John McNamara

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First-Timers Not Welcome

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Yardage Book

Date: January 13-16, 2011
Tournament: Sony Open in Hawaii
Course: Waialae Country Club
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Course Par and Length: 35-35=70 / 7,044
Architect: Seth Raynor (1927)
Other Designs by Architect: Camargo, Chicago GC, Course at Yale, Fishers Island GC, Yeamans Hall Club
Greens: Bermudagrass
Stimpmeter: 11 feet
Green Size: 6,500 sq. ft.
Fairways: Bermudagrass
Rough: Bermudagrass…..2.5"
Sand Bunkers: 78
Water Hazards: 4
Needed Attributes: GIR, GIR from Rough, Scrambling, Course History
Defending Champion: Ryan Palmer, 15 under-par

The Pro Shop

Please utilize my "Open Door" email policy to make each Fantasy Team a success in '11. I will answer every email and will prefer to talk via the phone on certain occasions. Follow me on Twitter at my Twitter page or email me at with any questions.

This week, the PGA Tour jumps to Honolulu to play the Sony Open in Hawaii. The Hawaii based tournament has been in existence since 1965 and Waialae Country Club has been the only course in the 46-year existence.

The host course Waialae CC, redesigned in 1999, is completely opposite of the Plantation Course at Kapalua. The Plantation Course has the easiest fairways to hit, while Waialae CC has some of the toughest fairways to hit on the PGA Tour. The Plantation Course's average fairway-width is 52 yards, while Waialae CC's average is less than 30.

Waialae CC is located between the Koolau Mountains and the Pacific Ocean on the southern coast of Oahu. The splendid nature surrounding this course provides some beautiful views, but the trade or Kona wind that comes off the Pacific Ocean will definitely create havoc for the players. Waialae CC plays 7,044 yards, has only two par-5s, and does not require much length off the tee.

GIR, Scrambling, and GIR from the rough are the attributes needed to contend this week. Driving accuracy does not play near the importance as we might expect on a golf course that has tight fairways. The players are going to miss many fairways and this places an emphasis on their ability to control their approach shots from the rough. I have dissected the players' regular GIR stats and their GIR stats from the rough. The contenders will need precision with their second shots to manage their ball flight in the windy conditions and to stop the ball on the firm and undulated greens of Waialae CC.

Because the greens are small in nature, the windy conditions, and the difficulty to find the fairway, the players will miss greens and these miscues will put pressure on the players' ability to scramble around the greens. Pay close attention to the scramblers this week and stay away from players who struggle with their short game.

The Bermuda greens in Honolulu are difficult to read and grain in the greens causes problems with the player's distance. In addition, these greens yield some of the lowest numbers of putts made outside of 10 feet each year. Patience is imperative and the players will have to take advantage of their birdie opportunities.

Experience is a necessity this week. The last player to win the Sony Open in his first attempt was over 30 years ago. This is a week where history and the three stats above should help predict the winner.

Back to Defend

Ryan Palmer: Palmer was 67th in GIR from the rough compared to 145th in the traditional GIR stat last year. He ranked third in GIR last year at this event and he will have to duplicate those numbers if he wants to contend again… 21+


Charles Howell III: "Chucky Three-Sticks" loves Waialae CC, he has five top-10 finishes in 10 starts, and he has finished inside the top-five in three of the last four years. Howell III ranked 23rd in GIR from the rough in '10 and he was seventh in scrambling. He improved his scrambling skills dramatically in '10 and this will be the year he finally breaks through in Honolulu… Win

Jim Furyk: As I predicted, he was not able to go low enough to win last week, but this course is in Furyk's wheelhouse (other predictions were not so successful at the Hyundai TOC). I am not in love with his approach shots, but his scrambling skills are great. Furyk last played the Sony in '08, but he has nine top-11 finishes in 10 attempts (won here in '01)… Second

Justin Rose: I Demoted Rose last week because I wanted to see how his game would respond after an off-season shoulder injury. He responded nicely and he immediately gets a slot in my Promotions. Rose was better in GIR from the rough than the regular GIR stat, but that is not what moves the needle for me. He improved his short game last year and ranked 13th in scrambling compared to 87th in '09. In addition, he was outstanding in the "relative to par" stat from the rough. He does not have a top-10 in three appearances at the Sony, but he did finish T12 last year… Third

Steve Stricker: I had Stricker slated in the eighth spot based on his putting woes in Maui, but after taking a closer look, he was T5 in putts per round and third in putts per GIR. I am not quite sure his stroke is in mid-season form, but his record over the last four years at the Sony is awesome. He has three top-four finishes in the last four years and finished fourth last week at the Hyundai TOC… Fourth

Robert Allenby: Allenby has been haphazard in Honolulu, but he is playing great golf. He finished second to Ryan Palmer in '10 and has three top-10s in nine starts. His only drawback is his putter, but he thrives in windy conditions… Fifth

