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Jack Nicklaus' Muirfield Village Golf Club traditionally plays as one of the tougher tracks on TOUR. …

Sony Open

Waialae Country Club

Honolulu, Hawaii

Waialae Country Club

Yards: 7,044

Par: 70 (35-35)

Greens: Bermudagrass (6,500 square feet on average)

Rough: Bermudagrass at 2.5”

Stimpmeter: 11’

Bunkers: 78

Water Hazards: 4

Course Architect: Seth Raynor (1927)

Purse: $5,600,000

Winner’s Share: $1,008,000

FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner

Defending Champion: Rookie Russell Henley smoked the field by firing a tournament record 256 as he defeated Tim Clark by three shots. There was no wind in 2013 hence the scores being so low.

Dates:  January 9-12

Format: The first full-field tournament of 2013 that will feature stroke play for 72 holes with the top 70 and ties advancing to the weekend.

Notes: The course is inverted for TOUR play and was completely renovated for play in 1999. Any historical data from last century is probably not necessary. Only two par fives on this par 70 layout. Heck, the official website doesn’t have any winners listed before 1999.

History Lessons

After winning the first six tournaments of 2013-14, the American contingent rolls on as Zach Johnson makes it seven-for-seven. He adds his name to Jimmy Walker, Webb Simpson, Chris Kirk, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson and Harris English as the race for Ryder Cup points heats up stateside. Johnson is a no-brainer from this list.

After racking up 12 first-time winners in 2013, only Jimmy Walker has broken his maiden in the first seven events of 2013-14. Don’t worry; there are still 38 more to go!

The Young Guns are led by Johnson, 29, who has more wins than anyone under 30 on TOUR, Simpson, 28, Kirk, 28 and English 24. The Prime Timers have Jimmy Walker, 34, Ryan Moore, 30, and Zach Johnson, 37, waving their flag. The Old Folks, the 40-and-over crew, are waiting for their first trip to the winner’s circle this season.

Pay Attention: It’s FREE

Russell Henley taught gamers a very important lesson last year. Tim Clark and Charles Howell III reinforced another. Henley, fresh off the Web.com Tour, destroyed a wind-free Waialea as he fired 24-under-par 256. He fired three rounds of 63 and made five consecutive birdies to secure his first TOUR win. He was the first player in his 20s to win since Paul Stankowski in 1997 and was the first player to win in his first on Oahu since Jerry Kelly in 2002. He also joined Bruce Lietzke (1977) as the only other first-time winner. Those are some pretty strong trends that were trampled last year because of one important factor: there wasn’t any wind. He was also one of the few (nine of the last 15) not to play the previous week at Kapalua in the winner’s only tournament.  As for Clark and Howell III, they reminded gamers that horses-for courses can be a very powerful tool when assembling your line ups for the multiple formats we all play.

If you have any ideas about back-to-back champs, Ernie Els is the only player to win the HTOC and the Sony Open in the same season. Ernie Els is also the only player to defend his Sony Open title since the course was renovated in 1999. Els is not in the field this week.

Past Champions in the Field with Winning Score in Parentheses

2002: Jerry Kelly (266)

2005: Vijay Singh (269)

2007: Paul Goydos (266)

2008: K.J. Choi (266)

2009: Zach Johnson (265)

2010: Ryan Palmer (265)

2011: Mark Wilson (264)

2012: Johnson Wagner (267)

2013: Russell Henley (256)

Hawaiian Double Duty

These are the players who teed it up last week on Maui:

Zach Johnson (WIN)

Jordan Spieth (2nd)

Jason Dufner (5th)

Matt Kuchar (T6)

Adam Scott (T6)

Harris English (T11)

Woody Austin (T13)

Brian Gay (T13)

Ken Duke (T16)

Chris Kirk (T16)

Michael Thompson (T16)

Sang-Moon Bae (T21)

Jimmy Walker (T21)

Scott Brown (T24)

Boo Weekley (26th)

Russell Henley (27th)

D.A. Points (T28)

Derek Ernst (30th)

