HONOLULU (AP) — Sang-Moon Bae got the better of his playing partner Chris Kirk on Thursday, taking a one-shot lead after the first round of the Sony Open.
Bae made a great start in pristine conditions and shot a 7-under 63, while Kirk made an ideal finish and shot 29 on the back nine to be a stroke back at Waialae Country Club.
Ryan Palmer birdied the last two holes for a 65, tied for third with Brian Stuard who made eight birdies in his round of 65.
Bae and Kirk provided plenty of excitement in one group. They had a better-ball score of 56. There were only five holes where neither got a birdie.
“He was off to a great start,” Kirk said. “At one point he was 4-under and I was still 2-over. It took some catching up for me on the back nine. But it’s always nice to see putts falling.”
Retief Goosen, who missed much of last year with back problems, and John Daly were among seven players at 66.
Zach Johnson, who won the season opener at Kapalua on Monday, opened with two bogeys before he settled into a 68. Jordan Spieth, who finished one shot behind Johnson last week in the Tournament of Champions, reached 3-under through 10 holes until he was slowed by a three-putt bogey from 20 feet on No. 12. That was the start of three bogeys in four holes and he had to settle for a 70.
Bae opened with a 7-iron to 3 feet on the opening hole, made a 25-footer for birdie on No. 3 and didn’t miss a green until the 13th hole. He hit wedge to 15 feet to save par, and picked up his seventh and final birdie on the next hole.
“I missed a lot of putts last week,” Bae said. “But this course is more shorter than last week, so easy read, and I can make good speed, too.”
Bae, who won his first PGA Tour event last year at the Byron Nelson Championship, is coming up on three straight weeks in Hawaii. It was too cold in South Korea to practice, so he came to the islands on Dec. 20 to practice and relax on the beach for two weeks before the Tournament of Champions.
He played Waialae about three or four times, and feels like he knows the course better.
“I practiced a little bit and I had fun,” he said. “Go to beach, go swim, everything. I like it here.”
Palmer, who won the Sony Open four years ago, was at his best on two of the toughest par 3s, hitting 6-iron to 2 feet on No. 4 and a 7-iron to pin-high on the 17th and making an 18-foot birdie putt.
Masters champion Adam Scott, with pro surfer Benji Weatherley filling in as his caddie, birdied his last two holes for a 67. It’s not a bad start, but in these conditions, Scott realizes it needs to be better.
Daly can only hope this isn’t just a false start. He had surgery on his elbow last summer, and hopes that his injuries are behind him. He made five birdies for a 66.