January 14, 2015 - 8:00am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
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Charles Howell III
USA Today Sports Images
Charles Howell III has a remarkable eight top-10 finishes at the Sony Open, but not one of those has resulted in a win.

There's no doubt that starting a new year with back-to-back week's in Hawaii is special for the stars of the PGA Tour, who won in the 2013-14 season.

But for those players who teed it up at Kapalua last week and are playing again this week in Oahu at Waialae in the Sony Open, they'll find a course that could not be more different than the one they played in Maui.

While Kapalua is known for it's incredible views and elevation changes, Waialae might be the flattest course on Tour. The scenes are still spectacular, but the physical demand is nothing like it is at Kapalua.

RELATED: Sony Open tee times | 10 to watch in 2015 | 5 storylines of 2015

Jimmy Walker returns as the defending champion this week, fresh off a playoff loss to Patrick Reed at Kapalua.

At Waialae, birdies are a must. In the 2014 tournament, 18 of the 71 players who made the cut shot all four rounds in the 60s, including Ricky Barnes and Billy Hurley, who both tied for 38th. Imagine that -- four rounds in the 60s and not even a top-25 finish!

With that, here are the five players to watch this week in Honolulu for the first full-field event of the new calendar year.

5. Harris English
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T16 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
Reason to watch: Each of the last two seasons have yielded a top-10 finish for English at the Sony Open -- a T9 in 2013 and fourth a year ago. English will come in well rested, too, having not played in a Tour event since mid-November. It's only a matter of time before English picks up his third PGA Tour win, so why not this week at Waialae where he's been knocking on the door the last two seasons?

4. Chris Kirk
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T4 The McGladrey Classic
Reason to watch: I'm really digging Kirk these days. On Monday in Maui, Kirk was the first off for the final round of the Tournament of Champions and playing by himself when Kevin Stadler's withdrawal reduced the field to an odd number. In a little over two hours, Kirk tied Kapalua's course-record with an incredible, 11-under 62 to tie for 14th. While 14th might not be all that impressive when you consider there were only 33 players in the field, it says a lot about Kirk's pride. Starting the round, he had nothing to play for. After the round, he nearly had himself a top 10. Kirk was the Sony Open runner up a year ago and also tied for fifth in 2013.

3. Russell Henley
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T3 Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Henley has two top-4 finishes in three starts this season and won the Sony Open in 2013 -- his very first start as a PGA Tour member. With a couple of wins under his belt -- he also won the Honda Classic in a playoff that included Rory McIlroy last year -- it's time for Henley to establish himself as a more consistent contender. It looks like he's trending in that direction after the fast start this season. He enters this week with two kinds of confidence: 1. It's a course he's won on before; 2. He's coming off a T3 at Kapalua.

2. Charles Howell III
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T14 Sanderson Farms Championship
Reason to watch: I ponder this same question every year -- how is it that Charles Howell III has only two PGA Tour wins in his career, his last coming in 2007? It's crazy to me. It's also crazy to me that he's never won the Sony Open. Here's a look at Howell's eight top-10 finishes in the Sony since 2002, the first year he played the event: T4 in 2002; T3 in 2005; T2 in 2007; 4th in 2009; T5 in 2010; T2 in 2012; T3 in 2013; and T8 in 2014. He's got to win this tournament eventually, right?

1. Jimmy Walker
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
2nd (playoff loss) Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Mainly, I'm interested in seeing how Walker bounces back from a tough playoff-loss to Patrick Reed at Kapalua. The reality is, that tournament never even should have gone to a playoff. Walker was leaking oil down the stretch which opened the door for Reed, who seized the opportunity. Walker has certainly established himself as a world-class player, but part of what comes along with that is dusting yourself off and moving on from a tough defeat. Can he do that this week at a place where he's the defending champ?

Here's how my five to watch fared at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions:

5. Geoff Ogilvy -- T27
4. Bubba Watson -- 10th
3. Jimmy Walker -- 2nd (lost in a playoff)
2. Zach Johnson -- 7th
1. Matt Kuchar -- T17 

5 players to watch at Sony Open
Rory McIlroy road to Masters
HSBC Golf via Twitter
Rory McIlroy, along with Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler and Henrik Stenson already have the Masters on their minds.
You've probably heard people in golf say that the Masters begins on the back nine on Sunday. Well, I'm here to tell you that's just not true.
 
For many of the world's best golfers, the Masters – or at least the road to the Masters – begins well in advance of the first full week in April. In fact, current world No. 1 Rory McIlroy was talking about the Masters – where he has a chance to complete the career Grand Slam – soon after winning the PGA Championship last August.
 
