Waialae Country Club (WCC)
Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
Waialae Country Club
Par: 70 (35-35)
Greens: Bermudagrass (6,500 square feet on average)
Rough: Bermudagrass at 2.5”
Water Hazards: 4
Course Architects: Seth Raynor (1927)
Winner’s Share: $1,008,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Dates: January 15-18
Notes: First full-field event of 2015; top 70 and ties play the weekend.
Fantasy Golf Nerds rejoice as we tackle the first full-field of 2015 at the Sony Open in Hawaii!
Charley Hoffman shut the door on the 2014 portion of the schedule, for those of you playing PGA TOUR games, with his victory at the OHL/Mayakoba.
As WAS reported by #FantasyGolfNerds in our season-beginning chat, the GolfChannel.com has reset; the Yahoo! game has restarted and reshuffled after not running during the first seven events. PGATOUR.com is up and running as well along with all the DFS games. This week, we get our first shot at panning for gold in a field of over 140!
Rob Bolton, Ned Brown, Ryan O’Sullivan and Josh Culp will cover ALL of these angles in our weekly columns. We’re also pleased as punch to add Dave Tindall to our rotation to keep an eye on the lads in his backyard on the European Tour. Hell, he had the winner, Patrick Reed, last week so pay attention!
We have you covered no matter which angles you’re playing in 2015.
And Now, the Particulars
The Sony Open is the third-longest running tournament at the same track. It trails only the Masters and Colonial as the TOUR touched down here in 1965.
After 28 wins in 45 events last season, Reed joins Charley Hoffman, Bubba Watson, Ryan Moore, Robert Streb and Ben Martin as the USA have won six of the first eight events to open the new season. Sang-moon Bae (Korea) and Nick Taylor (Canada) collected the other two trophies.
I’m a big fan of historical perspective, especially when it relates to courses and course history. In 1999, Waialae was renovated to the point where the official website doesn’t list the previous winners before the renovation. I’ll follow their lead:
2014: Jimmy Walker -17
2013: Russell Henley -24
2012: Johnson Wagner -13
2011: Mark Wilson -16
2010: Ryan Palmer -15
2009: Zach Johnson -15
2008: K.J. Choi -14
2007: Paul Goydos -14
2006: David Toms -19*
2005: Vijay Singh -11
2004: Ernie Els* -18**
2003: Ernie Els* -16**
2002: Jerry Kelly -14
2001: Brad Faxon -20**
2000: Paul Azinger -19**
1999: Jeff Sluman -9**
*Won in a playoff
**Not playing this week
Ernie Els is the only winner after the redesign to defend his title. He’s also the only winner of a playoff and he did that twice in a row as well.
Els is also the only player to win at Kapalua and Waialae back-to-back.
In 16 events, a playoff has been needed to determine the winner just twice. Ernie Els handled that business.
The average winning score is around 15-under.
Russell Henley’s 24-under in 2013 is the tournament record.
Chris Kirk is the last player to fire 62 and tie the course record (2013).
Russell Henley is the only rookie to win here. He’s also only the second player in his TWENTIES to win (Paul Stankowski, 1997). Henley also is the first maiden winner since Jerry Kelly’s first time in 2002. He joins Bruce Lietkze as the only first-time winners here. There’s a TON of good information in that paragraph, folks. A ton.
There are 11 previous winners in the field this week including the last eight champions.
Of the last 16 winners, 10 of them played the HTOC the week before including Walker last season.
Inside the Ropes
Waialae County Club was built in the 1920s and opened for business in 1927 as Hawaii looked to attract tourists to the islands. Seth Raynor’s design has stood the test of time, which isn’t surprising considering the fabulous tracks that he laid out up and down the eastern seaboard over the first part of the 20th century. Completely renovated in 1999, the redesign melds the classic architecture of yesteryear with the modern challenges of seaside golf.
After an up-and-down hike at the expansive Kapalua last week, this week the players will find a flat, seaside course that will test their ability to move the golf ball both right-to-left and left-to-right. Doglegs, bunkers and most importantly, wind, will be the main challenges this week when approach the putting surfaces. Once on the 6,500 (on average) square foot greens, the player will hope their irons have found the proper side as undulation and gnarly Bermudagrass rough will penalize loose shots.
Raynor also designed the Old White TPC at Greenbrier but remember that was redesigned in 2010 after the TOUR destroyed it, including a final round 59 to win by Stuart Appleby in 2009. That will give gamers some clues but hardly and firm answers.
