Hit­ting his stride

Brian Har­man takes the lead af­ter the sec­ond round of the Sony Open

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - FRONT PAGE - By Ja­son Kaneshiro jkaneshiro@starad­ver­tiser.com

Brian Har­man wasn’t sure how he felt about Wa­ialae Coun­try Club af­ter his first cou­ple of trips to Hawaii. The course claimed a spe­cial place in his ca­reer when he ad­vanced to the week­end in his Sony Open in Hawaii de­but in 2012. But his next visit ended early af­ter play­ing two rounds at 5 over par.

“I made the cut here my rookie year and I was ex­cited about that. I missed the cut my sec­ond year and didn’t know if the course suited me or not,” he re­called.

He de­cided to give the East Oahu lay­out another shot and has found it a com­fort­able fit ever since.

Since that missed cut in 2013, Har­man failed to break 70 just once over his next 18 tours of Wa­ialae and turned his best round to date with a 7-un­der 63 on Fri­day to take a three-shot lead into the week­end at 13 un­der.

“I like the chal­lenge of the tee shots. I think the greens roll re­ally well, so it sets up well for my eye,” Har­man said.

The Univer­sity of Georgia grad­u­ate tied his pre­vi­ous Wa­ialae best with a 64 on Thurs­day and closed the sec­ond round by spin­ning in an ea­gle putt on No. 9. He ex­tended his streak of Sony rounds in the 60s to 10 while con­tin­u­ing a tor­rid start to the wrap-around sea­son.

The 5-foot-7 left-han­der opened the Hawaii swing with a third-place fin­ish at the Sen­try Tour­na­ment of Champions last week. He held a share of the 36-hole lead at Ka­palua be­fore be­ing passed by even­tual TOC cham­pion Dustin John­son and again will lead the field into the week­end.

“I’m just go­ing to show up (to­day) and try to hit the first tee shot best you can and go from there,” Har­man said. “There’s no magic for­mula. There’s no rea­son to change. I’m just go­ing to keep do­ing what I’m do­ing.” And why not?

Har­man was 90th in the world be­fore win­ning the Wells Fargo Championship last May and tied for sec­ond at the U.S. Open. He be­gan this sea­son by plac­ing in the top five in four of his first five events. The out­lier was an eighth at the HSBC Champions in Oc­to­ber.

Har­man cred­ited his re­cent run to a change to a Titleist ball last year and jumped to No. 23 in the world af­ter his week at Ka­palua. He’s so far tran­si­tioned to the far flat­ter but tighter fair­ways at Wa­ialae just fine.

“Last week all the balls end up in sort of the same place,” Har­man said. “It’s pretty gen­er­ous in most of the spots over there. Whereas here, some holes here you feel like there’s no fair­way. Holes like 6 and 13, I hit two per­fect ones to­day and was still in the rough.”

He man­aged pars at both and hit 14 of 18 fair­ways in a round high­lighted by six birdies and the clos­ing 17foot ea­gle putt that cir­cled the cup be­fore fall­ing.

First-round co-lead­ers Zach John­son and Chris Kirk en­ter the sec­ond round still tied and part of a pack of five golfers chas­ing Har­man at 10 un­der.

John­son, the 2009 cham­pion, was plod­ding along at even par through 15 holes be­fore rolling in a 6-footer for birdie on the par-3 sev­enth and fin­ish­ing with a 27foot putt for ea­gle on No. 9 to move to 10 un­der.

“Tech­ni­cally, my mind-set is go­ing to be pretty ag­gres­sive,” John­son said. “You’ve still got to put a num­ber up here at Wa­ialae be­cause guys are so good, and I think slightly widen­ing the fair­ways and the greens hold­ing, you’ve got to be ag­gres­sive.”

Kirk be­gan his round with a chip-in ea­gle on No. 10 and was alone in sec­ond for much of the af­ter­noon. But he slipped back to the pack with a costly bo­gey on the par-5 ninth to fin­ish with a 67.

“Def­i­nitely could have been bet­ter, but also made some re­ally nice saves when I didn’t hit great shots on the front nine,” Kirk said. “l’ll get a lit­tle bit of rest and be fresh and ready to go tomorrow.”

Kirk and Har­man were team­mates at Georgia in 2006 and ’07, and their his­tory to­gether stretches even far­ther back.

“I’ve known and played a lot of golf with Brian since I was 13 years old, both grow­ing up in Georgia, so we’ve re­mained close friends since and he’s been on a tear lately,” Kirk said.

John Peter­son played his front nine at a strik­ing 29, played even par on the back and fin­ished with a 64 to en­ter to­day’s play part of the group at 10 un­der.

“I made like a 50-footer on 4, and then I hit it to 8 feet on 5. I was like, man, I could shoot 59 to­day,” Peter­son said. “And then I just didn’t make any­thing af­ter that.

But it was a fun day.”

Tom Hoge closed with four con­sec­u­tive birdies and signed for his sec­ond straight 65 to join the group at 10 un­der.

At the end of the day

Talor Gooch birdied his last hole of the round to fin­ish 10 un­der and tied for sec­ond with four oth­ers.

De­fend­ing cham­pion Justin Thomas turned in a sec­ond straight 67 to en­ter the week­end lurk­ing at 6 un­der. World No. 2 Jor­dan Spi­eth was danc­ing on the cut line for much of the day, but safely made it into the week­end at 3 un­der with a round of 68.

CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARAD­VER­TISER.COM

Brian Har­man teed off at the first hole as Billy Hur­ley III, left, watched in the sec­ond round of the Sony Open on Fri­day.

PHO­TOS BY JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARAD­VER­TISER.COM

Chris Kirk, left, hit from the fair­way onto the 16th green while cad­die Shan­non Wal­lis watched. Talor Gooch, be­low, teed off at the 10th hole dur­ing the sec­ond round of the Sony Open at Wa­ialae Coun­try Club.

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