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Sony Open creates fresh start

PGA golf

HONOLULU — For the 31 players at the Sony Open who took the 30-minute flight over from Maui, the decision to play was easy. They’re already in Hawaii, guaranteed a tropical climate and the course at sea level is an easy walk.

Collin Morikawa wouldn’t know it any other way.

In the two years since he left Cal and turned pro, he has won each year on the PGA Tour and been eligible for the Tournament of Champions to start the new year. Plus, his family has history in Hawaii.

Would the PGA champion fly out to the middle of the Pacific Ocean for just one week?

“It’s a great hypothetical,” Morikawa said with a smile. “But Hawaii is special to me. I would love to come out here starting the year. It has obviously the right kind of vibes. It gets you going to start the year. And I love it out here.”

His year didn’t start too badly, except for one round. With consecutive rounds of 65, he went into the final round at Kapalua one shot out of the lead and shot a 73.

For the other 113 players at Waialae, the long trip was worth their while. That includes Charles Howell III, who is making his 20th consecutive start at the Sony Open and has never left the islands without money in the bank. Along with never missing the cut, Howell has seven finishes in the top 5, but still no victory.

“This tournament has obviously been really good to me,” Howell said. “It’s an event that, Lord willing, I’ll never miss as long as I can play. There’s been a couple that I’ve kind of messed up there at the end or could have played a bit better to maybe have won, but it’s been such a great event to me.”

In some respects, that surprises him. For those who didn’t qualify to start the year at Kapalua, this their first competition in nearly two months. Even coming off a year that stretched into December because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the last tournament many played was just over a month ago.

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