And now that we've turned the calendar to January and tournament play is back underway in earnest, the season's first major is clearly on a lot of players' minds. Among them are McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Justin Rose and Henrik Stenson, who apparently began their "road" to Augusta National on Tuesday way over in Abu Dhabi.
 
 
In the photo above and below, McIlroy (in the gray shirt with pink accents) is clearly wondering which of those signs he ought to follow. Rose, behind McIlroy, is obviously pondering their predicament, while Fowler and Stenson are checking out their options. Which way to go, which way to go?
 
The photo was taken, and shared, by the folks at HSBC Golf, which is the sponsor of this week's Abu Dhabi Golf Championship in the United Arab Emirates, and I give them props for their sense of humor.  
 
And, just in case you're wondering – I certainly was – it is 7,510 miles from Abu Dhabi to Augusta National. So, gents, I suggest you better start walking.
 
 
Rory McIlroy begins road to Masters – in Abu Dhabi?
January 13, 2015 - 11:03am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Miss Universe
YouTube
On Monday, with the help of Miss Universe contestants, Donald Trump unveiled the new Tiger Red Course at Trump Doral.

Organizers say that the Miss Universe contest is more than a beauty pageant. Women aspiring to become Miss Universe, they say, must be intelligent, well-mannered, and cultured.

Luckily for all these beautiful contestants, having a golf game isn't a requirement.

RELATED: A must-see underwater hole-in-one | Patrick Reed's forehead tan line

On Monday, with the help of Miss Universe contestants, Donald Trump unveiled the new Tiger Red Course at Trump Doral.

In the video below by the Miami Herald, you can see Golf Channel's Charlie Rymer teeing up the ball for several Miss Universe contestants.

In defense of these beautiful ladies, it can't be easy to take a swipe at a golf ball in heels.

These ladies have nothing on Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Nina Agdal:

 

Too far. The ball never listens to me.

A video posted by Nina Agdal (@ninaagdal) on

 

 

Miss Universe contestants take a swing at Trump Doral
Pebble Beach
The only thing better than viewing Pebble Beach's webcam of the famous 18th hole is playing it in person.

Unfortunately, there are things that keep you away from the golf course. Your job, the weather, other obligations -- just to name a few. But even if you can't get out and play, you can keep tabs on what's happening at some of the most famous courses around the world.

Thanks to the Internet and invention of the webcam, many courses have live links available at the click of a mouse, including St. Andrews and Pebble Beach. Here's just a sampling of what's out there -- and what you might see.

Click the headlines or photos to see the webcam for yourself. And don't forget to bookmark your favorites:

St. Andrews Links, Scotland

The ancestral home of golf may be more than 500 years old, but its website is state-of-the-art, boasting nine different views of the grounds, including the Road Hole and Swilcan Bridge.

Trump Turnberry, Scotland

The Alisa course, redesigned by Mackenzie Ross, has hosted four Open Championships. The webcam provides views of the clubhouse and the lighthouse and shoreline in the distance.

Royal Dornoch Golf Club

Established in 1877, Royal Dornoch has hosted the British Amateur once and Scottish Amateur three times since 1985.

Gleneagles PGA Centenary Course

The host of the 2014 Ryder Cup might be just a little bit unplayable right now, as this image shows.

Royal North Devon Golf Club

Royal North Devon Golf Club was founded in 1864 and is the oldest golf course in England. The course was designed by Old Tom Morris.

Real Club de Golf Campoamor, Orihuela, Valencia, Spain

According to the Spanish translation, the course was opened in 1988. It emerged from the natural beauty of the area between two valleys and surrounded by small hills, which protects it from the wind.

St. George's Club, Bermuda

The adjacent course was designed by Robert Trent Jones and is one of nine courses on the island.

Royal Westmoreland, Barbados

Located on the west side of Barbados, Royal Westmoreland was designed by Robert Trent Jones Junior and claims to be consistently rated as one of the top courses in the Caribbean.

Chester Golf Club, Nova Scotia

Even though it's covered in snow now, you can still see the fabulous view from the clubhouse of the course and the lake.

PGA National Resort, Palm Beach Gardens

Opened in 1981, there are five courses to choose from at the home of the PGA of America. Host of the 1983 Ryder Cup and 1987 PGA Championship.

Pebble Beach Golf Links

In addition to the iconic 18th fairway shot, Pebble Beach offers a number of webcams. Watch foursomes line up to tee off at the first hole, or check out the 17th green, where Tom Watson made U.S. Open magic many years ago.

Bandon Dunes Golf Course

Oregon's golf mecca includes the first course opened there in 1999. Bandon Dunes was designed by Scotsman David McLay Kidd.

