With the inaugural event in the books for 2011, the flight from Maui to Honolulu greets most of the field where they will join the first full-field event of the season at Waialae Country Club for the Sony Open.
Ryan Palmer, fresh off a tie for 15th at Kapalua, will defend a title for third time on the PGA Tour.
Palmer finished tied for 3rd in 2005 in defense of his first PGA Tour victory, the FUNAI Classic at Walt Disney World.
Unfortunately he didn’t get to defend at the Ginn sur Mer Classic in 2009 as the tournament was dropped from the PGA Tour schedule in 2009.
“I guess last year I didn’t have any expectations,” said Palmer, who traveled to Hawaii from his home in Texas. “Now I know what I need to work on going into the week and it’s my putting, obviously I didn’t make any putts this week.”
This past weekend, Palmer ranked 26th (out of 30) in putting with 126 total putts. Outside of the first round (27 putts), he didn’t break 30 putts in a round.
But, with what he lacked with the flat-stick, his irons and driver were in midseason form – ranking 10th in greens-in-regulation, missing only 10 greens all week.
“I’m hitting it good and am very excited about that going into that golf course,” said Palmer, referring to the sloppy and grainy greens of the Plantation course to the relative evenness of Waialae. “Now I have a few expectations.”
Despite the putting, Palmer did look good around the green. An area of continual weakness last year when Palmer ranked 144th in scrambling, the Texas native worked with his instructor Randy Smith just before getting on the plane to Hawaii.
That worked paid off, as Palmer was 11th in scrambling at Kapalua, and was either first or second in four of the statistical categories from scrambling.
“I’m very excited, especially with the short game work that I put in,” said Palmer. “ Knowing how my work around the greens is right now. Once I get the putts to fall it’ll come together. I drove it great this week, hit the irons very nice, I just didn’t make any putts this week.”