Justin Thomas shoots 59 at Sony Open

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - SPORTING GREEN -

Star­ing over the top of a bunker on his fi­nal hole, the pru­dent play for Justin Thomas might have been to make sure he got out of the sand and avoided a big num­ber.

But then, Thomas didn’t care about a big num­ber. It was about golf ’s magic num­ber.

“This isn’t a time for me to lay it up,” Thomas said Thurs­day at the Sony Open in Honolulu.

He hit a 5-iron so clean and so high that it car­ried 207 yards to 15 feet from the pin on the par-5 ninth hole at Wa­ialae Coun­try Club. Thomas poured in the ea­gle putt for an 11-un­der-par 59, be­com­ing the sev­enth player to post a sub-60 round in PGA Tour his­tory.

For a mo­ment, he re­acted as if it were lit­tle more than the per­fect fin­ish to a great open­ing round. He stretched out his put­ter, smiled and punched the air with his right fist. Only when he looked at play­ing part­ners Jor­dan Spi­eth and Daniel Berger did the sense of his­tory start to hit him.

Berger thrust his arm in the air. Spi­eth, his best friend in golf since they were 13, crouched as the ball neared the cup and de­liv­ered a left-handed fist pump as both raced over to con­grat­u­late him.

“I think I got more ex­cited from see­ing them get ex­cited than I did my putt go­ing in,” Thomas said. “I thought about it go­ing up to the green. I’m like, ‘If I make it, what am I go­ing to do?’ It’s not like win­ning a tour­na­ment.”

Jim Furyk was the last with a sub-60 round when he closed with a record 58 at the Trav­el­ers Cham­pi­onship last sum­mer. Furyk also had a 59 in 2013 at the BMW Cham­pi­onship, join­ing the ex­clu­sive group that in­cludes Al Geiberger (1977 Mem­phis Clas­sic), Chip Beck (1991 Las Ve­gas In­vi­ta­tional), David Du­val (1999 Bob Hope Clas­sic), Paul Goy­dos (2010 John Deere Clas­sic) and Stu­art Ap­pleby (2010 Green­brier Clas­sic).

Thomas, who won the Tour­na­ment of Cham­pi­ons on Sun­day, has a three-stroke over Hud­son Swaf­ford. Rory Sab­ba­tini is one more stroke back. Euro­pean Tour: Rory McIl­roy made an im­pres­sive start to 2017, shoot­ing a 5-un­der 67 in the first round of the South African Open in Jo­han­nes­burg to put him­self a stroke off the lead. South African play­ers Trevor Fisher Jr. and Keith Horne shared the lead.

Sam Green­wood / Getty Im­ages

Justin Thomas cel­e­brates af­ter scor­ing a 59.

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