Chris Kirk made eagles from 2 and 3 feet on Friday en route to an 8-under 62. (Petersen/Getty Images)
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HONOLULU -- Chris Kirk liked his number.
At both the ninth and 18th holes he had 185 yards for his second shot into the par 5s during the Sony Open in Hawaii on Friday.
Kirk hit into the wind at the ninth and made eagle with a 5-iron. Kirk hit with the wind into the 18th with a 7-iron and made eagle. He hit it to 3 feet at the ninth and 2 feet on 18.
Kirk carded an 8-under 62 and vaulted into a tie for fifth place at 10 under, four shots behind leader Russell Henley.
Patience: Tim Clark has patience and needed it on Friday. He began the second round making eight straight pars while watching leader Henley post 14 under.
That patience was rewarded on the ninth hole with an eagle and he followed up with a birdie at the 10th.
Clark would finish 36 holes at 10 under with 64-66 and has not made a single bogey in the tournament.
Conditions: The fairways at Waialae Country Club are starting to get firm. Golf balls are running into the rough but scores are still good because greens are receptive. There was a brief rain shower during the night but no additional water was poured onto the putting surface.
The greens have lots of grass and it has been a wet winter in Hawaii. That combination means the greens are receiving and holding golf balls, leading to birdie opportunities.
Nerves: Pat Perez had a simple explanation for shooting 68 in the first round and 63 in the second: Nerves. Perez says he was very nervous during his first nine holes and did not calm himself until late in the opening round. The veteran says the combination of two months without golf and some new techniques caused him some anxious moments. But he was full of confidence heading into the weekend.
Ruling: Charles Howell III hit a bad drive on the 16th hole but got a good ruling. He missed the fairway behind a TV tower and was granted line of sight relief to the green. Howell promptly hit a 205-yard 8-iron out of the rough, which chased up to within a foot of the cup. The rules of golf do not always work against a player.
Sandman: Matt Kuchar says the difference between the 125th player on TOUR and the 25th player is the short game. Kuchar gave a demonstration with his bunker play this week. He is 4-for-4 in sand saves after finishing eighth on TOUR in 2012 bunker stats. Kuchar got up-and-down out of greenside bunkers 60 percent of the time last season and continued to practice his technique during the offseason.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.
By Ann Miller, for PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU -- After winning the wind-delayed Hyundai Tournament of Champions Tuesday — finally — Dustin Johnson didn’t even make it halfway through the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Apparently he’s not the only golfer Kapalua’s relentless weather has weakened.
Scott Piercy and Matt Kuchar have rebounded from the wind, waiting and hilly walks to move into the top five at Waialae Country Club going into the weekend – but they are the exceptions.
Johnson withdrew during Friday’s second round with flu-like symptoms. Nine more TOC golfers missed the cut, including former Sony champions Johnson Wagner and Zach Johnson.
Rookie of the Year John Huh is the only other winner from last year in the top 20, after shooting a 63. Even the 22-year-old admitted to weariness, which made Piercy feel better.
“I’m a little tired, I'm not going to lie,” said Piercy, who is 13 years older than Huh. “I was pretty sore after walking those 36 (Monday) and right back at it (Tuesday) and no sleep the next two days because I had a Pro-Am at 7:18 (Wednesday) and the first tee time (7:50 a.m. Thursday). It's been a pretty fast week, but if the wind still stays up and it gets firm out here and the ball is rolling, you've got to play some good golf to shoot some good scores.”
Piercy fired another 64 Thursday and is two shots behind leader Russell Henley. Piercy, who finished 13th at Kapalua, is making it look easy in much easier conditions at Waialae.
He has gone bogey-free for two days and had eight 3s on his card Friday, including a 14-foot eagle putt on the 18th. He one-putted 12 greens and all but the eagle were from inside 7 feet.
Kuchar is another shot back after eagling his final hole for a 63.
“This course is difficult,” Kuchar insisted. “Fortunately conditions were good. Coming from last week, it feels really easy out there. This course, as simple as it seems, it’s one of the tougher courses on TOUR. If you’re not playing well, you’re going to make some bogeys.”
