Sports Watch

Bill Kwon

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, January 14, 1999

Waialae PGA’s
for a week

SONY, the one and only.

Nobody could have been happier than the members of the Waialae Country Club when Sony -- the No. 1 consumer brand in the United States -- stepped up as title sponsor to make their course the PlayStation for the PGA Tour.

Of course, it helps that Akio Morita -- Mr. Sony -- is a member of the club. And that he resides in an oceanside residence overlooking the seventh hole or the tournament's 16th.

The PGA must be glad too.

Tour commissioner Tim Finchem remarked how fortunate Hawaii and the PGA were to have quality brand-name sponsors for its first three tournaments of the year here -- Mercedes, Sony and MasterCard. You can't get better than that, although Visa might argue about the latter.

Thanks to Sony's deep pockets, the Sony Open in Hawaii will be a fixture on the tour calendar through 2002, when the purse will be $3.4 million.

Out of habit, some of the golfers, including last year's Waialae winner John Huston, are still calling this week's event the Hawaiian Open.

That will change soon enough. That's also why the Sony people decided to call the tournament the "Sony Open in Hawaii" and not the "Sony Hawaiian Open."

Call it the latter and the Associated Press will drop the company's name from the golf tournament because of its editorial policy. You can't fiddle with Sony Open. Of course, here's hoping that after 2002 it'll still be called the Sony Open in Hawaii rather than the Sony Open in San Diego, or some such place.

SO who'll be the first Sony Open champion?

Mark O'Meara wouldn't be a bad candidate to start it off. After all, he's the 1998 PGA player of the year with two majors in his resume.

Besides, having Sony, a global giant, as title sponsor is in keeping with O'Meara, who said that golf is a global game and he's a global kind of guy.

He also has won before at Waialae, capturing the Hawaiian Open in 1985.

O'Meara is one of 11 former champions in the 144-player field. The others include John Huston, Paul Stankowski and Jim Furyk, the last three winners at Waialae.

You also can't count out David Ishii, the 1990 champion who had the highest winning score with a 9-under 277 when the rough was similar to what it is this year.

Sorry to think out loud, but wouldn't it be great if Ishii wins and decides to use the two-year exemption to play on the PGA Tour? He turned down the chance back in 1990 to continue to pursue his successful career on the Japan PGA Tour.

ISHII, though, thinks the man to beat is the guy he beat in the Johnny Bellinger Shoot-Out Tuesday -- John Huston, who tore up the old Waialae course with a PGA Tour record 28-under-par 260 last year. The record had stood for 43 years.

So, ontologically speaking, can Huston be a defending champion of a tournament that doesn't exist anymore?

Ishii thinks Huston is the man this week.

Playing with nine others, including Huston, in the Shoot-Out, Ishii was most impressed by the last-ever Hawaiian Open winner.

"John Huston was hitting the best of all. He looked primed and ready to go," said Ishii, who finished 29th on the JPGA money list last year.

Twenty 1998 champions, who played in the Mercedes Championships last week at Kapalua, are in the Sony Open. But the Waialae event is a Q-School Open of sorts.

Forty-four players, including two Monday qualifiers, are entered based on their Q-School showing or for being among the top 15 money winners on the Nike Tour. That includes Canadian Mike Weir, the National Qualifying School medalist.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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