Padraig Harrington made four bogeys and a birdie for a 73.
Fred Vuich/SI
Thursday, January 15, 2009

HONOLULU (AP) — Throw out the weeks before and after the majors, and it's tough to find consecutive stops on the PGA Tour as diverse as the Aloha Swing.

The Mercedes-Benz Championship was a winners-only field of 33 players.

More than half of the 144-man field at the Sony Open has never won at all. (Today's tee times).

The Plantation course at Kapalua was carved out of a mountain on the west coast of Maui, and with so much elevation, there were 24 tee shots that traveled at least 400 yards last week. The 17th hole alone drops 100 feet from tee-to-green.

The biggest drop at Waialae is stepping off the curb to cross the street from the clubhouse to the first tee. It is a classic course on the shores 10 miles east of Waikiki Beach, where the greens are located a flop shot away from the next tee.

There are two holes at Kapalua where players needed a Mercedes SUV to reach the next tee.

``Big field, small field,'' Davis Love III said as he outlined the differences. ``A bunch of rookies this week and established guys last week. Came out here yesterday and just, whew! Breath of fresh air. Don't have to go up and down any hills.''

The Sony Open begins Thursday, the second stop on the PGA Tour and the first full-field event of the 2009 season.

Which is the tougher tournament to win? That's up for debate.

Geoff Ogilvy had to beat a field of PGA Tour winners, and he wound up with a six-shot margin over Love and Anthony Kim. But just about anyone at the Sony Open is capable of playing his best golf, and that means an additional 111 players to beat (including 14-year-old Lorens Chan, the amateur qualifier who is in the ninth grade and hits it a mile).

Daniel Chopra won the Mercedes-Benz Championship last year, didn't win another tournament all year and wound up 52nd on the PGA Tour money list. K.J. Choi won the Sony Open last year, challenged at the British Open and was 16th on the money list.

Ogilvy, who is trying to join Ernie Els as the only players to sweep Hawaii, couldn't work that one out.

``The leaderboard at the end was probably what the leaderboard at the end of a normal tournament would look like,'' he said of Kapalua. ``So it's hard to know if it's any different. You would assume it's going to be harder in a full-field event. It would be harder in a full-field event if you had those 33 plus the other 111. But if you had 144 without those guys in it, it might be different.''

There were similarities in Ogilvy winning last week at Kapalua and Choi winning last year at Waialae.

Ogilvy had a six-shot lead, stumbled around for eight holes, then poured it on with an eagle and five birdies over the next seven holes to win by the same margin with which he started, giving him a wire-to-wire victory.

Choi also won wire-to-wire, starting out with a four-shot lead, had his lead cut in half during some tense moments down the stretch and became the first Sony Open champion in 41 years to not break par in the final round.

The other similarity? A winners' lei around their neck, and fond memories.

``I expect a lot of good things to happen,'' Choi said. ``This year is going to be very exciting for me, and I'm looking forward to it.''

In that respect, he has plenty of company.

The field includes some two dozen PGA Tour rookies, 10 of whom have never teed it up on tour. And that doesn't include Chan, who is about 4 months older and 6 inches shorter than Michelle Wie when she made her Sony Open debut in 2004.

Tadd Fujikawa will be making his ninth start on the PGA Tour, and he still has another semester before he finishes high school. But the 18-year-old earned this spot in a Monday qualifier, hopeful that will get him more sponsor exemptions before he gets his diploma.

Fujikawa tied for 20th in 2007 at age 16, the youngest player to make the cut on the PGA Tour in 50 years. That inspired him to turn pro, but he hasn't made a cut on the PGA Tour or European Tour since then.

He is struggling with his schedule, much like Wie when she was in high school, playing a few tournaments and then having to take a month off to learn about the Pythagorean theory.

``It's hard to get any momentum going,'' Fujikawa said, presumably speaking of his golf. ``I feel like I play well one week, and then right when I start getting my game, I feel some confidence coming along and then I'm on a break. So it just kills it.''

He plans to play a mini-tour this summer, but would love to perform before his hometown crowd the way he did in 2007.

``I'm going to go out there and win,'' he said of his expectations this week. ``That's always my goal. A tournament is a tournament. You're out there to win, and that's what I'm going to try to do.''

That's one thing about the Sony Open that hasn't changed from last week - the trophy goes to the guy with the lowest score.

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