The Sony Open Is the first full-field event of the 2015 calendar year on the PGA Tour. Many of golf’s big names wait to start the year next week, when the tour hits the mainland for the West Coast swing.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of players to watch this week in Hawaii. Someone has to pocket the $1.008 million check on Sunday evening.
Jimmy Walker has to be at the top of the list of players to watch this week. He is the defending champion and is coming off a runner-up finish last week at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
He posted four rounds in the 60’s at Kapalua and except for Patrick Reed holing some magnificent shots in the Hyundai, Walker would have won.
Four players who have already won on tour this season, Nick Taylor, Ben Martin, Sang Moon Bae and Robert Streb are in the field at Waialae.
Of these Bae finished solo-sixth at 18-under-par last week and Streb was 16-under-par and T-8.
Streb is leading the FedEx Cup race and Bae is trying to earn enough money to tide him over in case he has to join the Korean military soon.
I will choose Streb this week. He is riding a ton of confidence with his win at the McGladrey Classic and has three top-10 finishes in his last four starts.
Among the veterans in the field, Zach Johnson stands out. He has won this tournament before and Waialae Country Club is a classic old-style golf course that demands precision over length.
No one is better with wedges in his hand than Johnson and he will have a multitude of wedge shots into the greens this week. Odds are he will be near the top of the leaderboard on Sunday.
For my Top European I pick, Luke Donald. He really isn’t a European anymore, as he lives in Chicago and is a Northwestern graduate. Donald has not won on the PGA Tour since 2012 and has been surprisingly quiet since his career best season in 2011. He has gone back to his old swing techniques and coaches to rekindle good memories.
I like the tried and true methods, look for Donald to have a good week at Waialae this week.
With many of the big names taking the week off, there are 18 rookies in the field this week at Waialae Country Club. The one with the best chance of winning is Carlos Ortiz.
Ortiz won three titles on the Web.com Tour last season and his strong all-around game is perfect for the tight fairways that put a premium on accuracy from the tee. If his putter will obey, Ortiz could earn his first PGA Tour victory this week.