Inside the Ropes

In 1927, Seth Raynor was commissioned to design a track to attract tourists to Honolulu and he responded with a design that featured some holes from the greatest courses in the world. The Hawaiian Open made its debut in 1965 and has been played at Waialae ever since. Dog-legged fairways that move right-to-left and left-to-right keep the players on their toes from the tee box. The rough, around 2.5 inches of Bermudagrass, will keep the players attention but it will be the greens where the tournament is won and lost. For example, CH III was T66 in fairways last year but was T8 in GIR so the rough off the fairway isn’t as penal as we think. The greens at Waialae are over 6,500 square feet and have plenty of undulation that will test even the strongest of putters. Keeping the ball on the proper part of the green will reward those accurate with iron play and those who don’t hit GIR must be able to get up-and-down to keep bogeys off the card.

All of that said, the average winning score since 1999 is around 15-under par so there will be chances to make birdies. Both the five pars are gettable and if the wind cooperates, multiple chances for birdie are out there. Johnson Wagner, in 2012, didn’t make a bogey on the back nine en route to his victory; Russell Henley, granted there wasn’t any wind, made only two bogeys on the WEEK last year. Waialae annually ranks in the easier half of the courses played on TOUR but it has produced quality winners over the years. Experience on the undulating greens and having patience with the trade winds are qualities that I’m looking for this week. Seth Raynor also designed The Old White Course at Greenbrier so players get a couple chances a year to navigate his work.

The Chalk

The players that should be on your fantasy rosters and should be making the most *noise come the weekend.

Matt Kuchar: He finished the week T6 at Kapalua and the last two times he’s teed it up at Waialae he’s finished T5. He led the field in birdies last week and he was second in putts per GIR. His best round last week was his final round, six-under 67, so he comes to Honolulu trending in the right direction.

Adam Scott: He’s the second-best player in the world so it should be no surprise that he’s at or near the top of this column whenever he tees it up. This is his last tournament before a well-deserved hiatus so I would expect plenty from him. He played here last in 2010 but MC. He’s hardly the player now than he was back then. He was second in 2009 so that should make you feel better. He also led the field in strokes gained-putting last week so that should make you feel even better!

Charles Howell III: He’s teed it up for 12 tournaments at Waialae and he’s found the top 10 a whopping seven times. Should I keep typing? His last five starts he’s posted T3, T2, T68, T5 and fourth. Throw in a T2 from 2007, T3 from 2005 and T4 from 2002 and it’s shocking that he hasn’t closed the deal here.  #oneanddone

Jordan Spieth: Each time out he finds a new barrier and each time it seems like he clearly hurdles it. Last week, in his first time at Kapalua he made only two bogeys. He shot 62 at Deutsche Bank. He made seven birdies in 10 holes coming home at The TOUR Championship. He chipped in to get in a playoff at the JDC where he went on to win for the first time. He also enjoys “island golf” as he was second last week, second in Puerto Rico last March and T9 on Hilton Head. Actually, he was pretty good everywhere but he doesn’t mind some wind and water obviously.

Zach Johnson: The 2009 champ here and the champ last week at Kapalua, Johnson adds his name to a prestigious list of “double Hawaiian winners”. After only posting one top 10 at Kapalua in six events before his win last week, Johnson, in eight events at Waialae, only has one top 10 as well, his win in 2009. His form has been excellent for six months. I would expect another top 10 this week based on his form alone. As stated above, only Ernie Els has gone back-to-back while island hopping as he took the HTOC and the Sony in 2003.

Chris Kirk: He put 10 of 12 career rounds in the 60s as he’s playing this even for the fourth straight season. He posted his best finish of the lot last season where his second round 62 buoyed him to a T5 finish. He did that with an EIGHT on his scorecard so to say he likes it around Waialae is a gross understatement. His putter was cool last week as he finished T16 at Kapalua but he still was T9 in birdies.

Tim Clark: In four events at the Sony Open he’s finished second twice, including his last two finishes, T12 and T25. He’s shot 64 or better in three of those four tournaments. His last 11 rounds are under par. He’s seen four weekends in five events to start 2013-14 and that includes T2 at The McGladrey when he fired 62 to close. He was T36 the following week at Mayakoba but that included a 63. Remember, he shot 21-under here and LOST BY THREE to Russell Henley last year!