Zach Johnson: I am not drawn to Johnson because of his irons, or scrambling numbers in '10, but I am impressed with his record at the Sony. He won this event in '09 and he finished T12 last year… Sixth

Tim Clark: Like Zach Johnson, Clark does not possess the perfect iron-game to succeed at this course, but he does scramble well and he scores nicely from the rough. He first played this event in '09 and finished T12 and then finished T25 last year… Seventh

K.J. Choi: K.J. Choi had four-straight top-13 finishes at the Sony before finishing T39 in '10. He won this event in '08 and he ranked 20th in scrambling in '10. I worry that his irons from the rough are not up to par, but I cannot ignore his record of accomplishment at Waialae CC... Eighth

Ernie Els: Els has five top-10 finishes at the Sony in seven appearances, but the last two years have been forgettable. He did not play well last week, but he is tough to leave out of the mix. He scrambles nicely and he performs better than average from the rough… Ninth

Jonathan Byrd: His skill-set is perfect for this track, and he has won his last two PGA Tour starts, but his record at Waialae CC is fair at best. I am counting on his renewed confidence and improved short game to post a career-high finish in Honolulu this week… 10th


Matt Kuchar: Matt Kuchar was outstanding with his irons in '10, but he struggled to find his groove out of the rough where ranked 102nd. He did not score well from the rough and he has missed six of eight cuts at this event. Kuchar could play well at any event, but this is a good place to sit the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket... 21+

Jason Day: Day comes into the week after playing nicely in the Hyundai TOC. He had things rolling on Sunday until an untimely double-bogey on the par-4, 13th. He hit a wedge out of the fairway about 30 yards further than expected into the native grass, which resulted into a lost ball. Temper your expectations this week; he played poorly in both his starts at Waialae CC... 21+

Anthony Kim: After a brief moment in the spotlight last week in my Promotions, Kim goes right back into my Demotions. We continually wonder what we are going to get out of Kim and his inconsistencies are too tough to predict. Remember gamers, this is about results, not potential… 26+

Bo Van Pelt: I am a big fan of Van Pelt and have him ranked higher than most in my pre-season rankings, but I cannot endorse him this week. He thrives with his irons from the fairway, but is below average from the rough and he does not score well from the tall grass either. He has missed four of his last six cuts at the Sony and there are better weeks to get Van Pelt in your lineup… 26+

Jeff Overton: This is his first start of the year and he has not played well in Honolulu the last three years… 31+

D.J. Trahan: Trahan is masterful with his irons, but he struggles to make par if he misses a green. Like Van Pelt, I am bullish on Trahan for '10, but I cannot Promote him on a course that requires significant touch around the greens… 36+

Steve Marino: Marino has two straight top-seven finishes at Waialae CC and this record will garner some attention. His irons are better than average, but like Trahan, he struggles around the greens. I am interested to see how Marino plays in '10, but I want to see some reps before I jump back on this Cavalier… 36+

Brendon de Jonge: I do not expect to see a letdown from de Jonge after a breakout season in '10, but he has missed three straight cuts at the Sony. He is a solid ball-striker, but struggles with his scrambling and putting at times… MC

Off the Radar

Kevin Na: Na has the short game to compete at this course and he finished T5 in '09 and T4 in '08. He finished poorly in '10 (T52), but Na is a nice Off the Radar selection this week… Top-15

Davis Love III: Love III finished T5 last year and he really improved his irons in '10. Combine this positive trend with a strong record at Waialae and he is a nice Sleeper in Honolulu… Top-15

One-and-Done Selection

I will make a weekly one-and-done selection each week and will list the players I have already used for you to follow.

Charles Howell III: I just cannot get over his finish at this event in the last four years. He has five top-five finishes in nine starts and he is so solid from the rough… $87,000

Already Used: Ernie Els

The Locker Room

Please check out the Pro Golf Talk blog on for continued golf coverage throughout the week and you can click PGT link for direct access. Ryan Ballengee runs the blog and does a great job with his golf coverage. I will be providing two to three weekly posts and I am excited to be a part of Ryan's success.

Look for Kevin Merfeld's recap of the tournament each week at and we are lucky to have his passion and insight.

Yahoo! Players want to take notice of Ned Brown, golf contributor for He adds his picks for the Yahoo! game on the second page of the "In the Clubhouse" article, he finished 362nd overall in '10, and that was in the 99th percentile. There will be times when are picks are not the same, and that is the beauty behind Fantasy Golf. Utilize the information provided and field the best team you think will be the most successful.

Once again, email me at with any questions.

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John McNamara wrote full-time for Rotoworld in 2010 and 2011, but he still maintains the pulse of the landscape. He was FSWA’s Golf Writer of the Year in 2008 and 2010.
Email :John McNamara

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