Field takes aim at Sony title


POSTED: Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Sony Open in Hawaii offers something for everyone this week.

If you like the established veterans, then Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Justin Leonard, John Daly, David Toms, Davis Love III, Tom Lehman, Retief Goosen, Corey Pavin and Mark Calcavecchia will fill your dance card.

More interested in the past major winners? There are 16 of them in the field this week, including all four from 2009—Masters champ Angel Cabrera, U.S. Open winner Lucas Glover, British Open champ Stewart Cink and PGA Championship winner Y.E. Yang—the first time that has happened in this PGA Tour event since its inception.

How about those local golfers? There are six of them in the field this week, including Dean Wilson, Parker McLachlin and Tadd Fujikawa, who brought fans out in record numbers last year after his 62 in the third round.

And rookies? Well, there 18 of those wide-eyed wonders wandering around the Waialae Country Club course starting today at 7 a.m., including the latest can't-miss kid in 21 year-old Californian Rickie Fowler. Haven't heard of him yet? You will, and perhaps as early as this week.

This may be his first event as a full-fledged tour member, but he's already played in eight PGA tournaments, including losing in a playoff last year at the Fry' Open in Phoenix to Troy Matteson. Fowler's name prompted 2007 Sony Open champ Paul Goydos to recall his first tournament—the 1993 United Airlines Hawaiian Open—where he shot 80, 75 and went home.

“;My chances of winning that tournament were zero,”; Goydos said. “;They were not measurable.”;

If you like watching your defending champions and reminisce about the old days, there are plenty of those players to go around as well. The only two missing from the scene are 1999 champ Jeff Sluman and 2000 winner Paul Azinger. The remaining eight are here, including defending champ Zach Johnson.

Waialae even welcomed back 1998 Hawaiian Open winner John Huston, whose 28-under 260 forced the change of this course from an easy par 72 to a more difficult par 70, particularly when the tradewinds blow. Pavin even predates Huston. He won back-to-back events here in 1986-87, something the U.S. Ryder Cup captain hopes to draw upon as the tournament progresses.

Steve Stricker is the lone representative among the top-10 golfers in the world. He is currently No. 3 with a bullet and has as good a chance as anyone in this 144-man field. Granted, he finished in a disappointing tie for 23rd in his 2009 tour of the tight course, but Stricker does have a pair of ties for fourth in his five previous appearances.

That's not quite as stout as Els' history here. Throw out the tie for 39th here last year and in five previous appearances, the South African with three major titles to his credit placed second in 2005, first in 2004, first in 2003, fourth in 2001 and fifth in 2000. Now, that's a track record.

“;It's a great place and it's got a nice golf course,”; Els said of Hawaii. “;I've done well in the past. I'm happy just to be here. I've had a lot of top-five's here. I've won twice. Here, you've got to play a bit of golf. You've got to place the ball and check where the wind is coming from.”;

A purse of $5.5 million is up for grabs with the winner taking home a cool $990,000. The top 70 and ties will play on to the weekend. It helps if you teed it up at the winners-only event on Maui the previous week. Eight of the past 11 winners at Waialae were on the Plantation Course the week before.