Bandon Trails Golf Course

Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed this course, which opened in 2005. It's different from the others in the resort, in that no holes parallel the ocean.

Pacific Dunes Golf Course

Opened in the summer of 2001, Tom Doak's design is considered the favorite course of the majority of golfers who have played all four tracks.

Kapalua Plantation

Host to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, the Planatation course boasts significant elevation changes and spectacular views. 

Poipu Bay Golf Course

Another stunner from Robert Trent Jones Junior, this course hosted the PGA Grand Slam of Golf between 1994 and 2006.

Ko Olina Golf Club

Built in 1990 by Ted Robinson, Ko Olina has been rated as Oahu's No. 1 course by Hawaii Magazine and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. It also plays host to the LPGA's Lotte Championship.

Big Sky Resort, Montana

Skiing is king this time of year. But the resort southwest of Bozeman, which boasts as being "the basecamp to Yellowstone" has a classic links-style course under all that snow.

Jefferson Landing Golf Club, North Carolina

Located near Boone and Blowing Rock in the western part of the state, Jefferson Landing was designed by Larry Nelson. The views are spectacular, especially in the spring and fall.

Estes Park Golf Course, Colorado

Located in a valley surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, the course is open most of the year. You might even find an occasional elk or coyote.

Blackmoor Golf Club, South Carolina

Gary Player designed this course near Murrell's Inlet, with lots of doglegs and lots of water.

Ute Creek Golf Couse, Longmont, Colorado

One of three municipal courses nestled in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, Ute Creek was designed by Robert Trent Jones II.

There are more available, especially in golf and ski resort areas in the western half of the country. And more courses are in the process of adding webcams, so keep searching to find course webcams near you.

A guide to golf course webcams around the world
January 13, 2015 - 9:03am
Posted by:
T.J. Auclair
tj.auclair's picture
Patrick Reed
YouTube
It takes some special things to happen to win on the PGA Tour. This shot was just that for Patrick Reed on Monday.

Before Monday evening, there had been only three players in the past 20 years on the PGA Tour to reach four victories before the age of 25.

Their names? Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and Sergio Garcia.

With his playoff victory over Jimmy Walker at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions at Kapalua's Plantation Course Monday, you can now add 24-year-old Patrick Reed to that prestigious list.

RELATED: Reed wins at Kapalua | In the winner's bag | Final leaderboard | Reed's tan line

If there's one shot that defined Reed's latest win, it was this 80-yard eagle hole-out on the 16th hole:

Reed trailed Walker by four shots before holing that shot. A birdie at the par-5 18th gave Reed a share of the lead with Walker at 21-under par and when Walker failed to make a lengthy birdie putt, the two went to a playoff, which Reed won playing the 18th hole again -- the first and only hole of the playoff.

Reed talked to PGATour.com about his early success and joining that incredible group of players with four wins before the age of 25.

"I think it's just because I'm stubborn. I don't really care," he said. "I go out there and just kind of focus on my golf game, and I don't really care what anyone else is doing or however anyone else hits the shot. I just know how I can do it, and you know, what works for me and what makes me allows it to be more consistent under pressure."

Reed has been a lightning rod for the last year because of what comes out of his mouth -- the "top-5" comment after his win at Doral; the shushing of the European crowds in the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles in the fall; and the gay slur in China in November (which he directed at himself and apologized for following that round, saying, "My passion to play well got the best of me and my word choice was unacceptable.").

While in comic-book terms, Reed might be the villain to -- say -- Rory McIlroy's superhero, there's no denying the fact that Reed has established himself as a big-time player.

Monday was just the latest example.  

Patrick Reed's final-round eagle hole-out
January 12, 2015 - 8:34pm
andrew.prezioso's picture
Patrick Reed
Twitter
Stewart Cink had the same thing happen to him last year at the Sony Open in Hawaii.

After finishing his late push to force a tie with Jimmy Walker at the final round of the Hyundai Tournament of Champions with a birdie, Patrick Reed got people talking as Golf Channel cameras caught this peculiar tan line as he walked off the 18th green. And as you might expect, Twitter nation responded.

Related: Hyundai Tournament of Champions leaderboard

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We'll just chalk this up as a byproduct of playing in Hawaii - and wearing a hat. Stewart Cink had the same thing happen to him last year at the Sony Open in Hawaii, which also caught fire on social media.

In fairness to Reed, his forehead tan was probably the last thing on his mind (pun slightly intended) at the end of the round. He had a very strong closing push that was helped in part by this eagle on No. 16

 

 

And in the end, it was Reed who got the last laugh by beating Jimmy Walker on the first playoff hole

Twitter reacts to Reed's humorous tan line