Following the traditional PGA Tour curtain raiser restricted for last year’s tournament winners, the rank and file join the party in Hawaii. Waialae Country Club has been hosting this event since the mid-1990s and presents a distinct test from the US norm.
Whereas last week’s venue, Kapalua, has some of widest open fairways seen in tournament golf, Waialae is more of a positional layout. Nevertheless, recent results show that driving distance is again one of the key stats, albeit less so than greens in regulation and scrambling. As always in Hawaii, a prerequisite for success is an ability to cope with windy conditions.
In fact, there’s much to suggest that Waialae is the type of course that certain types of player never really get the hang of. Consider for instance Adam Scott’s failure to better 18th in three visits or Zach Johnson’s best of 32nd from the same number of attempts. Worst of all, Kenny Perry has a best of 16th from eight visits, of which six yielded finishes below 50th place. There are plenty of other lesser names to have similarly performed repeatedly below their best.
You couldn’t say that about Ernie Els, who shares favouritism with last week’s runaway winner Geoff Ogilvy. Ernie has won twice, and never finished worse than 5th in five attempts, the last of which was four years ago. No doubt that owes much to his supremacy in windy conditions, but we still must wonder if he is the same player nowadays. Last week’s effort at Kapalua was particularly disappointing, after holding a great chance at halfway. Once again, he seemed to be enduring a nightmare with the putter, ruining his chance with a miserable effort on Saturday. Given that previous course form, only a mug would write Els off, but his ongoing travails make it hard to justify a short-priced bet.