Slowly but surely players are getting back in the game, and Séamus Power – up to a career best 63rd in the updated world rankings following his tied-15th finish in the Sentry Tournament of Champions – will have Graeme McDowell, making his first appearance of the year, alongside him in the field for this week's Sony Open in Honolulu.
Power was one of 24 players who made the short flight from Maui to Honolulu for the PGA Tour’s second stop of the year, but in the knowledge that he had carried on the momentum of his strong performances in the second half of last season with him on what is a constant upward trajectory.
The Waterford man's move to 63rd in the world has edged him ever-closer to a place in the world's top 50 which carries the carrot of a place in the field for the US Masters in April. Time is on his side in that pursuit, as those inside the top 50 the week before the Masters will earn exemptions.
Power’s strong start to the season is reflected in him moving from 25th up to 21st in the updated FedEx Cup standings, although the challenge at this week’s Sony Open – where the Waialae Country Club layout is a Par 70 of 7,044 yards compared to the wide open Par 73 of 7,5696 at the Plantation Course for the Champions event – will be one requiring precision.
Apart from his finishing position in Maui (which brought his season’s earnings to $788,942), the statistics from Power’s first appearance of the year will provide confidence going into this week’s examination, most notably that he went through the final three rounds – 54 holes – without incurring a bogey.
McDowell, for his part, is making his first appearance since the RSM Classic last November and will hope that the winter break has enabled him to sort out some glitches. McDowell is reappearing on the circuit aiming to end to a streak of three missed cuts, dating back to the Mayakoba Championship in early November.
Cameron Smith, who moved into the world’s top-10 for the first time in his career following his record-breaking low win in Maui, will aim to make it back-to-back wins at a tournament where Kevin Na is the defending champion. Smith could reach as high as world number five if he were to win, while Bryson DeChambeau would moved to number three with a victory.
While the PGA Tour completes its Hawaiian Swing before moving into the West Coast Swing, the DP World Tour – the rebranded European Tour – has another week before it swings into action with the Abu Dhabi Championship where Rory McIlroy, Shane Lowry, Jonathan Caldwell and Pádraig Harrington are all confirmed entries for the tournament which kicks off a Middle East Swing that also takes in the following week's Dubai Desert Classic, the Ras al Khaimah Championship and the Qatar Masters.
McIlroy and Lowry are competing in Abu Dhabi and the Dubai Desert Classic, each of which of Rolex Series events on the DPWT.