2014 Sony Open in Hawaii | Five players to watch

Charles Howell III
Getty Images
About the only thing Charles Howell III hasn't done in the Sony Open is win.
By T.J. Auclair
Connect with T.J.

Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Wednesday, January 08, 2014 | 10:39 a.m.

It's another week in paradise for the PGA Tour with this week's puddle jump from Maui to Oahu for the Sony Open in Hawaii.

Since 1965, Waialae Country Club has played host to the tournament. Several of the Tour's winners from 2013 who played in last week's Tournament of Champions at Kapalua will be in this week's field. What they'll find is a course that couldn't be more different than Kapalua's Plantation Course.

SCORES: Follow the Sony Open in Hawaii all week with PGA.com's leaderboard

Unlike the rugged terrain at Kapalua with incredible elevation changes, Waialae is -- in a word -- flat.

Here are five players to keep an eye on this week at the always birdie-friendly Waialae:

5. Russell Henley
Best finish in 2013:
Won the Sony Open in Hawaii
Reason to watch: He's the defending champ. That's why. Any time a player wins as a rookie on the PGA Tour, it's a fantastic year. So, that's what 2013 was for Henley. However, he's surely looking to find more consistency in 2014 after an otherwise so-so 2013. He doesn't miss a lot of cuts -- just seven in 24 starts a year ago -- but he'd like some higher finishes. Then again, who wouldn't? Waialae would be a great place to start seeing as he'll have some great vibes and memories to draw back on from a year ago.

4. Tim Clark.
Best finish in 2013:
Second at the Sony Open in Hawaii
Reason to watch: I can't be the only person who finds it nearly impossible to believe that Clark has just one win on the PGA Tour -- the 2010 Players Championship -- right? Well, he's a guy who seemingly always shines at Waialae and, in fact, has been a runner up in his last two starts there (2013, 2011). I think he'll make another run in Oahu this week.

3. Jason Dufner
Best finish in 2013:
Won the PGA Championship
Reason to watch: The reigning PGA Champion finished fifth a week ago at the Tournament of Champions. Nice little start to the year. He's also playing this week a little hurt (feelings, anyway) after watching his beloved Auburn Tigers go down in that epic BCS Championship game on Monday night to Florida State. Look for him to do well -- real well -- in Oahu to salvage an otherwise disappointing week.

2. Charles Howell III
Best finish in 2013:
Second at the Humana Challenge
Reason to watch: You know that saying, "horses for courses?" Well, that adequately describes Howell and Waialae. Howell has seven top-5 finishes at Waialae in his career. Something about the course just fits his eye beautifully. The only thing Howell hasn't done at Waialae? Win. His last two starts have yielded a tie for third (2013) and a tie for second (2012). He's got to win there eventually, right?

1. Zach Johnson
Best finish in 2013:
Won the BMW Championship
Reason to watch: Johnson is simply playing out of his mind right now. He's been victorious in each of his last two starts -- the unofficial Northwestern Mutual Challenge and last week's Tournament of Champions. He's not the longest hitter in the game, but Johnson has proven time and again on big tracks like Augusta National and Kapalua most recently, that doesn't matter. He's arguably the best game manager in golf. He plays to his strengths and avoids mistakes.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.


T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.