WCC was the 36th (of 48 courses used) easiest track in 2014 as it played at 69.304 shots against a par 70. Only five courses of 48 conceded more birdies last season than WCC. Last year, the wind never blew consistently over 12 mph so that helped the scoring as well. This is a perfect place for players to get loosened up for the new calendar year as the rough is light and the green speeds are reasonable.
If the weather is right, expect a bushel of birdies even though there are only two par fives. This is resort golf and that means plenty of pars and birdies again this week. At just over 7,000 yards it opens the field up to just about everyone. Take a look at the winners and you’ll find everything from experienced bombers to short hitters who have won. That’s a sign of a solid course in my opinion.
The winner this week will be similar to the winner last week: a veteran player who is patient with the conditions, especially if the when the wind blows, avoid crooked numbers and make plenty of five-footers. I’d take four rounds of 66 right now and enjoy my chances.
In order, these are the players that I believe project the best this week (Yahoo! group in parentheses)
Jimmy Walker (B): The defending champion closed with 63 last year to catch and pass Chris Kirk for his second career victory. The previous year he closed with 64 so if he doesn’t get off to flying start, BE PATIENT. This will be his ninth Sony and he posted T4 and a win in two of his last four trips. In those last four events here he’s put one round above par and that includes MC IN 2012. He didn’t close the deal Monday at Kapalua but I believe he bounces back this weekend.
Russell Henley (C): He’s 28-under par in two trips to WCC. His trio of 63s his rookie year (2013) saw him run away from Tim Clark on Sunday to pick up his first win on TOUR. He’s piled up a T2, T3 and T4 in his last six events on TOUR. Combine that with seven of eight rounds here 69 or better and I’m on board.
Chris Kirk (B): His roller coaster ride last week opened with 68, closed with tying the course record 62 and had 76-73 smashed into the middle on his way to T14. Kirk will be playing Sony for the fifth consecutive year and has never fired worse than 70 in his previous 16 rounds. He’s done that exactly once. He fired a 62 here in 2013 to tie the course record in finishing T5. He was the 54-hole leader last year and was T58 in SGP for the week in finishing second. He would have “Russell Henley-ed” the field if he made anything last year. His hot finish last week increases the optimism.
Jason Day (B): Any course. Any time. Any event. Any tee time. As long as he’s healthy, he’s on here. His 62 to close last week to finish T3 is just more proof of why this is the case. He should be jazzed this week as well as his adopted Ohio State Buckeyes are World Football Champions of the College Gridiron.
Matt Kuchar (B): Nothing worse than T8 in his last three visits (T8, T5 and T5) and he’s 38-under in those 12 rounds. In reality he’s been disappointing in fantasy land over his last three as he has finishes of T21, T22 and T17. The way he shapes the golf ball on top of his expert short game suggests he’ll be in the mix again this week.
Hideki Matsuyama (B): The total opposite of Kirk, Matsuyama has found the 60s only once in six tries at WCC. The difference is that he was a teenager when he began playing here! As perfectly illustrated last week to gamers, course form has nothing to do with determining Matsuyama’s value on a weekly basis. He missed a seven-footer on to get into the playoff at Kapalua and finished T3 (on 20-under) on a course he had never played before. His ball-striking and numbers in strokes gained tee-to-green are ridiculous.
Zach Johnson (B): I mentioned in my recap column that Johnson has been alarmingly good on track where he’s had recent successes and he proved that last week at Kapalua. The defending champ finished solo seventh as he knocked off the rust to begin 2015. Last year he hopped over to Sony and backed up that performance with T8. I’m figuring just about the same this year as the 2009 champ at WCC is bringing with him the putter that he used to lead the field in SGP last week.
Sang-moon Bae (C): He won the Frys.com in October. He won the Donghae in November after finishing T5 at CIMB. He was sixth last week as the normally fantastic putter led the field in GIR. He opened with 63 at Sony last year but I’m more concerned with his current form. So much for being worried about serving in the Korean military!
Charles Howell III (B): Tis the season for three sticks to do his annual bankrolling and it all starts this week at WCC. CH III has teed it up 13 times here and has hit the top 10 eight times. Don’t forget the last three years he’s gone T2, T3 and T8. He’s also hit the top 10 in five of the last six. Just write him down as the one-and-done and get on with the rest of the week. He’s been over par five times in 52 rounds. That’s it.
