Sony Open in Hawaii: Hideki Matsuyama still battling neck injury ahead of title defense at Waialae

Hideki Matsuyama's last win came at the 2022 Sony Open, where he rallied back to beat Russell Henley in a playoff

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The second and final PGA Tour stop in Hawaii kicks off this week in Honolulu, where Hideki Matsuyama will attempt to back up his title in what would be his first win in exactly a year.

Here’s everything you need to know for the 2023 Sony Open in Hawaii:

Tournament Basics

Sony Open in Hawaii

January 12-15

Waialae Country Club | Honolulu, Hawaii

Par 70 | 7,044 yards

Purse: $7.9 million/$1.422 million

FedExCup points for winner: 500

Betting favorite, via BetMGM: Tom Kim (+1,100)

Last time out: Hideki Matsuyama takes 2022 title in a playoff

Matsuyama picked up his seventh career win and second in three starts last January in a thrilling playoff battle with Russell Henley.

Matsuyama made the turn in the final round last year while 5 shots back from Henley. Then he rallied and posted a 31 on his final nine holes to force a playoff, which he then sealed with an incredible eagle on the first extra hole.

The win was the second of two for Matsuyama last season. His first came just two starts earlier at the Zozo Championship. He ended the season with six top-10 finishes, including a fourth-place finish at the U.S. Open.

“It was a little surprising that I was able to win last year,” Matsuyama said Tuesday. “Waialae is on the of toughest golf course, I feel like. Shooting 63 on the weekend is something I'm really happy with, so I'm really happy that I'm back here again.”

Matsuyama, however, isn’t predicting a big week this time around.

He's still dealing with a neck injury, something that followed him throughout much of last season and into the winter break. While he qualified for the Tour Championship and finished T11, he struggled in the fall. His best finish this season came in the form of a T25 run at the Fortinet Championship in September, and he had to withdraw from the Houston Open in November due to the injury.

“I’ve been having a little trouble with my neck recently,” Matsuyama said this week via a translator. “I wasn't able to practice as much as I can for the last couple months, but the game is trending. It's going forward.

“So I can't expect too much, but I'm really looking forward to this week … It's been coming back and forth," he continued. "Especially last November — October, November. Every time I played golf, it was — the pain was coming back. So I've been working with the doctors, too, and I've been getting some good advice, so I feel like it's getting better and better.”

Hideki Matsuyama will attempt to back up his Sony Open title this week, despite a lingering neck injury. (AP/Matt York)
Hideki Matsuyama will attempt to back up his Sony Open title this week, despite a lingering neck injury. (AP/Matt York)

Tom Hoge’s wild, and likely sad, detour to Honolulu

Hoge might be regretting his detour to Honolulu just a bit.

He finished third at the Sentry Tournament of Champions last week, an impressive start to his 2023 campaign. Yet instead of island hopping over to Honolulu for this week’s tournament, Hoge made an extreme detour.

Hoge and his wife took a red-eye flight from Maui to Los Angeles so the TCU alum could watch the Horned Frogs in the College Football Playoff Championship game at SoFi Stadium.

That didn’t work out well for Hoge. Georgia rolled over TCU 65-7 on Monday to claim its second straight national title. The Horned Frogs never really stood a chance.

After the game, Hoge and his wife went back to the airport and jumped on a plane back to Hawaii on Tuesday — a ride that, after being on the wrong side of one of the biggest blowouts in college football national championship game history, couldn’t have been very fun.

But Hoge said he never thought twice about skipping the Sony Open. The 33-year-old, who picked up his inaugural Tour win last season at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, finished third at the Sony in 2018. He already has three top-10 finishes this season, too, after impressive runs at the Shriners Children’s Open and the Zozo Championship.

“That’s one of my favorite events. I've had a lot of success on that course,” Hoge told the PGA Tour’s Kevin Prise before the game. “There were some thoughts after I booked flights and hotels and all that stuff, whether I should really go to the game or not, but I think I want to be there for it. So we’ll do both.”