It didn’t take long for the World No. 1 player to make his presence known in 2018. Dustin Johnson flat-out demolished the field at the Sentry Tournament Champions last week at Kapalua. Now, the rest of the world’s best will do theirs to try and get the new season started off right.
The Sony Open in Hawaii has been going on since 1965 and has seen winners like Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus, David Ishii and Brett Ogle (Yes, THAT David Ishii and That Brett Ogle!)
Needless to say, the Sony Open in Hawaii has been one of the most important early season events on the PGA Tour. It can be a catalyst for careers, make-or-break moments for a season. It can answer questions or leave you with more than you had when you arrived in paradise.
So — which players have a legitimate chance at kicking the 2018 season off right and adding their name the illustrious list of winners — and those who will grateful to get back to the mainland:
Marc Leishman — If it weren’t for one bad round last week at Kapalua, it very well could’ve been Marc Leishman hoisting the trophy. It might seem odd, but at the moment, Leishman is the highest ranked Australian in the world — and shows no signs of slowing down. Leishman has very quietly turned himself into one of the best players on Tour. It seems he’s poised to not only win this week at Waialae Country Club, but multiple times in 2018. He’s 8-for-8 on Oahu with two top-10’s.
Brian Harman — While Leishman is my favorite, the guy teeing it up this week with the best current form is probably Brian Harman. The Georgia Bulldog has strung together four consecutive top-1o starts to open the 2017-’18 PGA Tour season, including a solo-third at Kapalua last week. At Waialae, Harman has finished inside the top-20 in each of his last four visits. He’s already proving that his career-year in 2017 was no fluke and could very well pick up career win No. 3 in Hawaii this week.
Jordan Spieth — While Dustin Johnson was busy annihilating the Plantation Course at Kapalua last week, you may have missed Jordan Spieth’s impressive 9th place finish. Why was a 9th place finish impressive for a 3-time major champ? Well, he opened with an abysmal 75. If Spieth can avoid the big number early this week, he bound to be in the conversation on Sunday. He finished third her last year and has proven he can win anywhere at any time.
Zach Johnson — After a down 2017 season, Zach Johnson has found himself on the rebound early in 2018. After collecting top-25’s in his three fall season starts — including a T-8 at Sea Island — it seems the 2009 Sony Open in Hawaii champion is poised to potentially collect a second title at Waialae. Along with his solid form, he also boasts an impressive record here: In his last four trips to Oahu, the 2007 Masters champion has collected three top-10 finishes.
Cameron Smith — Cameron Smith is on my radar this week because of the way he capped off the 2017 season. The young Aussie finished T-5, 3rd, 4th and 1st in his last four starts of the calendar year. Impressive, indeed. While Smith did slip a little from that hot streak during his debut at Kapalua (finished T-17), he has made a couple starts at Waialae in his young career. He finished T-27 here last year before getting his feet under him about mid-season.
Peter Uihlein — Making his first career start on Oahu, Peter Uihlein makes this list due to his impressive recent form. While Uihlein’s last four finishes — T-10, T-5, T-14, T-10 — isn’t as impressive as that of Cameron Smith, any of those finishes would be great fantasy production from a guy who will probably be your last or penultimate choice to make the starting lineup this week. Also of note — rookies winning here is not uncommon. Russell Henley did it in his first ever PGA Tour start back in 2013.
Russell Henley — Speaking of Russell Henley, I don’t think he’s going to get Sony Open in Hawaii win No. 2 this week. In fact, I think he should be stashed away on the bench this trip through Oahu. While he has showed some pretty good form as of late, there’s nothing outstanding on the resume since last April when he won the Shell Houston Open. It’s not that I don’t think Henley can play well this week, it’s that I think there are better options.
Si Woo Kim — The 2017 PLAYERS Champion, Si Woo Kim makes this list thanks to his wild inconsistency. Kim added another disappointing finish to his resume last week at Kapalua and continues to be a fantasy question mark. He obviously has all the talent in the world — the mystery is when he’ll start putting it all together consistently.
Jimmy Walker — Two-time Sony Open in Hawaii champ Jimmy Walker has been a popular choice this week, though I’m not really sure why. Walker, who battled Lyme disease most of 2017 suffered through his worst year on Tour last season. He enters 2018 trying to regain some form — and a place like Waialae could be just what the doctor ordered. While my heart says I hope so, my pragmatic mind says don’t bet on it.
Bill Haas — Always the popular choice, Bill Haas is not one of mine this week at Waialae. The simple fact of the matter is he’s too hit or miss to be trusted in any weekly format. Sure, in his last five appearances at the Sony Open, he’s got two top-15 finishes — but he’s also got three missed cuts. If you think he’s going to win this week, I feel bad for you son. I gotta 99 problems but Bill Haas ain’t one.