bunker on the left and a cluster of 4 deep, hidden bunkers on the right. The players should take a par here, be happy and move on.
No.17, 426 yards, par 4
The tee shot is from an elevated tee on this tree-lined dog leg left. There are a cluster of trees on the left and quite a few on the right demanding accuracy off the tee. The competitors' drives must also carry a creek that is 235 yards while avoiding the forest of trees on the left and the fairway bunkers on the right. 235 is usually not a problem for these guys, but with the obstacles on either side, complete concentration off the tee box is required because a miss-hit or too much of a right to left or left of to right tee shot will lead to trouble. A good drive will lead to a mid to short iron from the fairway. So if the player succeeds in hitting accurate tee shot, the chance at birdie is very good after that.
No. 18, 501, par 5
A prevailing wind blows left to right against the player on this hole. With out of bounds on both sides of the fairway, accuracy is again a must off the tee and with the approach. With everything on the line, it could make for a riveting Sunday finish for the players.
This 25 year old from Birmingham, AL. by way of LSU won in 2015 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open in Las Vegas. I'm expecting big things from this young gun. Hits it a mile, which is perfect for Honolulu, and strokes it very well on the putting surface. Smylie has a real shot at Waialae.
The 23 year old from Lexington, KY. by way of the University of Alabama is totally en fuego. Justin won the CIMB Classic in October in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and then went off last week to win in Maui. Wow, that's incredible golf. Certainly the hottest guy on tour right now. I see a major coming his way. This year is a distinct possibility. Augusta National would seem to suit Justin's talents. It's hard to pick against this young stud the way he bombs it 330 off the tee at 150 pounds. If his putter is on, he'll win it.
Sneds was awesome at the Ryder Cup. He was probably the second most important player on our 12 man team after Patrick Reed. Brandt was 3-0-0 at Hazeltine, and you could argue that Brandt WAS the most valuable player on the team. Brandt was a runner-up here last year, and the way he putts, if he's on a roll with the flat stick, he can pull it off. At 36, I see Brandt with a real shot at a major. Augusta National is also a place Brandt loves, so he's in that equation.
Going with this young stud who's hotter than a tin roof on the fourth of July in Alabama. This 24 year old has already won twice this year at the HSBC Champions tourney in Shanghai in October, and at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas in December. He also won Jack's tourney, The Memorial, in 2014 against a stellar field, and won the Waste Management Phoenix Open last February, which Bama Golf correctly predicted. Going with the native of Ehime, Japan to capture the Sony Open.