Golf Buzz

January 13, 2016 - 11:06am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Jimmy Walker
USA Today Sports Images
It's hard to bet against Jimmy Walker this week. He's the two-time defending champion at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

The first full-field event of the new year takes place this week at the gorgeous Waialae Country Club in Oahu.

Players making the short, puddle jump from Maui will be greeted to a far different type of golf course. Unlike the incredibly hilly Plantation Course at Kapalua, Waialae is flat. Much like the Tournament of Champions, however, players will need buckets and buckets of birdies to have any chance at taking the title.

Fresh off a T10 at Kapalua, Jimmy Walker returns to Waialae has the two-time champion.

RELATED: Sony Open in Hawaii tee times | Pro golf events this week

Can he make it a three-peat? Here's a look at the five players to keep an eye on.

5. Russell Henley
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T6 RSM Classic
Reason to watch: In his very first start on the PGA Tour back in 2013, Henley went out and won the Sony Open. While this will be his first start since November, you've got to think there isn't a better place to get the engines fired up than at a place where he has such great vibes. In three starts in this 2015-16 PGA Tour season, Henley has two top-10 finishes. Will that momentum carry into this week?

4. Brandt Snedeker
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T3 Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: This will only be Snedeker's third start in the Sony Open and his first since 2008 when he finished T69. With not much of a track record at Waialae, it might be hard for most to wrap their heads around picking him as a favorite. But at Waialae, it's a putting contest. There are few better putters in the world than Snedeker. He also goes into the week after a solid T3 last week at Kapalua.

3. Zach Johnson
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T21 Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: The reigning Open Champion won the Sony Open back in 2009. He's starting this season with a new set of golf clubs, so it might take a little time to adjust in a competitive environment. Nobody plays within the parameters of his game on the Tour more so than Johnson. If the birdie putts are dropping, look out.

2. Matt Kuchar
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T25 RSM Classic
Reason to watch: Since 2011, Kuchar has finished no worse than T8 in four starts at the Sony Open, including a T3 last year. He should be rejuvenated having not teed it up in a PGA Tour event since November. Though he hasn't won on Tour since the 2014 RBC Heritage, Kuchar always seems to have his name on the first page of the leaderboard. His seven PGA Tour wins prove that he can take care of business and he'd love to get himself back in the winner's circle early in a new season -- especially in a Ryder Cup year.

1. Jimmy Walker
Best finish in 2015-16 season:
T10 Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: It would be foolish to bet against the two-time defending champion this week at Waialae, wouldn't it? Winning the same tournament in three consecutive seasons certainly isn't a gimme, but clearly there's something about the place that fits Walker's eye and he absolutely loves.

SLEEPER PICK: Charles Howell III
Reason to watch: There's something about the Sony Open in Hawaii that routinely brings out the best in Howell, where he has finished in the top-10 on eight occasions, highlighted by two runner-up finishes and two third-place finishes.

Here's how my five to watch fared last week in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions:

5. Bubba Watson -- T10
4. Jimmy Walker -- T10
3. Patrick Reed -- Second
2. Dustin Johnson -- T10
1. Jason Day -- T10 

Alabama college football
USA Today Sports Images
Alabama's win in college football's national championship game was the topic of much social media conversation in the golf world.
Many of the golfers on the PGA Tour are huge sports fans, and whole bunch of them spent Monday night paying rapt attention to Alabama's victory over Clemson in the college football national championship game Monday night.
The PGA Tour isn't exactly overflowing with players from those two schools – Justin Thomas comes to mind as perhaps the most prominent Crimson Tide player right now, while former U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover might be the Tigers' most prominent golf alumnus – but that didn't stop players from schools far and wide from chiming in throughout the title game.
Here's a sample of the comments they shared on social media:
And, finally, the best comment and response of the night, thanks to Jordan Spieth and Ben Crane:
January 11, 2016 - 6:39pm
tj.auclair's picture
Davis Love III at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
PGA Tour via YouTube
Davis Love putted without his putter from way off the green on the par-4 10th hole Sunday at Kapalua.
About an hour ago, we were telling you how big the greens are at Kapalua as Jason Day drained a 75-foot putt for eagle on the fifth hole. And now, here we are again, this time with another, even longer, putt that you've got to see to believe.
This one comes from Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III, who found himself off the green on the par-4 10th hole, about 93 feet away from the cup, in two. In fact, he wasn't even on the green, but over on the shaved area beside it. 
That shaved area is conducive for playing along the ground, but Love needed his ball tos cale a ridge right at the edge of the green and then head down – way down – to the flagstick. So he pulled out a hybrid club and bounced his ball up and over the ridge with just enough speed that it settled down almost immediately after cresting the ridge. 
It then rolled right up to the front edge of the cup and tipped right in for an unlikely birdie.
Love had doubled the eighth hole just a few minutes before, so that big birdie putt was an extra-great way to kick off his back nine at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Take a look:
Jason Day's 75-foot eagle putt
PGA Tour via YouTube
Jason Day's putt traveled from one edge of the huge fifth green to the other before falling for an unlikely eagle on Sunday at Kapalua.
Everything might be bigger in Texas, but the fairways and greens at Kapalua are bigger than any other venue on the PGA Tour. The expansive fairways make it easy to bomb away off the tee box without a care in the world, but the huge greens can leave you with putts as long as your basic lob wedge shot.
Jason Day faced one of those putts in the final round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, when his second shot on the 526-yard, par-5 fifth hole barely crept up onto the putting surface. The pin was 75 feet away, about as far across the green as it possibly could be. And, making it worse, behind it was a huge dropoff that, while not affecting the putt, certainly presented a little visual intimidation.
It's hard to imagine anything intimidating Day on the golf course, though, and he rapped his putt hard and watched it roll up and over a ridge, bank down to the right and then motor confidently into the heart for a long-distance eagle.
Day was so confident the putt was going in that he didn't even walk after it. When it fell, he just strolled off the green like no big deal – but with a huge smile on his face.
Hey, who could blame him. Here's the putt:
January 9, 2016 - 10:14pm
mark.aumann's picture
PGA Tour/YouTube
Jordan Spieth was just inches away from an albatross to finish up Saturday's third round.

Jordan Spieth closed out Saturday's third round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions with a flourish. If a near-albatross that turned into a 10-foot eagle putt can be considered a "flourish."

HYUNDAI TOURNAMENT OF CHAMPIONS: Scores | Gallery | Spieth leads by 5

On the par-5 18th hole at Kapalua's Plantation Course, Spieth had 250 yards to the pin. And this shot was almost perfect, as it runs up and just nicks the flagstick:



The entire tournament has been one Jordan Spieth highlight reel. Earlier in the round, he made a 46-foot birdie putt. And on Friday, he holed out from the fringe for another eagle.

DEADLY FROM LONG DISTANCE: Spieth drains 46-foot birdie putt

Not suprisingly, he's now five shots ahead of Brooks Koepka after firing a third-round 65. In 54 holes at Kapalua, he's had just one bogey.