Adam Scott headlines Sony Open before 6-week hiatus

Matt King

While Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, and Rory McIlroy are otherwise occupied, second-ranked Adam Scott will carry the banner for the rest of the world’s top 10 when he plays his second Hawaiian event, the Sony Open, in as many weeks.

Adam Scott hopes to improve on his sixth-place finish at Kapalua with a stronger performance at this week’s Sony Open before the reigning Masters champ takes a six-week timeout from competitive golf to gear up for Augusta.

Scott, the second-ranked golfer in the world behind Tiger Woods, will tee it up starting Thursday at Waialae Country Club and then miss all six West Coast venues, including the Tucson stop for the first time since he qualified for the match play event in 2002.

"If I can get off to a good start here, I think I'll be able to enjoy a break and then come back ready for the Florida Swing and be in the best shape possible for the Masters," Scott told reporters ahead of last week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions. "That's kind of what I'm basing the schedule on."

Scott flew to Hawaii fresh off a torrid end to his 2013 season. The U.S. golf writers’ choice for Player of the Year won the Australian Masters and PGA before falling to Rory McIlroy at the Aussie Open and coming up just short of capturing his homeland’s triple crown.

With regular caddie Steve Williams not quite ready for retirement but back on his native stomping grounds for the grand slam equivalent of Kiwi racing, the New Zealand Super Saloon Championship and NZ Saloon Championships, Scott will have a friend of his schlepping the luggage for him this week.

"He’s chomping at the bit to have a go," Scott told the Associated Press about his looper’s passion for fast cars. "He’s earned it. I’ll let him drive one week, as long as he comes back."

As Woods no doubt helps injured girlfriend Lindsey Vonn deal with her devastating decision to pull out of the Sochi Olympics, Phil Mickelson gears up for Sunday's AFC divisional playoff game pitting his beloved Chargers against Peyton Manning and the Broncos, and McIlroy prepares for his season-opener in Abu Dhabi next week, Scott, ToC winner Zach Johnson (No. 7), and eighth-ranked Matt Kuchar are the only golfers among the top 10 competing in Honolulu.

For the first full-field contest of the 2014 calendar year, Scott drew Kuchar and hiker-extraordinaire Jason Dufner for the opening two rounds at Waialae.

Didn’t know the Dufman was such a rainforest enthusiast? Check out what T.J. Auclair calls "Dufnering in motion" in this video of the PGA champion and wife Amanda taking time off from his busy on-course schedule to smell the coffee beans and spit out a few Liliko'i seeds:

Kuchar, ToC contender Kevin Streelman's choice as the player most likely to win his first major this year, joins a trio featuring two guys who notched their inaugural premiere titles in 2013. Tiger's new favorite Presidents Cup partner was sixth last week and has two fifth-place finishes in his past two Sony starts, in 2013 and 2011.

Dufner, fifth at Kapalua, hopes to do better than his missed cut at the 2012 Sony, while Scott’s best performance in his five Sony starts was a T2 in 2009. He has not appeared at the event since 2011, when he missed the cut.

Scott’s next tour assignment will be at the Honda Classic at the end of February.

More from SB Nation Golf:

Tiger's $1.3 billion in earnings makes him richest golfer in history

Mickelson passes on Maui, weathers freezing rain of Chargers game

Tiger's winning percentage is untouchable, says Johnny Miller

Sprinkler malfunction interrupts Dufner's round in Maui

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