Tim Clark (C): Runner-up to Henley in 2013 and Mark Wilson in 2011, 2015 seems to bode well for the hyper-accurate South African ball-striker. I’m not letting anything at Kapalua sway me AWAY from him. Remember, it took an amazing eagle from Bubba Watson in China that prevented him from his second win in four months and he was T7 at Nedbank his last time out in 2014. When form meets course history…
Marc Leishman (B): He was T11 at the Australian PGA in his last time out and that was on the back of his T9 at the WGC-HSBC so he finished 2014 on an up. He’ll kick off 2015 on a course where he hasn’t MC in five starts and has nothing worse than T27. In fact, in 20 rounds only three have been above 70 and the last two years, T9 in 2013 and solo fifth last year, have each included 64. Nothing having a guy like this in the lineup, especially if they turn the blowers on later in the afternoon. He won’t be bothered a bit.
Robert Streb (C): The FedExCup points leader eight events into the season cannot be ignored by gamers any longer. Since his playoff victory at The McGladrey he’s racked up two top 10s in his next three events. Last week he finished T8 on a course he’s never played before so that answers any form questions I might have had after the holiday break. His record at Sony isn’t anything to write about but I’m living in the now, man.
Webb Simpson (A): Anytime 20-something birdies are needed to contend, I have a hard time leaving Simpson out of the proceedings. He’s played well at Kapalua before and has torched another Seth Raynor design, The Old White TPC at Greenbrier a few times. His game is solid from the tee ball to the final putt but his record here isn’t spectacular. He fits the mold of the 30-something that usually does well here.
Ryan Palmer (A): Not satisfied with T5 at the PGA, he closed the final three events of The Playoffs T16, T4 and seventh. Instead of packing it in, he packed it up and headed overseas after the Playoffs to rack up T14 at the Alfred Dunhill, T8 at the BMW Masters and T22 at the WGC-HSBC. The 2010 champ here was T8 here last year.
Kevin Na (C): He jet-setted to close 2014 by finishing T2 at CIMB, T20 at HSBC and T26 at Nedbank. Not surprisingly Na blows hot and cold at WCC just like he does on TOUR. He last three top 10s in his last seven here including T8 last year. He’s now healthy so I’m fully confident that his accuracy off the tee and excellent putter will factor this week.
Tony Finau: In his first five events on the big boy circuit he’s made four cuts. Half of those have gone for top 10s (both T7s) and the other two were T12 and T14. He’s been nothing short of solid on BOTH Tours since the beginning of August. With his card all but secured, I’m excited to see how far he pushes the envelope.
Ben Martin: In six starts this year all four weekends have seen him T29 or better including his first win.
Billy Hurley III: He finished the fall T8 and T23 and only had one round of 10 above 71. If working the ball of the tee is an advantage this week, he’ll be excited to take advantage. All four rounds here last year in the 60s in just his second trip (T38).
Luke Donald: After missing out as a captain’s choice for the Ryder Cup, Donald went back to work. He left new coach Chuck Cook for old coach Pat Goss and the results are starting to turn. His last four are T41, T32, T26 and a 36-hole lead before finishing third at Nedbank. All that was old is new again.
Scott Piercy: With his MME sewed up for 2014-15 Piercy has nothing to worry about except staying healthy. If his first five events are a sign, he’s going in the right direction with T7, T17 and T16. His other two starts were MC on brand new courses.
Jason Kokrak: A slow start to the fall ramped up with T20 at SFC and bookend 66-67 for T16 at Mayakoba. He’s trending the right direction at WCC as well (T75, T72 and T20 last year).
Francesco Molinari: Last time out he painted T6 in South Africa at the Dunhill. That followed T53, T25 and T16 in November. I sense a pattern. He’d be ranked higher but this is his maiden voyage around WCC.
Shawn Stefani: He was sad to see the 2014 part come to an end as he finished T41, T25 and solo second to close out the final three events. His ball-striking will come in handy this week.
Brendon de Jonge: He’s already racked up almost $700k in just four events after clearing $1.1 million in 31 last year. His last two have seen him fall in a playoff at McGladrey and T13 at CIMB. He’s fired 62 before and has played the weekend the last four years as well.
Horses for Courses
K.J. Choi: His patience and experience could factor this week. He’s racked up three top 10s in 13 tries and that includes the 2008 title.
