The PGA TOUR is in Hawaii for the second consecutive week, but the venues could not play more differently. While Kapalua often rewards overpowering drives and towering long irons, Waialae Country Club — site of this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii — is a shorter, much tighter track that rewards shot-making and thought over brute force. “Here it requires a lot greater ball flights, as well, off the tee,” Jordan Spieth said this week of Waialae. “Tighter landing areas. You have to have smaller misses. I think that kind of plays into our favor. “We like to think our way around the golf course a lot and miss it in the right location. Kapalua, it didn’t really matter. There are a few holes that are tight. But for the most part, massive fairways, massive greens, and the way it played this year, was just kind of target practice with it being softer.” Waialae plays at 7,125 yards and is one of the tighter courses on the PGA TOUR. Since 2003, the course’s fairways have been the second-toughest to hit, with only Quail Hollow Club being more difficult. Just 51.1 percent of all drives at the Sony Open in Hawaii have found the fairways (43,731 of 85,540) in that time frame. In fact, the 551-yard 18th hole has been the most difficult fairway to hit on TOUR (see the graphic below). Other than Spieth, who are some players to watch this week? Well, it’s hard to go against Hideki Matsuyama, who has won four times and finished second in his last six worldwide starts. He also owns six top-5 finishes since last season’s PGA Championship – the best mark on TOUR. Looking for a horse for this course? Jimmy Walker might be the one. He is a combined 75 under par here since 2011, an amazing 12 shots better than the next player (Matt Kuchar at 63 under). Yes, he’s in form. No, his track record at Waialae is not good. Which factor is most important this week? Coming in hot after a final-round, bogey-free 65 at Kapalua. Won here in 2014 and 2015. Says Walker: “I feel like I know the golf course, and I think that’s a big advantage.” THREE PLAYERS TO PONDER THE LANDING ZONE Since 2003, the 551-yard 18th is the most-difficult fairway to hit on the PGA TOUR. In 6,110 tee shots on the 18th hole, just 36.1 percent of players have found the fairway (2,204). As the graphic from 2016 shows, most players struggle to avoid the left side, often finding danger behind palm trees and in the bunkers. WEATHER CHECK Expect sunny to partly cloudy conditions with temperatures in the mid-70s all week in Honolulu. Most importantly, the forecast calls for light winds before picking up slightly toward the end of the week. All in all, a pretty respectable forecast. Check out the Weather Hub for the latest forecast from Kapalua SOUND CHECK We certainly had the firepower last week. Just a couple tough breaks and then a couple bad swings. … But we played well enough to win. ODDS AND ENDS Scrambling man: Daniel Berger is known as one of the biggest hitters on TOUR. But this year he’s also getting it done around the greens. Berger is scrambling at a 75-percent clip early on, getting up-and-down on 42 of 56 opportunities. That ranks second on TOUR. Greens monster: Since his rookie season in 2007, Brandt Snedeker has ranked in the top-10 in strokes gained: putting seven of 10 seasons. Snedeker lost in a playoff last season at the Sony Open in Hawaii. Hawaiian Big Cheese: In 19 career events at the Sony, Wisconsin native Jerry Kelly has nine top-10s including a victory in 2002. In his last three seasons, Kelly has finished third, T6 and T9. Pretty respectable for the 50-year-old Kelly, who is eligible for PGA TOUR Champions this season. PREVIEW
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