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Culp's Corner

Sony Open in Hawaii Preview

by Josh Culp
Updated On: January 6, 2020, 12:41 pm ET

The TOUR hops over to Oahu for this week's Sony Open. 

After a star-studded leaderboard at the Tourney of Champions last week, the field will expand to 144 golfers this week at Waialae Country Club. 

If recent trends continue then we can expect one of the golfers from last week's field to be hoisting the hardware come Sunday afternoon this week. 

It's seemingly been forever since we've had one of these events, but it will be a normal week when it comes to sweating the cut line. That means that just the Top 65 and ties will make it through to play the weekend. 

The Course

Waialae Country Club will host this week's festivities. That has been the case since the inaugural 1965 playing of this event. Talk about loads of history. 

This Seth Raynor design has actually dropped in yardage since the first playing of the event (7,234 then and 7,044 yards) but it's now played as a par 70 instead of a par 72. That has been the case since 1999 so nothing new on that front. 

Yardage-wise, it's around average for TOUR standards. It does force you into some longer-than-wedge clubs through the course design. It features tight, tree-lined corridors and plenty of doglegs and well-positioned bunkers. As a result, golfers often opt for positioning over power and take less than driver on their fair share of holes.

Those tight fairways lead to just 53 percent of fairways being found which is definitely on the low-end of the spectrum. From there, golfers are still able to manage two-thirds of greens in regulation which is about average. Overall, the field generally averages about 69 shots per round (-0.99 RTP).

It's challenging at times but the pair of generous par 5s easily make up for the other challenges. In fact, Waialae yields an eagle for every 144 holes played which is among the top-10 easiest courses on TOUR. That might surprise a lot of people who just look at this as a classical par-70, less-than-driver layout. The ease (and length) of those par 5s makes it so that everyone in the field can attack and score. The difficulty will likely be impacted by weather this week so don't expect this to turn into a complete birdiefest. More on that in the weather section. 

The bermuda turf often gives an edge to Southern golfers who grew up on the surface but golfers that play well on other grainy, coastal greens have also had lots of crossover success here (Mayakoba, Puerto Rico, Corales). The green sizes are right around TOUR average (6,500 square feet) and run on the slow side, right around 11 feet on the stimpmeter. 

Course Quotes

Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.

Justin Thomas: "The biggest thing is just getting it in play, because I can just hit a lot of 2-irons out here and then I’m having short irons in, and I felt comfortable enough with those that I could hit my numbers. "

Zach Johnson: "This is a course that you’ve just got to keep it in front of you. You can’t — outside of a couple tee shots, if you can really mull it, you can’t really force it. And I’m familiar with the greens. I like a good Bermuda like this. You have to hit it straight. I mean, if you hit it in the rough, it’s just hard to control shots, and it’s hard to get it close."

Russell Knox: "You’ve got to be precise off the tees here and I think that’s just what makes it fun. It’s more placement golf, and I enjoy that."

Gary Woodland"I want to pull it out [Driver] every hole but it just doesn’t set up. I did that my first couple times here and that didn’t work out for me. I’m very comfortable with where my game is.Driver feels great. I just don’t get many opportunities out here. I’m not complaining about being in the fairway either."

Adam Scott: "I just don’t think anyone can get it around this course consistently without scrambling. It is really tough to keep it in play all day and under holes and not be in this gnarly rough. "

Overview: Lots of talk about clubbing down, accuracy, and bermuda comfort. 

Correlated Courses

Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week: 

El Camaleon (Mayakoba)
TPC Scottsdale (Phoenix)
Torrey Pines (Famers)
Silverado Resort and Spa (Safeway)
PGA WEST (American Express)

There has been plenty of recent crossover between this event and the Mayakoba. Both are coastal tracks where clubbing down is preferred with grainy greens. Other than that, we see a lot of courses in the West Region show up here, mostly with easy scoring conditions. 


The Weather

Thursday: Isolated showers (20%) with sunshine and a high of 84 degrees. Winds around 25 MPH with gusts as high as 38 MPH. 

Friday: Isolated showers (20%) with winds at 22 to 24 MPH and gusts up to 35 MPH. 

Golfers dealt with heavy winds for most of the week last week at Kapalua and the gusts continue with heavy stuff expected on day one and two before calming down to 14 MPH on Saturday and 8 MPH on Sunday. Keep an eye on this forecast as the event draws nearer. 

Josh Culp

Josh Culp joined NBC Sports Edge in 2014. The DFS enthusiast from Iowa State can be found on Twitter @futureoffantasy.