Eager players gather for Sony Open
Jeff Maggert is starting his 23rd season on the PGA Tour, and some things never change.
''The fun part about this week is that everyone is in a good mood,'' Maggert said Wednesday. ''They're not complaining about how they've been playing.''
Much like spring training in baseball, the Sony Open is filled with optimism for players young and old as the first full-field event of the season.
No one has more confidence than Dustin Johnson, coming off a season-opening win at the Tournament of Champions the day before on Maui. The last player to start the season by winning both tournaments in Hawaii was Ernie Els in 2003.
Everyone else starts from scratch. The rookies tend to have higher expectations, perhaps because they don't know any better.
John Daly remembers his rookie season in 1991, when he missed half the cuts in his opening six events, tied for fourth at the Honda Classic and felt like he had his card locked up for next year when he drove up to Crooked Stick as an alternate for the PGA Championship and won.
''I was just trying to get my card before the PGA,'' Daly said. ''As for the rookies, I'm not going to speak for them, but I would think they're goal is to make $850,000 as quickly as they can and keep their card.''
Good thing he's not speaking for them.
Luke List was asked for his No. 1 goal as a rookie and said he wanted to get in all the majors as quickly as possible, starting with the Masters only three months away.
''I know it will probably require a win, but I still think a bunch of good play might do it,'' he said.
Scott Langley, an NCAA champion from Illinois who has finished in the top 30 in two US Opens he played, also has high standards. He wants to be Rookie of the Year, and reach the Tour Championship, as John Huh did a year ago.
As for keeping the card?
''It's like trying to make a cut,'' Langley said. ''If that's how you think, that's probably where you'll find yourself. Making the Tour Championship is a big goal, but if you can do that, it will take care of everything else. But yeah, I want to keep my card.''
On that note, so does Daly. And this might be his best chance.
Daly finished 146th on the money list last year, his first time in seven years that he was inside the top 150. That gave him slightly higher status, so maybe he won't need sponsor exemptions every week. Daly figures he can get in about eight tournaments on his own, as many as 20 for the year.
That would keep him from a schedule he kept last year — Las Vegas, California, Georgia, Shanghai, Hong Kong and Thailand, with hardly time off.
''I've been everywhere the last three years except the electric chair,'' Daly said.
He has sponsor exemptions at the Sony Open, the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, which at least gives him a chance to make an early impression. A year ago, he didn't get into a PGA Tour event until the Florida swing was nearly over.
''Hopefully, something good will happen,'' Daly said.
That's the goal of everyone at the Sony Open, especially in this short season that effectively will end in August before the FedEx Cup playoffs begin. There was talk it might be difficult for the young players to get into tournaments. But everyone from Q-school and the Web.com Tour got into the Sony Open.
Of the 23 rookies at the Sony Open, five of them have never been to a PGA Tour event unless they bought a ticket.
Maggert, meanwhile, has been around long enough to know there are no guarantees.
''That first year out was a learning experience,'' he said. ''I didn't have any preconceived ideas. You miss the cut a few times and start to have negative thoughts.''
Pat Perez knows that better than most. That's why he figures the biggest change he made in the offseason was hiring Chris Dorris to help with his mental side and work on having only positive thoughts.
''It's hard work,'' Perez said, wearing a silver belt buckle of a skull. ''I'm trying to be more positive and have fun with the game, and it's a hard thing to work on. But if you hit a bad shot, get over it and look at the next one as an opportunity.''
Ultimately, that's what golf is all about — an opportunity — for everyone in the field.