Decorated field ready for Sony Open in Hawaii

The PGA Tour remains in America’s 50th state this week but moves from Maui to Oahu for the Sony Open, the second and final leg of its annual Hawaii swing.

The 144-player field that will test the 7,044-yard, par-70 course at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu on Thursday features nine of the top 10 golfers in the current FedExCup standings. They are: Hideki Matsuyama (ranked No. 1), Justin Thomas (2), Pat Perez (3), Mackenzie Hughes (5), Rod Pampling (6), Cody Gribble (7), Russell Knox (8), Scott Piercy (9) and Luke List (10).

All six winners from this season’s wraparound tournament schedule are on hand to chase the $1.08 million share of the $6 million combined purse.

Heading that list is Thomas, who with his win at the SBS Tournament of Champions last week at Kapulua, became the fastest player to multiple wins in a season since the wraparound schedule made its debut in 2013-14.

Five of the nine former FedExCup champions are in the field, including 2015 champ Jordan Spieth, who will play the Sony Open for the first time since 2014.

Despite missing the cut in his first appearance here, Spieth – who finished third last week on Maui, six shots off Thomas’ pace despite leading the field in birdies – likes the course and his chances this time around.

“The course is very firm and the ball is running a lot in the fairways and it’s going to continue to, which will definitely change the golf course,” Spieth said. “It’s very different from last week.

“It requires a bit of carving the ball both directions and the smaller, trickier greens are better for me. There will be times this week where the ball will release further than expected and all of the sudden you have to hit a cut around the tree. Being forced to play different trajectories and ball flights I think plays into our hands.”

Last year’s winner, Fabian Gomez of Argentina, finished 20th last week and also brings a measure of confidence to Oahu.

“Last week was my first tournament of the year and I played well,” Gomez said. “I hit well my irons but I didn’t make the number of putts that you need to make in that tournament. This week, with this kind of wind, I feel more confident because they are faster than the greens we played at Kapulua.”

Gomez debunks the thought that having so many good players in the field adds pressure to his attempt to defend his title.

“It doesn’t matter – there’s no reason to have any extra pressure because Justin is playing or Jordan is playing,” Gomez said. “I’ve been in that situation many weeks and normally have that kind of player with me. It gives you an extra concentration. It’s nice for me if I have the chance to be at the top of the leaderboard with that kind of player fighting for the title.”

Among the major championship winner in this week’s field is David Toms. Toms, who turned 50 on Jan. 4, is playing at the Sony Open (where he was the 2006 winner) before embarking on his Champions Tour career the following week at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, which is contested in the Kona district of the big island of Hawaii.

“I don’t really know what to expect, how it might go,” Toms said when asked about his upcoming Champions Tour debut. “I don’t know anything about the golf course. I hear it’s a great place, great facility.

“So I look forward to seeing some of the guys that I haven’t seen in a long time, especially in a competitive environment. I don’t really know what the Tour is all about out there. I know there’s a lot of good golf that’s played out there, so you know, I’m here because I need to get some rounds under my belt.”

The Sony Open in Hawaii is the ninth event in the PGA Tour’s wraparound schedule that bridges the end of 2016 and most of 2017.

Eleven of past 18 Sony Open winners have played the week prior at the SBS Tournament of Champions. The last player to record his first PGA Tour victory at the Sony Open was Russell Henley (2013).