Jason Dufner: After making only five bogeys and a boatload of pars last week in finishing fifth, Dufner should be flying high at Honolulu this week. His best finishes in six starts are just T13 and T20 but he’s seen this course enough times to have figured it out.

Harris English: I like the fact that he only made two bogeys in his final 36 holes at Kapalua last week. Not bad for his first trip around the Plantation course. His chilly putter saw most of those holes turn into pars but he was bogey-free 69 (four-under) to wrap up on Monday. He’s played at Waialae twice and finished T67 in 2012 and T9 last year which included 62 on Saturday. His worst round in 5 tournaments to begin the year is 71. Ding.

Jimmy Walker: His first trip to Kapalua saw him spray it everywhere and struggle to hit GIR but when he did, he was third in putts per GIR. He heads to Waialae where he’s a bit more familiar with the surroundings. This will be his eighth time around this Seth Raynor design. He finished 68-64 last year to finish T26 and was fourth in 2011. I’m going to ride him again this season as I did in 2013. Heck, Rickie Fowler saw what Butch Harmon did with him and now Fowler’s with Butch!

Hideki Matsuyama: The young Japanese player brought home a victory in his native Japan at the Casio World Open in the “off-season” and pegged another top 10 finish at the Phoenix Dunlop. This makes me forget about his WD back in November. He’s 0-fer in three attempts at Waialae but I think he’s turned a corner professionally, evidenced by his run stateside in 2013, especially the majors. With full-time status, the only pressure on him is whatever he’s putting on himself.

Horses-for-Courses/Form Players/Long Shots

Brian Gay: After MC in his first two trips here in in 1999 and 2000, Gay has played the weekend in 12 straight events. In his last five events he’s finished T31, T6, T13, T25 and T5. Gay broke his duck at Kapalua last week with his first round in the 60s, 65, and that ended up being the low round of the tournament. He should be on your radar this week as he was also T4 at McGladrey.

John Rollins: With finishes of T20, T10 and T8 in three of the last four years, Rollins needs to be on your radar this week. Those 12 rounds have produced nine rounds in the 60s and zero rounds over par. Saddle up!

Brian Stuard: His solo second at Mayakoba in his last time out suggests he’s in good form, no? His scorecard at Waialae in 2013 read 66-68-65-65 for T5. He also racked up a pair of 66s in a T25 finish in 2010.  He was also T6 at the Greenbrier last year so he must like Seth Raynor designs. 

Rory Sabbatini: Since his WD in 2004, Sabbatini has seen the weekend in nine straight Sony Opens. In that time he has racked up a second, T2, T12 and a T13 as his highest finishes. He only has seven rounds over par in that stretch as well. He bounced back from a slow 2013-14 start with T3 at Mayakoba his last time out. Plenty of experience is a positive and he replaced Dustin Johnson in the HTOC Pro-Am so I know he’s been over there for a bit getting ready!

Ryo Ishikawa: In four events in 2013-14, the young Japanese has racked up finishes of T21, T2, T66 and T5 so he’s continued the excellent form that saw him regain his TOUR card in the Web.com Playoffs.

Josh Teater: He’s trending in the proper direction at Waialae as he MC in his first two events without a round in the 60s. In his last two visits, five of his eight rounds have been in the 60s and that includes his two closing rounds of 65-65 last year to see him secure T15.         

Brendon Todd: His last finish on any TOUR outside of the top 30 was in April. In the opening part of the season he continued his steady play as he racked up T26, T12 and T16 in the first part of the 2013-2014 season. He’s looking to join former Georgia Bulldogs Russell Henley, Harris English and Chris Kirk as a winner on TOUR in the last calendar year.

Scott Brown: He’s already had a T3, T4 and T16 in five 2013-14 events and is well on his way to playing with house’s money for the rest of the season. Some folks will argue that players who play well in Mayakoba and Puerto Rico play well at Waialae. He fits that angle as well.

Chris Stroud: It’s been an all-or-nothing start this season for Stroud as he’s played four events and finished T3 twice and MC in the other two. After finishing T13 in 2012, he MC last year as he fired 71-69.  He’s now seen the weekend in two of four starts at Waialae but I’ll take a shot on a guy with that much upside.

Jerry Kelly: The 2002 champ loves it over here as he’s teeing it up for the 17th time in 2014. He’s made 13 of 16 cuts and only has a handful of rounds over par.  He’s racked up six top 10s in those 16 starts.

Sean O’Hair:  With finishes of T2 and T12 in his last three starts at Waialae, he could be an excellent fit in later rounds of deeper drafts. After securing his playing privileges through an excellent Web.com Playoffs, O’Hair has started T26, T15 before MC and MC in his final two events of 2013.

Scott Piercy: #hiya. He’s seen the weekend three times in five starts at the Sony and has T12 (2009), T23 (2012) and T15 (2013) to show for his troubles. He opened last year 64-64 before 72 on Saturday knocked him off the unbelievable pace set by Russell Henley. He rebounded for 68 on Sunday to stay in the top 15. Only three of his 11 rounds in 2013-14 are in the 60s.

Jeff Overton: The newlywed is looking to continue the momentum he created last fall after finishes of T9, T16, T16 and T23 in five events (MC in the other). After a disappointing, by his standards, 2013, Overton is currently sitting 19th in the FedExCup standings. I like him this week as 10 of his last 12 rounds at Waialae are in the 60s.

Will MacKenzie: He hasn’t finished better that T42 in four appearances at the Sony but his current form has my attention. Similar to Overton, Will Macca has posted T9, T15 and T12 in four events to get things rolling in the right direction this season.

Scott Langley: He was T3 last year in his rookie season and fired 17-under par. He had 24 birdies and an eagle. He, sadly, also had NINE bogeys. He opened with 62. If you need a deep, horse-for-course guy, here he is.    His last two top 25s are island courses, T22 at McGladrey and T24 at Harbour Town.

Marc Leishman: If the wind blows, it won’t hurt to have this fella on your squad this week. The Aussie has four tournaments under his white belt here and has finishes of T12, T20, T27 and T9 last year that included four rounds of 68 or better. He’s a solid fill to any roster.

Carl Pettersson: All or nothing, so you can choose! In his last eight starts he’s finished T59, T2, MC, T5, MC, T25, MC and T10. If you believe in numerology, a good one is on the horizon this year!

Aloha

K.J. Choi: He followed his 2008 victory with a T12 but his last four outings here, all in a row, have been MC, T38, MC and T39.

Mark Wilson: His fall has consisted of one cut made in three events and that was T48 on Sea Island. He’s missed the cut in both his starts here after his victory in 2011.

Johnson Wagner: In his last five starts here he’s MC except for his 2012 victory. His quiet 2013 seeped into 2013-14 as he’s begun this season MC, MC and T58 in his last three starts.

Cameron Tringale: He’s 0-4 here. That’s a Golden Sombrero for you baseball fans.

Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week

The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.

Frys.com: Hideki Matsuyama, T3; Brooks Koepka, T3; Max Homa, T9.

SHCO: Ryo Ishikawa is only 22, don’t forget, T2; Chesson Hadley, T5.

CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!

WGC-HSBC: Jordan Spieth was 17th. Tommy Fleetwood (T18) is only 22 and plays in Europe. Matsuyama WD with a bad back.

McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek

OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.

HTOC:  Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.

One-and-Done

SEASON TOTAL: $374,474

Frys.com: Gary Woodland, MC. Well, at least I don’t have to worry about when I’m using GARY WOODLAND again!

SHFC Open: Hideki Matsuyama. Time to break through, son. Matsuyama WD with injury so he was replaced with Nick Watney. He finished T48 for $15,264

CIMB Classic: Let’s try this again: Hideki Matsuyama. There’s no cut. This pleases me. His T25 after 74 on Sunday does not please me. Oh well. Here’s $53,433 into the piggy bank.