Brian Stuard: Gamers have learned over the last two years that Stuard loves seaside courses. Of his seven top 10s over the last two years, two have come here, one has come at Hilton Head, another at Puerto Rico, another at Mayakoba and another at Seth Raynor’s Old White TPC at Greenbrier. Only his solo fifth at Humana doesn’t “fit”. His current form doesn’t suggest he’ll fire but he was sixth last year and T5 in 2013. Half of those eight rounds are 65s.
Harris English: A third round 62 pushed him to T9 in 2013; a pair of 66s and 67s saw him claim solo fourth last year. His maiden voyage of T67 in 2012 only had one round over par. That’s his only one in 12 tries. He’s only had one top 25 since June though.
Jerry Kelly: The 2002 champ was third last year and T9 in 2011. He’s racked up seven top 10s in 17 starts. He was solo fifth at Mayakoba his last time out. Fill yer rosters, folks!
Chris Stroud: T20, MC and T13 in his last three with only one round over 70.
Jeff Overton: He’s made four on the bounce here with T20, T54, eighth and seventh last year. Nothing over 68 the last two years so it’s no wonder why there were both top 10s.
Matt Every: Ah, the awkward interview in 2012 after he opened with 66-64…That was my second tournament writing for Rotoworld. I thought THIS IS GREAT! EVERY WEEK WILL BE CONTROVERSY. Er, not really. Every bagged T6 in that edition and T8 last year.
Pat Perez: Similar to Overton, Perez has hit the top 10 the last two years as well with T9 and T8 last year. That’s four top 10s in 13 tries for the mercurial Californian which is a nice way of saying he’s quite combustible. Dissimilar to Overton, Perez has nothing better than T33 in four starts in 2014-15.
George McNeill: Only three rounds of 21 above 70 in six starts (one MC). In four of those starts he’s hit the top 20.
Off the Radar
Outside of the OWGR top 100; AKA “long shots”
David Hearn: He’s four-for-four at WCC. His last three on TOUR are T7, T14 and T16 with plenty of scores in the 60s. He’ll need more of that this week.
Yusako Miyazato: He’s made eight weekends in a row on the bounce on the Japan Tour. His last four finishes are T10, T6, T22 and T9.
Hideto Tanihara: T8 last year and T54 the year before. He fired a 65 each time.
Kevin Kisner: He’s only put one round of six in the 60s here. I figure if I put a former Georgia Bulldog non-winner in this category I have a decent chance to catch. He’s a super putter.
John Huh: He’s made four cuts on the bounce but nothing better than T25. He’s never MC here but never finished better than T31. He’ll hit every fairway and make most putts.
Brice Garnett: A pair of 67s on his maiden voyage matched up nicely with his pair of 66s his last time out at Mayakoba where he enjoyed solo sixth. #cutmaker
Kyle Reifers: He’s made five on the bounce to open his season including T14 and T29 in his last two. His only trip to WCC saw him post 65-75.
John Peterson: He was T20 last year in his first attempt and enters the week without a MC in the new season. Ball-striking will not be the problem.
Not this week for these guys…
Nicholas Thompson: In six starts T41 in 2013 is the best one.
John Senden: Nothing better than T20 in the last four years and no top 10s in 11 tries in his career. He’d make a great late-round pick up but folks will buy the name too early. Don’t over-reach!
Johnson Wagner: He MC three in a row here before winning. He’s MC the next two after picking up his trophy.
Mark Wilson: The 2011 champ hasn’t posted anything lower than 68 in three events after winning. MC, MC and T51 were the results.
Graham DeLaet: I asked him on Twitter if he was healthy. He said he was. I’m going to let him play himself into shape after his very quiet fall. I don’t like jumping on guys their first event back after WD. See: Stadler, Kevin last week in my preview.
Rookie/Up-and-Comer of the Week Last Week
Once called the “Jordan Spieth” of the week, I had to retire that name after his last two seasons on TOUR. Now, we’ll keep a broad view of newer names/faces that gamers should pay attention to as the season moves on. Some former examples in this column include Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Chesson Hadley.
Shriners: Tony Finau, T7
McGladrey: Robert Streb, WIN
CIMB: Cameron Smith, T5
HTOC: Nick Taylor played his sixth event as a pro. He’s won 1/6 of the events he’s entered. That’s worth keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 4ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat WEDNESDAY at NOON ET. We will be breaking down the field at the HTOC and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/GlassWGCL) on Twitter.