The 2013 season begins for many this week with the Sony Open in Hawaii, the first full-field event of the year. Waialae Country Club will welcome a field of 144 players, all eager to get a head start on the shortened season.
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Johnson Wagner returns to defend his title from last year, when he won by two shots over a group of four players. Here are 10 names to keep an eye on this week in Honolulu:
1. Charles Howell III: A runner-up here last year, Howell now has three top-5 finishes in his last four starts at Waialae. After finishing the 2012 Fall Series with three straight top-15 results, he'll be eager to end a winless drought that dates back to 2007.
2. Dustin Johnson: Having gotten his season off to an ideal start at Kapalua, Johnson will again be a favorite even on a course that mitigates his advantage off the tee. Finished T-10 and T-16 in two career Sony starts, and he's a shoe-in if the event somehow gets shortened to 54 holes.
3. Carl Pettersson: Like Howell, Pettersson finished just behind Johnson Wagner here last year. That runner-up goes along with a T-5 showing in 2010, meaning the Swede has a pair of top-five finishes in his last three Sony Open appearances.
4. Keegan Bradley: Finished T-13 here last year, and a good result on the Plantation Course last week shows that Bradley's game has little, if any, early-season rust remaining.
5. Tim Clark: Was a runner-up in his last appearance here two years ago, when he co-led the field in greens hit in regulation (56/72 GIR). The South African has made the top 25 in each of his three career Sony starts, and broken par at Waialae in 9/12 rounds played.
6. Matt Kuchar: Struggled early at Kapalua but righted the ship somewhat on Tuesday. Consistently one of the Tour's best overall ball-strikers, a trait that will be of great importance this week on a layout that emphasizes hitting fairways and greens. Finished T-5 in his last appearance here (2011).
7. Brian Gay: Another player with a knack for playing well at Sony, having posted four straight top-25 finishes since 2009. Currently riding a streak of 16 straight tournament rounds in Honolulu at par or better.
8. Scott Piercy: Like Johnson, will find his length off the tee less of an advantage this week but remains a contender. Entered Sunday in eighth place here last year before fading to T-23 with a final-round 72.
9. Zach Johnson: A winner here in 2009, Johnson has the tee-to-green accuracy to make him a contender. Also finished T-12 at Waialae the year following his victory and should have no trouble with tight fairways this week after finishing 14th on Tour in driving accuracy in 2012.
10. Brendon de Jonge: Coming off a career year in 2012. The Zimbabwean ended the season eighth on Tour in GIR percentage and followed up a T-20 showing in 2011 with a T-10 finish here last year.
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