By TOM LaMARRE
Only two of several players in the top-10 of the World Golf Rankings who played in The Sentry to open the PGA Tour season on the Plantation Course at Kapalua Resort on the Hawaiian island of have made the short flight over to Oahu for the second event of the year.
Those playing include eighth-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England, the 2022 U.S. Open champion, and ninth-ranked Brian Harman, who are among the favorites for the 59th Sony Open in Hawaii which start on Thursday at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu, the only course on which the tournament every has been held.
“I think it Certainly helps to have played last week,” said the left-handed Harman (pictured), who has won five times as a pro three times on the PGA Tour. “It helps you build a schedule. But you still feel the pressure of trying to do well in the FedEx Cup, because even though I have a long exemption — which is great — if you’re not in the signature events it’s going to be a hard road to get back into them.
“I’m trying to stay as sharp as I can to try to finish as best I can on the FedEx Cup. I’m already looking at the schedule like: ‘All right, I’m going to have play here, here.’ So no matter what stage you’re at, it’s always the same amount of stress.”
Si Woo Kim of South Korea claimed his fourth victory on the PGA Tour last season by making birdies on the last two holes to defeat Hayden Buckley by one stroke.
The victory came when Kim was on his honeymoon after marrying Ji Hyun Oh, a golfer who plays and has won tournaments on the Korean LPGA Tour, only a few weeks after they were married.
“The most special memory is that this was the first win after my marriage,” said Kim, who will become a parent with Oh in a couple of months. “This tournament last year was like our honeymoon and it feels good to come back. I feel my life has balance now and I’m relaxed as I have her by my side every day. In golf, not every week is perfect, but my wife gives me good influence to play well.
“I’d like to win one or two events and get back into the Tour Championship again. Last year, I secured a win and was able to get to Atlanta, which was satisfying. I wish to do something similar again. I think last season was probably my most consistent in terms of my performances.
“There are so many good players here, Sometimes hard to believe in myself. Like I always say: I’m the worst player in the field. But last year, this week gave so more confidence, and I feel more comfortable.”
Ernie Els of South Africa, Corey Pavin, Lanny Wadkins, Hubert Green and Jimmy Walker all have won the Sony Open in Hawaii twice, and Kim is trying to equal them this week. Gay Brewer captured the first one 1965.
1. Brian Harman, United States –The ninth-ranked Harman started the new season with a tie for fifth in the Sentry, shooting 64 in the final round, after winning his first major last season in the Open Championship at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England, among nine top-10 finishes. His best result in 12 starts in the Sony Open was a tie fourth in 2018, when he opened 64-63.
2. Matt Fitzpatrick, England – After winning the 2022 U.S. Open Championship at the Country Club in Brookline, Mass,. the eighth-ranked Fitzpatrick claimed his 10th and 11th pro victories last year in the RBC Heritage and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship on the DP World Tour among nine finishes in the top 10. He makes his debut in the Sony Open in Hawaii.
3. J.T. Poston, United States – Coming off a tie for fifth in the Sentry, which he posted four straight rounds in the 60s, Poston is coming off a season in which he recorded 12b finishes in the top 25, including a tie for second in the 3M Open. He has two victories on the PGA Tour, including in the 2022 John Deere Classic, and he tied for 21st in the Sony Open last season.
4. Si Woo Kim, South Korea – The defending champion in the Sony Open in Hawaii, closing with 64-64, has played well Waialae Country Club before, also finishing solo fourth in 2016, when he opened with another 64. Kim claimed his fourth victory on the PGA Tour also earned a fifth professional victory in the Stonebrae Classic the Web.com Tour during the 2017 season.
5. Ludvig Aberg, Sweden – Although he is coming off a disappointing tie for 47th in Sentry, Aberg got it when he carded a bogey-free 10-under par 63 and hopes in will carry over to this week. The Swede posted 12 top-25 finishes last year, including victories in the RSM Classic and the Omega European Masters on the DP World Tour. He making his debut Sony Open in Hawaii.
6. Chris Kirk, United States – Coming off his sixth PGA Tour victory last Sunday in The Sentry, Kirk would like to keep it going on the other side of Hawaii in the Sony Open in Honolulu. He has played in at Waialae Country Club 13 times finished second in 2014 in and 2021, third last yea4 and for fifth in 2013, so this could be a course for him to make it two victories in a row.
7. Byeong Hun An, South Korea – After four scores in the 60s at Kapalua tie finish solo fourth in the Sentry, An appears to be ready for another strong season after recording 12 top-10s. Although has yet win tournament on the PGA Tour, he has twice lost out in playoffs. He played in the Sony Open in Hawaii for the first time last season and closed with 65-66-67 tie for 12th.
8. Sahith Theegala, United States –
9. Eric Cole, United States —
10. Corey Conners, Canada —
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Matt Kuchar, United States; J.J. Spaun, United States; Tyrrell Hatton, England; Russell Henley, United States; Will Zalatoris, United States; Cam Davis, Australia; Hideki Matsuyama, Japan; Justin Rose, England; Akshay Bhatia, United States; Stephan Jaeger, Germany.
1. Rico Hoey, United States
2. Taiga Semikawa, Japan
3. Sami Valimaki, Finland
4. Carl Yuan, China
5. Josh Teater, United States
For first- round tee times and complete results once the tournament starts, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard