Rose shows off gold medal form.
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.