Sang-Moon Bae got off to a great start in pristine conditions along the shores of Oahu. Chris Kirk had an ideal finish.
They were together all Thursday morning, playing in the same group at the Sony Open and taking the top two spots on the leaderboard after the opening round at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
Bae played bogey-free at 7-under-par 63. Kirk shot 29 on the back nine, including an eagle on the last hole, for a 64.
Ryan Palmer, coming off a week of vacation in Maui, birdied the last two holes for a 65, tying him with Brian Stuard, who made eight birdies. Those were the best scores in the afternoon, when a full day of sunshine made the course play faster.
Bae and Kirk provided plenty of excitement in one group. They had a better-ball score of 56. There were only five holes where both of them had to settle for par.
“He was off to a great start,” Kirk said. “At one point, he was 4-under and I was still 2-over. It took some catching up for me on the back nine. But it’s always nice to see putts falling.”
Retief Goosen, finally feeling better after missing another big chunk of the year with back problems, slept awkwardly on his neck and was sore during the pro-am. That apparently healed quickly. He was in the group at 66 with Harris English, Jimmy Walker and John Daly.
Kapalua winner Zach Johnson opened with two bogeys before he settled into a 68. Jordan Spieth, who finished one shot behind Johnson last week in the Tournament of Champions, reached 3-under through 10 holes until he was slowed by a three-putt bogey from 20 feet on No. 12. That was the start of three bogeys in four holes, and the 20-year-old Texan had to settle for a 70.
There are not two courses 100 miles apart in the same state on consecutive weeks on the PGA Tour any more different.
Kapalua was built on the side of a mountain, with severe grain in the greens and massive changes in elevation. Waialae is flat, tight and tree-lined with small greens.
“I think I played well last week, but really tough greens,” Bae said. “Very hard to read. I couldn’t read any right-to-left putts — any putts — so I missed a lot of putts last week. But this course is more shorter than last week, so easy read, and I can make good speed, too.”
Kirk had reason to believe this wasn’t going to be his day when his ball got stuck in a tree on the sixth hole and he had to scramble for bogey, already 2-over. But a shot into tap-in range on the eighth hole sent him on his way, and an eagle brought him within one shot of Bae after the opening round.
JACQUELIN TAKES EARLY LEAD IN SOUTH AFRICA
Raphael Jacquelin shot a bogey-free 5-under 67 in extremely windy conditions on South Africa’s east coast to take the first-round lead at the Volvo Golf Champions in Durban.
Jacquelin was the only player in the 36-man field not to drop a shot around Durban Country Club for a one-stroke edge over defending champion Louis Oosthuizen.
Race to Dubai leader Thomas Bjorn was last after a 7-over 79.
tracking michael putnam on the pga tour
This week: Sony Open, through Sunday, Waialae Country Club, Honolulu.
First-round score: Even-par 70. Position: Putnam is tied for 65th, seven strokes behind leader Sang-Moon Bae (63).
Recap: Considering the University Place resident came into the event with no expectations, and having never shot an opening round of par or better, he’ll take a 70. He was 3-over through eight holes but started his rally the way he ended it — getting up and down from a greenside bunker for birdie at a par 5. He nearly holed out from 30 yards in front of the ninth green for his first birdie. And after back-to-back birdies at Nos. 12 and 13, he hit his second shot in the right greenside bunker at No. 18 and splashed out close on his third shot, making a 3-footer for a final birdie.
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