By Ann Miller, for PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU -- Hawaii is home to the start of the Champions Tour as well and next week 40 seniors will tee it up in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship at Hualalai, on the Big Island.
Two will have a head start.
Russ Cochran qualified for this week’s Sony Open in Hawaii, shooting 67 in 40-mph gusts at Turtle Bay Monday. An 8-foot eagle putt on his final hole Friday gave him a second straight 68 and leaves him at 4-under 136 going into the weekend.
Fred Funk, who won Mitsubishi in 2008, was on the bubble Friday afternoon after an opening round 70. He was fourth on the Champions money list last year after winning two events.
Bart Bryant, who just turned 50 and will make his Champions debut later this year, is also playing at Waialae Country Club this week. After shooting 67 Friday he goes into the weekend a shot ahead of Cochran.
Cochran came to Hawaii to visit a friend on Kauai and made a last-minute decision to try the qualifier. While “missing my own vacation,” he made the turn in 4 under Thursday, but admits to backing off a bit since.
“It’s a big deal for me to make the cut,” said Cochran, who has won three senior titles since turning 50. “If you make the cut you go on a list and the tournaments that don’t fill up like Puerto Rico you have a chance to get in. It’s a nice thing, but it made me play very tentatively.
“At the same time, it kept me hitting the ball to the right side of the hole and I got the ball in the hole well. I didn’t play particularly well yesterday or most of today, but I hung in there.”
Two years ago he opened with a career-best, 10-under-par 62 at Hualalai. After this week, he should be ready to go low again.
“I know if nothing else standing over these putts and getting the feel of walking the course and hitting shots and working it in the wind is a big deal,” Cochran said.
Cochran’s son Ryan, who played at Florida, is on his bag this week. His youngest son Case is now at Texas A&M. Dad keeps seeing familiar faces at
Waialae this week, while he works on coming back from an injury-interrupted 2012.
“The odd thing about this is two or three of the guys out here this week are guys my sons played with,” Cochran said. “There are lot of guys out here I saw playing junior golf. It’s really interesting, really fun to see the progress.”
Winners from the last two years are eligible for Mitsubishi, along with major champions from the past five years and eight exemptions.
Those exemptions went to Ben Crenshaw, Steve Elkington, Hale Irwin, Tom Kite, Larry Nelson, Craig Stadler, Cutis Strange and Jim Thorpe.
Along with Funk and Cochran, other qualifiers include 2012 Player of the Year Tom Lehman, U.S. Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson, Fred Couples, who led the Champions Tour in scoring average, Bernhard Langer, who led the money list, and defending champion Dan Forsman.
Mitsubishi starts the 2013 Champions Tour season next Friday.
Tim Clark has posted three top 25s in as many events at the Sony Open in Hawaii. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
By Ann Miller, Special to PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU -- Simply being in Hawaii makes Tim Clark feel better.
The 37-year-old South African came back to the PGA TOUR last year after getting just four starts in 2011 because of tendonitis in his right arm and an elbow injury. The first of those starts was a runner-up finish at the Sony Open in Hawaii, where he ended up two shots back of Mark Wilson.
It marked his third T25 at Waialae Country Club in as many starts. He missed the beginning of the season here in 2012, but a 4-under-par 66 Friday has him feeling healthy and right back at home.
After two rounds, Clark is 10 under and four shots back of leader Russell Henley midway through the second day.
“Obviously a great way to start the year,” Clark said. “Not a whole lot of expectations coming down, but I always enjoy the start of the year. I love coming out here to Hawaii. It’s just such a great place and obviously a course that I really like and have played well at in the past. For me, it’s just a great way to get the year started.”
Clark warmed up for Waialae with a round at Kukui‘ula on Kauai Sunday.
He is bogey-free so far at Sony, with six birdies Thursday and two more Friday, complemented by a short eagle putt on the ninth.
