HONOLULU (TBEN) – For the 31 Sony Open players who took the 30-minute flight over Maui, the decision to play was an easy one. They are already in Hawaii, guaranteed tropical weather and the sea level course is an easy walk.
Collin Morikawa wouldn’t know otherwise.
In the two years since he left Cal and turned pro, he has won every year on the PGA Tour and has been eligible for the Tournament of Champions to start the new year. Plus, her family has a history in Hawaii.
Would the PGA Champion soar in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for just a week?
“It’s a great hypothesis,” Morikawa said with a smile. “But Hawaii is special to me. I would love to come here from year round. It obviously has the right kind of vibe. This allows you to start the year. And I love it here. ”
His year didn’t start too badly, except for one lap. With back-to-back innings of 65, he entered the final round in Kapalua with a header shot and shot a 73.
For Waialae’s other 113 players, the long journey was well worth it. This includes Charles Howell III, who is making his 20th straight start at the Sony Open and has never left the islands without money in the bank. In addition to never missing the cup, Howell has seven places in the top 5, but still no victory.
“This tournament has obviously been very good for me,” said Howell. “It’s an event that God willing I will never miss as long as I can play. There was a couple that I messed up there at the end where I could have played a little better to maybe have won, but it was such a big event for me. ”
In some ways, this surprises him. For those who haven’t qualified to start the year in Kapalua, this is their first competition in almost two months. Even after a year that stretched into December due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the last tournament many played was just over a month ago.
“I’m more impressed to have had so many top 10 finishes as I am, just because it’s the first comeback race after a break,” said Howell. “ And you don’t always know how your game is. ”
Cameron Smith won last year, ending a six-game winning streak of the Sony Open that started in Kapalua. The advantage seems to be with those who already have a tournament on the ledger this year, although the numbers against a field of 144 players are against them. There were only 42 players in Kapalua last week.
For the Sony Open, the field is a decrease compared to the previous year.
The Tournament of Champions had its strongest field last week since the start of the world rankings in 1986 with eight of the top 10 players. Of those eight, only two came to Waialae – Morikawa and Webb Simpson.
Dustin Johnson had a busy period in February that includes consecutive weeks in Saudi Arabia and Pebble Beach. Jon Rahm plays pretty much every week the rest of the time on the West Coast Swing. Justin Thomas will be heading to Abu Dhabi next week, a long journey even without having started in Hawaii.
It’s a different year with the pandemic, without fans and not a big tournament sponsor Sony presence. It’s hard to find reviews on just about anything golf-related when the PGA Tour has managed to play every week – except for three weeks in late December – without a hiatus since it resumed in June.
No matter who plays, winning doesn’t come easily these days.
Harris English finally broke through last week in Kapalua with a birdie on the 18th hole to force a playoff and another birdie on the 18th to beat Joaquin Niemann. It was his first victory in just over seven years and English has company. Throw in the majors, and five of the 11 winners had gone at least six years without a trophy.
The Englishman was world No.29 when he won, a testament to his strong game. The other four – Stewart Cink, Martin Laird, Brian Gay and Robert Streb – were all outside the top 300.
It can happen any week, and the next hit is in Heaven. Morikawa thinks the score is so good that the players can’t afford to drop the gas. This was true last week in Maui, he expects the same in Oahu.
For tournaments in the same state, the plantation course in Kapalua and Waialae along the shores just down the road from Waikiki Beach could not be different. Morikawa doesn’t have a favorite except in one aspect.
“I like walking on Sony, I’ll tell you,” he said.