Sony Open: Round One thoughts from Windy Waialae

For those who thought that the Sentry would be the only windy tournament in Hawaii in January, you were sorely mistaken. A windy day at Waialae made scoring tough, and here are some thoughts and observances from the opening round at the Sony Open.

Before you start, yes, I know that round one isn’t complete yet. It was delayed due to darkness. Even in Hawaii, it gets dark early-ish this time of year. There are 14 players who have yet to complete their round, and they are spread out on the 16th, 17th, and 18th holes. As none of them are under par, it seems like a good enough time to talk a bit about the opening round of the Sony Open.

Personally, I love watching Hawaii events. As a west coaster, it means that I can watch the evens when I get home from work, and can even fully focus on them and watch once the kids are asleep and the house is quiet. It makes for an enjoyable end to the day.

The Sony Open is no different. Yes, it does wind down a little earlier due to darkness, but that kind of has to be expected in January. That wasn’t the main story from day one though. That story would be the blustery conditions at Waialae, as wind ruled the opening round.

There were gusts in the high 20’s, and it seemed semi-regular as well, constantly affecting everyone on the course. It was strong enough that it was effecting golfers all over the course, even on the green. There were multiple putts that had their routes and destinies changed due to the wind and in different ways.

There was a hole ( I can’t remember exactly which… again, two young kids, hard to focus sometimes) where they were putting both against the grain, and into the wind. Players had to smash the ball to get it there and were still leaving it short. If you had a 20-footer, you needed to hit it like a 50-footer, if not more.

There was yet another hole where the break was left to right, and the wind was blowing left to right. I can’t count the number of times I saw a player hit what I thought was the perfect putt, only to see it miss to the right by a foot or more due to the wind creating a crazy amount of late break on the ball.

Do you know who it didn’t affect at all?

Collin Morikawa.

The 22-year-old played a clean round, carding five birdies, and sits at the top of the leaderboard after the opening round of the Sony Open with a two-shot lead at -5. Maybe we should’ve seen this coming, as the wind didn’t seem to bother him much last week at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he finished T-7th at -9.

There are some surprising names near the top of the leaderboard, none more so than Ted Potter Jr., who came into the event at +40000, or 400/1 odds to win. Potter does have a good history here, as I detailed in the sleeper picks earlier this week. Potter has finished T-13th twice here, and this is one of the best starts he has ever had, shooting a -3 67 to sit T-2nd after the first round.

There was not a lot of strong scoring that happened at the Sony Open, and you can tell when you look at the hole by hole scoring numbers. There were only three that played under par, with the top two being the par-five 18th (-0.674) and the par-five 9th (-0.293). The 5th hole played exactly even on the day and was the fourth easiest hole.

The par-threes, other than the 17th, were killers all day long. They ranked as the 5th, 4th, and 2nd hardest holes on the course for the day, represented at the 7th, 4th, and 11th hole, respectively. The one that stood out was the 2nd hole, a par-four. It was nearly twice as difficult as the 11th hole, coming in at +0.694 strokes on average. There were only five birdies here all day. When you see 16 doubles and two “others”, you know it was a rough go for nearly everyone.

Only 30 players managed to shoot under par, with another 17 sitting at even throughout the opening round. There are going to be plenty of players over par that make the cut and continue to play into the weekend, and watching that cut line is going to be an intriguing part of today’s action once round two gets underway.

Next: Pete Dye, The Marquis de Sod: “I’ve got dirt for life!”

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Round One is going to resume play at 7:45 local time, with round two beginning as scheduled. Make sure to stay tuned all weekend long for more coverage of the Sony Open.