Back to school: new and old (and sick) faces at the Sony Open
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour
Zach Johnson: Beware the sick golfer

Zach Johnson: Beware the sick golfer

The first full-season event of the year reminds me of the first week of school. Walk out to the practice areas, which are compact and conveniently located at Waialae Country Club, and it’s packed with players, caddies, reps and the rest of the Tour circus, exchanging hugs and bro handshakes.

The vibe is chill but enthusiastic. Most the rookies aren’t hard to spot because they’re the ones with their eyes wide open and taking in the scene. Everyone is chatting happily and smiling.  After all, it’s the start of a fresh year and just look around — you’re in paradise.

The rookies and the veterans are all raring to get their seasons started. Twenty of the thirty who managed to play–and walk–54 holes on Monday and Tuesday to complete the wind-plagued Hyundai Tournament of Champions are also in the field at the Sony Open. They didn’t get much rest, either, since they were required to play in the pro-am on Wednesday.

Most of them are pretty darn sore, especially the caddies (the older guys seemed like they were struggling a little), and the others just won’t admit to it. Even Dustin Johnson, who is as athletic as they come, said he was tired.

“I’m ready to go,” said DJ, who didn’t have much time between winning the Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Tuesday afternoon and teeing off in the pro-am on Wednesday morning. “Just need to go rest a little bit. But you  know, I’m fine. I’m definitely looking forward to this week, and mentally ready for sure.”

The flu epidemic plaguing the nation has also hit Hawaii. Players, caddies, reps and members of the media got sick or brought a bug with them to Kapalua and then this week to Honolulu.

The always-friendly Zach Johnson walked out of the locker room looking like a ghost. Or just someone who was really sick and needed to be in bed, not the golf course. He was scheduled to play in the pro-am at 11:30am. He gave it his best and tried to warm-up, but he was too ill and forced to withdraw. Hopefully, Zach, who won the ’09 Sony Open, is feeling better by his tee time on Thursday. But you know what they say — beware the sick golfer!

I’ve got tons of tidbits from my recon the last few days and I’m looking forward to sharing, but you’ll have to excuse me while I try to find a ride back to my hotel before it gets too dark. It’s late on the east coast, anyway.

Ta-ta for now.

Oh, you’ll want to come back and check at some point. When I have a chance to update this post (might not be tonight because I’m feeling like I’m coming down with something), I’ll share the fun little prank Matt Jones and I pulled on Billy Horschel …and more.

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)