“I hit probably one of my worst tee shots of the day in the left rough and got a good lie,” Clark said. “So I got a good break there and hit a 5-wood up to about 3, 4 feet. It was a good way to get the round going.”
The 2010 PLAYERS Championship winner is still searching for his second title, although he has won more than $19 million on the PGA TOUR and captured four international events. He closed last year with four top 15s, including the 10th runner-up finish of his career, at the Wyndham Championship.
This weekend, he will set his sights on Sony, again. He might be more than 11,000 miles from South Africa, but it feels like home.
“It's strange,” Clark said. “I think when I come here it reminds me a lot of Durban, South Africa, near where I grew up. The weather is the same, the grasses are the same, and it's not an overly long golf course, and it plays firm.
“If you're driving it good, for a guy like me, I'm going to get some run out there and have shorter irons in. It really is just a course that suits me.”
Dustin Johnson will not open the 2013 season with back-to-back victories.
Johnson, who won the weather-shortened Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Tuesday, withdrew from the Sony Open in Hawaii midway through his second round on Friday in Honolulu.
Golf Channel reported that Johnson was suffering from flu-like symptoms.
Johnson opened with a 70 in Round 1.
Scott Langley is trying to become the first player since Bruce Lietzke to win the Sony Open in his first try. (Petersen/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
With some of the country under a snow blanket (or various depressing winter climes), scenic views of the Hawaiian Islands will be a welcome sight again this week. Hopefully this inaugural Five For Friday column will be, too, as I’ll tell you five things to watch for this weekend at Waialae. You can look for this each week in TOUR Report.
1. Scott Langley's opening 62 on Thursday was hardly a fluke. For one, the lefty was an NCAA champion in 2010. For another, he tied for 29th in last year's U.S. Open at The Olympic Club. You have to go back to 1977 and Bruce Lietzke to find the last player to win the Sony Open in Hawaii in his first attempt, and 2002 and Jerry Kelly for the last to record his first career victory. The flip side: It was only two years ago the last first-round leader (Ryan Palmer) went on to win at Waialae.
2. Dustin Johnson has acquitted himself well, going from the runway-wide fairways of Kapalua to the street-alley narrow ones of Waialae, but his chances of going back-to-back to open the season are, well, slim. Some major course differences aside, there's only been one player to open the season with wins in each of the first two events in Hawaii: Ernie Els in 2003. Editor's note: Dustin Johnson withdrew from the Sony Open in Hawaii on Friday after this article was published.
3. Charles Howell III, on the other hand, does have a good chance to be high on the leaderboard (though he has some work to do). He's had six top-5 finishes at Waialae, including a runner-up last year. He was fifth in 2010, fourth in 2009, second again in 2007, third in 2005 and fourth in 2002. Horses for courses ... which is why Tim Clark, a short hitter who is a big fairways-and-greens guy, should stay in contention, too. Clark has 10 career runner-up finishes on TOUR, including one in each of the last eight years.
4. Seeing Vijay Singh in contention isn't a huge surprise -- he's won there before and this is his 16th Sony Open in Hawaii. But can he stay there? Last year, he was an abysmal 149th in final-round scoring average.
5. This being the first full-field event of the year, there are naturally a lot of rookies teeing it up this week. Of the 30 in the rookie class for this year, 14 of them are age 25 or younger. Six have never played a TOUR event before this week. Don't be surprised if one of the 20-somethings, rookie or otherwise, wins. Fifteen players won in 2012 and I don't think that number will change much this year.
Beginning with this week's Sony Open in Hawaii, each FedExCup tournament will provide a special bib for the FedExCup points leader’s caddie to wear during competition rounds. This bib will be used only if the leader of the current FedExCup standings is in the field.
The bib will have orange accents on the shoulders and pocket.
After winning the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions, Dustin Johnson came to Waialae as the FedExCup points leader. That meant his caddie, Bobby Brown, became the first caddie to win the special orange bib this year in Thursday's opening round of the Sony Open (photo below by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR).
