But it wasn't Augusta native Charles Howell, it was veteran Paul Goydos.
The 42-year-old Goydos, who began the final round two shots behind Howell, birdied three of the last four holes to shoot 3-under 67 and beat Howell and Luke Donald by one stroke at Waialae Country Club.
It was the first Tour victory for Goydos since the 1996 Bay Hill Invitational. He finished at 14-under-par 266.
"I never felt like I was going to win," said Goydos, who birdied Nos. 15, 16 and 18 to earn $936,000, more than he made all last year. "I'm stunned, I think, is the word I would use.''
Howell probably was, too, after being caught from behind on the final nine holes.
The tournament looked like it belonged to Howell for most of a sunny afternoon until a sudden shift on the back nine, when he made back-to-back bogeys on Nos. 12 and 13 and Goydos made consecutive birdies.
Howell had a chance to force a playoff when his 5-iron from the rough came up 50 feet short of the green. The former PGA Tour rookie of the year's chip ran 15 feet past the pin, and his birdie putt never had a chance. He shot 70 for his seventh runner-up finish since his only victory in the Michelob Championship at Kingsmill in Williamsburg, Va., in 2002.
Howell is trying to play his way into the Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club, which he has qualified for the past five years. To get into the field, Howell must be in the top 10 on the PGA Tour money list after the CA Championship at Doral on March 25, or be in the top 50 on the Official World Ranking at that time. Howell entered the Sony Open 86th in the ranking.
Howell has heard the whispers that he should have won more, and doesn't disagree.
"It's not something I haven't laid awake at night thinking about it," he said. "But if you keep giving yourself chances, you have to win one."