The first full-field event of the New Year takes place on the PGA Tour this week with the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club.
Russell Henley is back as the defending champion, but a number of stars -- including Adam Scott, Jason Dufner and Zach Johnson -- have made the short trip over from Maui after last week's Tournament of Champions.
Waialae couldn't be more different than Kapalua. Instead of the incredible elevation changes players faced in Maui last week, Waialae is flat as can be.
Before the tournament teed off on Thursday, we caught up with Waialae PGA Head Professional Kevin Carll for a little chat about the tournament, the course and why birdies are an absolute must.
PGA.com: Last year provided a remarkable finish at the Sony Open. Tour rookie Russell Henley -- playing in his first Tour event as a professional -- closed with five consecutive birdies for an incredible win. As someone who is around Waialae all the time, can you describe just how impressive Henley's finish was?
Carll: His win was impressive for several reasons. First, he'd never won an event on the PGA Tour prior to the 2013 Sony Open in Hawaii so it was uncharted territory for him. Second, very few players on Tour can claim a 29 on their back nine on Sunday to win an event. Third, he had a hot Tim Clark on his heels who birdied four of his last five holes on Sunday.
Take a look back at Henley's win:
PGA.com: As we've seen many times in past years, Waialae is a birdie-friendly course for the world's top players. Can you tell us about any particular stretch of holes where players might feel they're losing ground if they're not carding a score better than par?
Carll: There's really no particular stretch of holes, however, a par on our par 5s -- No. 9 and No. 18 -- loses two strokes to the field. Those have to be scoring holes.
PGA.com: I recently read that the Sony Open has been contested at Waialae since 1965. That's impressive. What is it about the course that has allowed it to stand the test of time?
Carll: The strategy involved with navigating each hole will keep you on your toes. It's definitely not a bomber's course, however there are several holes in which a good drive will benefit the longer hitters. To sum it up, I would categorize Waialae Country Club as a traditional course.
PGA.com: Surely tournament week is far different than most other weeks for you at Waialae. What do you enjoy most about tournament week?
Carll: Catching up with old friends and creating new ones. There really are some good people that travel with the Tour. From the Tour Staff, Tour Reps, to the Players it's always nice to say hi and catch up with them.
PGA.com: Which hole at Waialae is your favorite and why?
Carll: Hole No. 2 will hold your attention from the tee through the approach. For the tee ball, the prevailing trade wind is in the face and slightly left to right. Left of the fairway is a water hazard and right of the fairway is a grove of mango trees. The approach is played into a slightly right to left wind with a large bunker guarding the front right of the green. Four pars on this hole for the week is a good score.
Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.