Selecting the eventual champion beforehand is not an easy task. Unless youre picking Annika Sorenstam (who won 10 of 20 LPGA Tour events last year) to win on the ladies side, the odds are highly stacked against you.
But try we will. Here is our list for the top 5 contenders to win the 41st Sony Open in Hawaii.
Singh is the defending champion, having shot 65 in the final round a year ago to fend off Ernie Els, who closed in 8-under 62, by a stroke. Els won this event in 2003 and 2004. But with his absence this year, Singh is the clear favorite. The Sony was the first of four tour triumphs for Singh in 05. Only Tiger Woods won more than did the big Fijian a year ago, but Singh wasnt overly impressed with his performance. Saying he slacked off down the stretch, he expects to be more focused and more dedicated ' and accomplish even more in 06. He's off to a good start, having finished runner-up last week in the Mercedes Championships, losing a playoff to Stuart Appleby. Singh successfully defended two titles last year, at the Shell Houston Open and the Buick Open.
Unlike at the Mercedes, Furyk doesnt own a house on this host course. But just like at Kapalua, he does have a victory at Waialae. Furyk captured this event 10 years ago, defeating Brad Faxon in a playoff. Hes made the trip to Honolulu every year since his rookie season on tour in 1994. The only other tournament hes competed in as often is the Las Vegas tournament, now known as the Bose Championship. Furyk kick-started the season by finishing third in Maui.
As a past tour winner, Maruyama would fit the mold of recent Sony champions. Only one player over the last decade (Jerry Kelly, 2002) has made this event his first tour victory. Maruyama, who has three tour titles, but none since 2003, has had plenty of success here. He has three top-10s over his last six Sony starts. Last year, he led by one through 54 holes, but his 1-under 71 on Sunday left him in a tie for third, two back of Singh. Given his Japanese heritage ' and omni-present smile ' he would likely be a popular champion on the island of Oahu. He is hoping to join countryman Isao Aoki as winners of this event. Aoki holed his approach shot on the 72nd hole for eagle to defeat Jack Renner by one in 1983.
While experienced winners have prevailed 90 percent of the time over the last 10 years, others have come very close to making this their maiden triumph. Three years ago, tour rookie Aaron Baddeley lost to Els in a playoff. The year after that, Harrison Frazar did the same. Rose would love to start a new trend at Waialae. Hes come close on a few occasions to earning win No. 1 in the States, but hes never been able to finish strongly enough to do so. That was the case last year, when he made his debut at the Sony. Rose opened in 67-66 to get within one of the 36-hole lead; however, he closed in 72-72 to tie for 20th. With an extra year of tour competition under his belt ' and a few more difficult losses to season him, he should be ready to take advantage of his next opportunity.
Charles Howell III
Few players over the last five years have come up as short on expectations as has Howell. Expected to be a winner many times over by now and the leading 20something player in the U.S., Howell is still stuck on one tour victory ' which came in 2002. Its not as if hes a slouch; he averages about six top-10s a season and has never finished worse than 33rd on the money list. But he hasnt been able to convert opportunity into victory over the last 3 seasons. Of course, the 26-year-old hasnt won this event, but he has fared well in four previous appearances. He tied for fourth in his debut in 2002 and then tied for third a year ago. In between, he notched a couple of top-30s finishes. Perhaps the winds will finally blow his way this week.