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On course for the big 5-0

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  • 2012 January 13 SPT - Sony Open Final - Russell Henley celebrates after sinking his putt on the 18th hole of the 2013 Sony Open in Hawaii for a birdie and the championship. HSA photo by Bruce Asato
    Isao Aoki became the first golfer from Japan to win a PGA Tour event when he won the Hawaiian Open at Waialae in 1983.

With Wednesday’s announcement of a four-year extension for the Sony Open in Hawaii, Waialae Country Club could hit a milestone only Augusta National and Colonial can claim.

The Masters started at Augusta in 1934. Colonial has been home to a PGA Tour event since 1946. Waialae would hit 50 years in 2015 if it signs on with Sony and the tour in the new extension. No other tour site can lay claim to that kind of longevity.

The tour’s first full-field event of the year is now committed through at least 2018, giving Sony 20 years as sponsor. The tournament began in 1965 at Waialae as the Hawaiian Open. There was no tournament in 1970 when the tour moved it on the schedule.

Since Sony and Friends of Hawaii Charities Inc., took over in 1999, they have distributed more than $13 million to some 350 local nonprofits, with the help of charity partner The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Inc.

"The extension of Sony Corporation’s sponsorship of the Sony Open in Hawaii is exciting for Hawaii’s not-for-profit and tourism sectors," said Friends of Hawaii Charities president Corbett Kalama, "as well as the many community constituencies that receive benefit.

"Additionally, valuable support from the State of Hawaii and Hawaii Tourism Authority leverages hours of Sony Open live television coverage. This SonyOpen showcase of our beautiful island home reaches a massive global audience each January, providing valuable top-of-mind promotional benefit for Hawaii’s tourism industry."

The 2014 tournament is Jan. 9-12. All four rounds will be shown on the Golf Channel, in prime time on the East Coast.

Russell Henley, then 23, became the youngest to win at Waialae last January. He shot a record 24-under-par 256 — the third-best total in tour history — winning in his first start as a PGA Tour member.

Henley collected $1,008,000 of the $5.6 million purse. Gay Brewer won at Waialae in 1965, pocketing $9,000. Hawaii’s Ted Makalena won the next year, and Kauai’s David Ishii, a 16-time champion on the Japan PGA tour, captured the title in 1990.

The tour opens the calendar year — and continues its new-format "2013-14 season" — with the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Jan. 3-6 at Kapalua Plantation. Hyundai is committed through 2015. SBS also has a 10-year commitment with the TOC, which runs through 2018 whether Hyundai continues as title sponsor or not. Kapalua has hosted the winners-only event since 1999.

Dustin Johnson won this year and is one of 35 qualifiers for the 2014 event, along with Henley. That group also includes the top five in the World Golf Rankings — Tiger Woods, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Phil Mickelson and Justin Rose.

It does not include Rory McIlroy (6), Steve Stricker (8), Ian Poulter (11), Jim Furyk (15), Keegan Bradley (16), Luke Donald (17), Jason Day (18), Sergio Garcia (19), Charl Schwartzel (22), Lee Westwood (23) and Ernie Els (24), who did not win a PGA Tour event this year. Stricker, Furyk, Garcia and Els have won at Kapalua. Stricker has five top-10 finishes the last six years.

The tournament has also struggled to get its winners here recently. This year, seven players declined the invitation, including Woods, who hasn’t played here since 2005. The year before, only 27 of 38 made the trip to Maui.

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