Rose shows off gold medal form.

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - SONY OPEN IN HAWAII - By Billy Hull bhull@starad­ver­

Last week’s win­ners-only PGA Tour event at Ka­palua was not an op­tion for the only liv­ing Olympic gold medal­ist in golf.

Justin Rose’s win in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last sum­mer made him the first Olympic gold medal­ist in golf since Ge­orge Lyon in 1904 and earned him an ex­emp­tion into each of the four ma­jor tour­na­ments this sea­son.

But it didn’t get him a spot in the 32-player SBS Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons.

“I’ve won six years in a row and I’ve only been (to Maui) once, so it’s prob­a­bly pay­back,” Rose said. “In my mind, I was sur­prised that it didn’t count in a way, just be­cause, why wouldn’t it? I think if a PGA Tour mem­ber won the Olympics, that would have been a good rule.”

A rule that is new to the tour this year re­quires golfers to play in at least one event they haven’t en­tered in the past four years.

It’s one Rose might re­ally come to like if he con­tin­ues his play from Fri­day’s se­cond round of the Sony Open in Hawaii into the week­end.

Roam­ing the grounds of Wa­ialae Coun­try Club for the first time since 2011 be­cause of that very rule, the 2013 U.S. Open cham­pion fired off seven birdies with only one bo­gey to fin­ish with a 6-un­der 64 and move up 18 spots to a tie for third at 10 un­der at the mid­way point.

“It was a beau­ti­ful morn­ing to play golf,” said Rose, who failed to win a PGA Tour event last year for the first time since 2009. “I felt that driv­ing the ball well enough where I have a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties it feels like and it’s just a mat­ter of stand­ing in there, di­al­ing in your iron play and pretty much go­ing at ev­ery sin­gle flag stick, be­cause that’s kind of the way the golf course feels at the minute.”

Rose was joined at 10 un­der by Zach John­son, who shot a 61, and Hud­son Swaf­ford, who opened with a 62 on Thurs­day.

The low scores con­tin­ued to be out there, which is why Rose was cau­tious about his po­si­tion on the leader­board fol­low­ing his round be­fore leader Justin Thomas had teed off.

“I’m do­ing well right now, tied se­cond, but I fully an­tic­i­pate some of the af­ter­noon guys to go out and con­tinue go­ing low,” Rose said. “Sixty-four is good, but I feel like the way I’m play­ing, hope­fully there’s a round — if you’re go­ing to win a golf tour­na­ment, you’re go­ing to have that round where ev­ery­thing goes your way.”

That’s what hap­pened to Thomas, who re­mained in front fol­low­ing up his tour­na­ment-record 59 on Thurs­day with a 6-un­der 64.

Rose did his best to keep up, hit­ting bombs of 21 feet and 36 feet for birdie on his se­cond and third holes.

Start­ing on the back­side, Rose’s mi­nor hic­cup came on No. 13 when he missed a 7-footer for par.

A birdie on No. 18 got him go­ing, and he kicked in four more birdies on the front nine to set­tle for a 64 af­ter his ea­gle putt on 18 missed by less than a foot.

Rose had just 27 putts for the round.

“I’m feel­ing re­ally good from the mid-range,” he said. “I feel that I’m run­ning the ball at the hole much bet­ter from 15 feet, so I feel like I’m mak­ing more birdies.”

Ranked as high as No. 3 in the world, Rose dropped to No. 16 af­ter a win­less 2016, al­though the vic­tory in Brazil, which in­cluded the first hole-in-one in Olympics his­tory, kept it from be­ing a bad year.

“Ob­vi­ously to still have a big win at the Olympics and stuff kind of made me at least be able to chalk up ’16 as not a tough year, but it was sort of a tough year in a lot of ways,” Rose said. “I was sort of just patch­ing stuff up, re­ally, and get­ting through the sea­son, and that’s no fun.”


Justin Rose watched his bunker shot on the sev­enth hole. He saved par and fin­ished in a tie for third.

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