Sony Open

John­son, Kirk tied for lead

The Maui News - - FRONT PAGE - By DOUG FER­GU­SON The Associated Press

Quadru­ple bo­gey on Wa­ialae’s eighth hole puts Spi­eth six back

HONOLULU — Zach John­son and Chris Kirk each made seven birdies and shared the lead in the Sony Open.

Jor­dan Spi­eth made eight birdies and for the sec­ond straight year walked away from Wa­ialae Coun­try Club amazed that he could be six shots be­hind.

A year ago, it was be­cause Justin Thomas shot 59 play­ing in the same group.

On Thursday, it was one hole. Spi­eth hit four trees with four shots on the par-4 eighth hole — his 17th of the open­ing round — start­ing with a tough break when his tee shot car­omed off the trunk of a tree and down an 8-foot deep ditch that left him no good op­tions. He wound up with a quadru­ple-bo­gey 8 and had to set­tle for a 69.

He signed his card, signed au­to­graphs and de­clined re­quests to speak to the me­dia.

John­son and Kirk kept clean cards play­ing on op­po­site sides of the draw. They were a shot ahead of Brian Har­man, Vaughn Tay­lor, Kyle Stan­ley and PGA Tour rookie Talor Gooch.

Thomas, who set the PGA Tour scor­ing record for 72 holes in his wire-to-wire vic­tory, opened with a 67 and was all smiles at the end. Thomas, an Alabama alum, won a bet on the col­lege foot­ball cham­pi­onship that re­quired Ge­or­gia grad­u­ate Kevin Kis­ner to wear a Crim­son Tide jersey on the par-3 17th.

“It’s def­i­nitely the best Kis has ever looked in a jersey,” Thomas said.

Kis­ner kept the jersey and plans to auc­tion it off for char­ity. He shot 68.

More than half of the field — 77 play­ers — broke par in the mild trade winds and re­lent­less sun­shine.

Kirk had only one top 10 last year — his fi­nal event of the year in the RSM Clas­sic at Sea Island — and nearly two months off didn’t ap­pear to half any mo­men­tum.

“I’ve prob­a­bly been off long enough now that you never know what’s go­ing to hap­pen,” he said. “I re­ally had no ex­pec­ta­tions whether I was go­ing to play good or bad after hav­ing some time off. But this is a golf course that I’ve tra­di­tion­ally done pretty well on, and a place that I re­ally love. So you al­ways feel like it’s pos­si­ble.”

The best round from a Hawaii golfer came from Moanalua grad­u­ate John Oda, who fired a 2-un­der 68. Ki­hei’s Eric Du­gas, who earned his Sony spot with a win in the Aloha Sec­tion Stroke Play Cham­pi­onship in Oc­to­ber, opened with a 71.

AP photo

Zach John­son putts on the 16th green dur­ing the first round of the Sony Open on Thursday.

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