WGC-HSBC: Martin Kaymer. There’s no other place I would consider using him and he’s the defending champ on this track. #hangsonfordearlife. Kaymer’s third round 62 dared me to dream but his T8 and $161,667 is a nice deposit.

The McGladrey Classic: David Toms. He’s finished T3 in 2010 and second last year. His recent form suggests he’s playing well and I don’t see another chance to burn him down the road. It was him or CH III. Well, BOTH of my selections finished T27. I should have listened to O…T27 was good for $39,050.

OHL Mayakoba: Brian Gay. When form meets course history…  Well, that was a nice theory but it resulted in T45 and $18,060. I’m glad 2013 is now over.

HTOC: Martin Laird. Since I’m off to a woeful start I see no reason to burn a premium player. Chris Kirk was my second choice but nobody wins in back-to-back starts plus he’s just had another child. Laird is the horse-for-course.

Sony: Charles Howell III. He plays great in the early part of the season and his record at Waialae has everything BUT a win. If you notice, I saved most of my heavy hitters for the latter part of 2013 last year and that strategy worked out.

GolfChannel.com Fantasy Challenge

Sony Open

Glass ($768,000; Rank: 16,247)

Group 1: Matt Kuchar

Group 2: Charles Howell III

Group 3: Brian Stuard

Group 4: Sean O’Hair

Rob Bolton ($822,750; Rank: 13,511)

Group 1: Zach Johnson

Group 2: Charles Howell III

Group 3: Jeff Overton

Group 4: Will MacKenzie

Ryan O’ Sullivan ($747,083; Rank: 16,924)

Group 1: Zach Johnson

Group 2: Charles Howell III

Group 3: Brendon Todd

Group 4: Briny Baird

Ned Brown ($822,500; Rank: 13,462)

Group 1: Matt Kuchar

Group 2: Charles Howell III

Group 3: Brian Stuard

Group 4: Kevin Kisner

Ned said, “…

Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf.  He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years.  Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read.  Now, Ned also provides us with his GolfChannel.com Fantasy Challenge selections as well!

GROUP A

Charles Howell III-- CH III played well in the fall with T5 at the Shiners, a T7 at the CIMB and a T6 at Mayakoba. The Sony Open is one of his best events with 7 top 10s in 12 starts, including top 5 finishes in four ( 4 in '09, T5 in '10, T2 in '12 and T3 last year) of his last five starts here.

Matt Kuchar-- It's a real coin flip between Adam Scott and Matt Kuchar. I'd love to give the nod to Scott because he is not going to play on the PGA Tour again until February, but Kuchar has played better at Waialae with T5s in his last two starts ('13, '11).

SUPER SUBS

Adam Scott, Brian Gay


GROUP B

Jordan Spieth-- He didn't get the memo last week that rookies at Kapalua have trouble with the course. The talent speaks for itself, but his mental part of the game is just amazing for a 20-year-old. After his second place in Maui, he is a must use this week.

Zach Johnson-- He is on a roll right now with a win at the World Challenge and an impressive win at the TOC. His recent record at the Sony is so-so, but he did win a championship here in '09.

Brian Stuard-- He played well in the fall with a T15 at the Shriners and a solo second place at Mayakoba. His best finish at the Sony came last year when he tied for fifth place.

Chris Kirk-- I was very impressed with the play of Jason Dufner last week in Maui, but he doesn't have a strong history at Waialae. Instead I'm using Chris Kirk, who played well at times in Maui, and who tied for fifth place last year at the Sony.

SUPER SUBS

Jason Dufner, Brendon de Jonge, Scott Piercy, Matt Every

GROUP C

Harris English-- He played well in the fall and that flowed over to last week at the TOC, where he tied for 11th place. English also played well at last year's Sony Open, where he tied for ninth place.

Tim Clark- Clark has quite a few career second place finishes and in the fall his best result was a T2 at the McGladrey. He has played very well in his last two starts at the Sony, where he tied for second in '11 and had a solo second place last year.

SUPER SUBS

Jimmy Walker, Jeff Overton, Carl Pettersson

“Pure Spin”

Points this week: 211

Points this season: 211

Percentile: 76th

Coming Wednesday

 

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 p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the Sony Open and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.

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