EWA BEACH, Hawaii -- By the end of another challenging day in paradise Monday at Hoakalei CC, Neil Johnson found himself as close to a gig on the PGA Tour this week as the River Falls native got this time a year ago at the Sony Open in Hawaii. This close.
Johnson birdied three of his first four holes during open qualifying for the first full-field PGA Tour event of 2018, but didn’t make another the rest of the day. His 2-under-par 70 left him two shots out of a 2-for-1 playoff for the last of four spots in the 144-man tournament field.
A year ago, Johnson shot 70 on the same course and missed a 4-for-2 playoff for the final two spots in the Sony Open field. The rounds were nearly identical -- he birdied three of his first five holes a year ago -- but Johnson said that was were the similarities stopped.
“On paper, it looked similar to last year, but it played out quite differently,” Johnson wrote in a text message to Wisconsin.Golf. “My game didn’t feel good coming into this week as opposed to last year, when it felt great. I’ve been trying to get my swing figured out, but I haven’t yet. (Sunday) was a very tough 73 (in the pre-qualifier at Hoakalei), but I was able to keep it together mentally and not let the tough conditions get the best of me.”
As it did Sunday, the wind started to pick up in intensity during the middle of his round. That made club selection difficult and legitimate birdie chances few and far between.
“The golf course starts out easy on both sides, then finishes tough so I knew I would have to get some birdies at the start,” said Johnson, who began his round on the back nine with birdies at Nos. 10 and 11 and another at No. 13. “(The wind) started to blow on my sixth hole and I knew the final 12 holes would be a challenge. I hit a lot of good shots (Monday), but didn’t hit it close enough and left myself too many 15 to 20 footers for birdie.”
Johnson said he had 87 and 88 yards into the green on the par-5 first and par-4 second holes, respectively. He walked off with a pair of pars and, after a bogey at the par-3 fourth hole, was not able to get to the 4-under magic number required for a spot in the playoff.
“(Monday), my swing felt better, but not great,” Johnson wrote. “If my swing was in a bit better shape, I would’ve had a bit more confidence and maybe I would’ve been able to fire a mid-60s round. But instead I was fighting hard for whatever chances I could get.”
It was much the same story for Madison native Maxwell Hosking, who was bogey-free and 3-under through his first 12 holes only to falter late, shoot even-par 72 and tie for 29th. It was his first competitive round since the Nebraska Open in mid-September where he finished tied for 19th — 12 shots behind Johnson, who shot 68-65-64 to win by two.
Hosking, who started on the front nine, birdied No. 3 to go along with eight pars and made the turn in 1-under 35. He birdied the par-5 10th and par-4 12th holes before trading a bogey at the par-3 13th hole for a birdie at the par-4 15th to get within one shot of the playoff with three holes to go before finishing bogey-bogey-bogey to miss his chance.
“My iron striking is what kept me around all day,” Hosking wrote via text message to Wisconsin.Golf. “(I) struggled a bit with the driver and putter (and) missed a handful of 10-15 foot putts due to speed. (But I) felt extremely confident every time I had an iron in hand. (Nos.) 16 and 17 are some tough finishing holes and I hit two poor tee shots (and) trying to be aggressive out of the Bermuda rough out here doesn’t really work.
“I would say the driver is a big reason why I wasn’t able to get where I needed to be.”
Hosking, who said he has been battling “tendon problems” in his foot in recent weeks, is planning to spend a week in Hawaii with his mom Debbie, who recently retired to “The Big Island” and was able to watch her son’s quest for a spot in a PGA Tour event. After that, Hosking said he’d return to his winter home in Tucson, Arizona, where he said he is going to “work on gathering sponsors and getting a big more healthy before I tee it up again."
As for Johnson, he will return to his home in Phoenix and prepare for the upcoming PGA Tour Latinoamerica Qualifying School, which is Jan. 16 through 19 at Mazatlan, Mexico. The first session of qualifying for that tour begins Tuesday at Howey-In-The-Hills, Florida, where Platteville native Joshua Udelhofen is among those seeking exempt status.
|3||John Oda Honolulu, HI||-5||F||67|
|4||Gunn Yang San Diego, CA||-4||F||68|
|DID NOT QUALIFY|
|5||Benjamin Corfee El Macero, CA||-4||F||68|
|6||Zahkai Brown Golden, CO||-3||F||69|
|8||Sebastian Vazquez Addiso, TX||-3||F||69|
|9||Ken Duke FL||-3||F||69|
|10||Rico (Richard) Hoey Rancho Cucamonga, CA||-3||F||69|
|11||Parker Mclachlin Scottsdale, AZ||-3||F||69|
|12||Zachary Blair Orem, UT||-3||F||69|
|13||Daniel Obremski Irwin, PA||-3||F||69|
|14||Neil Johnson River Falls, WI||-2||F||70|
|15||Eric Meichtry Murrieta, CA||-2||F||70|
|17||Brent Grant HI||-1||F||71|
|18||Michael Schoolcraft CO||-1||F||71|
|19||Katsumasa Miyamoto Honolulu, HI||-1||F||71|
|20||Y.E. Yang Carrollton, TX||-1||F||71|
|21||Derek Barron Lakewood, WA||-1||F||71|
|22||Tadd Fujikawa Honolulu, HI||-1||F||71|
|23||Derek Fribbs Thornton, CO||-1||F||71|
|24||Kyohei Nomura Honolulu, HI||E||F||72|
|25||Franklin Corpening Fort Worth, TX||E||F||72|
|26||Sang Shin Honolulu, HI||E||F||72|
|28||Genki Tamashiro Torrence, CA||E||F||72|
|29||Max Hosking Madison, WI||E||F||72|
|30||Nicholas Mason Ewa Beach, HI||+1||F||73|
|31||Jared Sawada Mililani, HI||+1||F||73|
|33||Matthew Daniel Vancouver, BC||+1||F||73|
|35||Byron Meth Tempe, AZ||+2||F||74|
|36||Juan Rodriguez Waikoloa, HI||+2||F||74|
|37||Mark Anguiano Hacienda Heights, CA||+2||F||74|
|38||Remington Hirano Honolulu, HI||+3||F||75|
|39||Kyle Suppa Naples, HI||+3||F||75|
|40||Ryuichiro Iwama San Diego, CA||+3||F||75|
|41||Jordan Holifield Kaneohe, HI||+3||F||75|
|42||Jack Newman Clearwater, FL||+3||F||75|
|43||Ryan Williams Phoenix, AZ||+4||F||76|
|44||Jake Byrum Scottsdale, AZ||+4||F||76|
|45||Larry Correa Lompoc, CA||+4||F||76|
|47||JoshuaRoland DeFreitas Jr HI||+5||F||77|
|48||TJ Esaki-Kua Honolulu, HI||+5||F||77|
|49||Jason Jakovac Ewa Beach, HI||+5||F||77|
|50||JT Griffin Lyndhurst, OH||+6||F||78|
|51||Justin Keiley Haiku, HI||+6||F||78|
|52||Dalen Yamauchi Hilo, HI||+6||F||78|
|53||Kevin Lucas Folsom, CA||+6||F||78|