The Sony Open’s finest moments – ranked

The PGA Tour’s annual visit to Waialae Country Club in Honolulu has witnessed many great episodes and we’ve picked our top five.

A regular PGA Tour event since 1965, the Sony Open has always been played at the Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

It's one of the most popular events on the schedule, played amid plenty of Hawaiian fanfare on a course that gives the entire field a fair chance of success.

Down the years the tournament has witnessed plenty of excitement and we've selected our top five.

5th: Michelle Wie shoots 68 aged 14

Back in 2004, Michelle Wie did something which, nearly two decades on, still seems a little remarkable.

At the time, Wie was just 14 but her game had garnered a big reputation and she was granted a sponsor's exemption. Smart publicity by the event, earning lots of worldwide attention? Undoubtedly.

But Wie also stood up to the pressure.

She carded a 2-over-par 72 in the first round before adding a 68 on Friday that left her saying: "Just one more shot and I would have made the cut. It's killing me now."

Her entry had prompted plenty of controversy as well as excitement, but she tied Jim Furyk and bested no less than 47 of the field.

A 14-year-old schoolgirl!

Ernie Els said: "She can play on this tour. If she keeps working, doing the right things, there's no reason why she shouldn't be out here."

Alas, life got in the way. Wie would eventually play 13 times on the PGA and European Tours without coming closer to making a cut and her early years on the LPGA may well have been compromised by the ventures into the men's game.

She would go on to win the 2014 US Women's Open, but the joy and audacity of that 14-year-old's performance was lost among the pro ranks.

4th: Justin Thomas cards a 59

Justin Thomas was feeling pretty good about his game heading into the 2017 Sony Open off the back of a three-shot victory at the previous week's Tournament of Champions.

So much so that he celebrated with an 11-under-par 59 in the first round at Waialae.

The youngest man to break 60, he had started his day on the back nine and found himself needing an eagle-3 at the ninth to complete what he called "the magic number".

After he drained a 15-foot putt to do so his playing partners Jordan Spieth and Daniel Berger appeared more excited than he was.

"I didn't really know how to react," he admitted. "I've never had a putt on the last hole on a Thursday mean so much. So that was a little odd. I just looked at them, they were going nuts and I think I went nuts."

He didn't waste his effort. Leading by three at the end of the first day he added a 64 and two 65s to eventually win by seven shots.

3rd: Paul Azinger returns to action and wins

Through the late 1980s and early 1990s, the 'Zinger was a tremendous force on the PGA Tour and a permanent thorn in the side of the Europeans at the Ryder Cup.

He won 11 times on his home circuit between 1987 and 1993, the last of those wins being his first Major triumph at the PGA Championship.

But the following year he was diagnosed with cancer and life changed. Once most famous for his brash love of a scrap, he learned a lot of life lessons in his biggest fight of all.

He would win only once in the second part of his career, playing supremely in the 2000 Sony Open to win by seven. "All the people who've been diagnosed with cancer," he said afterwards. "I guess I'm living proof that your life can return back to normal."

2nd: Ernie Els dominates in Hawaii

In the first two years of the 21st century, South Africa's Ernie Els dropped some pretty big hints that he liked the look of Hawaii.

He played the Tournament of Champions and Sony Open in both 2000 and 2001, never-ending the week outside the top five.

Despite that success, he opted not to return in 2002, but he would make up for it in the next two campaigns.

He won the 2003 Tournament of Champions by eight strokes and a week later completed the Hawaii double when downing Aaron Baddeley in a play-off.

A year later Els returned to Waialae, forced 54-hole leader Harrison Frazar into extra holes, and once again emerged with the trophy.

By the end of 2005, he had played 10 times in Hawaii, finished top five in nine of them, top three in eight, and won three times!

From 2001 to 2005 he played at Waialae on four occasions and finished top three every single time.

1st: Isao Aoki holes out to win in 1983

Undoubtedly the Sony Open's finest moment and possibly the greatest video of a tournament's conclusion in golfing history. There really is so much to enjoy.

It kicks off with Jack Renner, swinging in pure 1970/80s style, narrowly failing to make eagle-3 at the last, but nonetheless setting a strong clubhouse target, all the time aided by a caddie who is wearing shorts and no shoes.

Then there's the glorious sight of the chaser, Japan's Isao Aoki: the curved spine, the flared trousers, a swing that resembles a vulnerable tree creaking in the wind.

Needing to get up-and-down from the rough 100 yards short of the green to force a play-off, Aoki swishes at the ball and is astonished to watch it take one hop before disappearing down the hole for the win.

The winner skips down the fairway, a marshal behind him actually starts dancing, and - best of all - Jack Renner makes absolutely no attempt whatsoever to hide his complete devastation.

Aoki was the first Japanese winner on the PGA Tour, but the story gets even better.

Who won 12 months later? Renner did. Brilliant.


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