Scott Langley and Russell Henley were stellar in their debuts as TOUR pros. (Getty Images, PGA TOUR)
By Ann Miller, for PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU — The rookie class of 2013 came barging in Thursday at the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Scott Langley made his first round as a PGA TOUR member memorable, firing an 8-under 62 to take the lead in the first full-field event of the year.
Russell Henley, another rookie, is one shot back and 14 of the 23 rookies at Waialae Country Club are in the top 44.
Henley and Langley played in the same group, with Luke Guthrie, Langley’s teammate and roommate at the University of Illinois. In two weeks, all three will be 23.
The three rookies, who met in middle school, will remember Thursday when they are 103.
“I think there was a lot of nerves for me the first few holes,” said Henley, “and I think playing with Scotty and Luke was huge for me, and watching them play well kind of gave me a goal to try to keep up with them, so it was definitely fun feeding off them.”
Henley won a 2011 Web.com Tour event as an amateur, a week before he graduated from Georgia. He won twice more last year, finishing third on the money list.
He and Langley tied for low amateur at the 2010 U.S. Open, sharing 16th. Thursday, they were in awe of how far they had come from one year ago at a Hooters Tour event.
“He had just missed the cut, I barely made the cut, we were on the range trying to help each other find it,” Langley recalled.
“You know, we just were walking up 16, today you could see the ocean behind, PGA TOUR signs everywhere. We looked at each other and realized this is pretty cool. To look back one year ago and to know that we weren’t here, we were in a far different place.”
They earned their way, along with all the other rookies.
Langley, who got his accounting degree in 2011, won the 2010 NCAA championship. He is the TOUR’s first graduate of the First Tee program and he earned his card with a 17th-place finish at Q-School.
“I know, speaking from my experience, as soon as I got my card I couldn't wait until today,” Langley said. “The competitor in me was just really excited to get going. But I don’t know what it is. Russell played great today, Morgan Hoffmann played great, and Ben Kohles and a bunch of guys.
“We’re just all excited to play, excited to be out here. Whether or not we're more motivated than others, I don't know. I'm pretty motivated to play well, but I think we help each other, the young guys.”
And the guys before help as well.
“It's just fun to see our peers who we've seen for so long be out here, Bud Cauley, Rickie (Fowler), Cameron Tringale, doing so well, being in contention to win tournaments,” Langley added. “When we do get out here, we believe that we can play well because we see the guys that we have played against our whole careers doing the same thing.”
Scott Langley made seemingly a mile of putts in shooting 62. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM
HONOLULU -- Scott Langley had a phenomenal first day of his PGA TOUR career, shooting 62 with 23 putts. There is a TOUR stat for total length of putts made, with only the final putt on each green counting toward the total. Langley made 198 feet, 2 inches of putts. Ninety feet is considered a good day. The rookie had a 56-footer for eagle at the ninth and a 30-footer for birdie at the 16th. Langley was 13 for 13 on putts measuring 10 feet or less. I'm guessing putting is one of his strengths.
Putter: Charles Howell III had bad luck with his putter in the 2012 Sony Open in Hawaii, when it arrived on the islands with a bent shaft. Howell still finished second in the tournament but came to Oahu with a new putter this year, an Odyssey Versa. Howell experimented with the Versa last month at home and put it in the bag for the first tournament. The result: a 4 under 66 with 28 putts.
Wedges: Jeff Overton made an equipment change, switching from Cleveland to Adams Golf. He made the change to have more flexibility in his club choice. Overton is only required to carry an Adams utility wood as part of the contract and that allows him to carry a truly mixed bag. He has TaylorMade driver and 3-wood along with Cleveland irons. Overton wanted to play a Vokey wedge that he says is the key to his game. With the mixed assortment of clubs, Overton shot 5-under 65 getting up and down out of four greenside bunkers.
Holeout: If it wasn't for Langley, everyone would be talking about Tim Herron's putting. He took only eight strokes on the greens for the final nine holes. Herron had a holeout and just eight total putts on the back nine, shooting 30. He had 16 putts on the front nine, eight on the back for a total of 24 while shooting 66.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.