Z. Johnson beats the flu at Sony Open
January 12, 2018
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Kisner loses JT's bet, wears Bama jersey & Bones back on the bag
HONOLULU – Zach Johnson had to delay his arrival to Hawaii due to the flu and with things being so uncomfortable he spent six days straight over the new year unable to leave his house.
A planned trip to the Big Island for his family was canceled with the 12-time PGA TOUR winner instead coming straight to Oahu, later than expected.
Even then he really wasn’t ready.
So his opening round 7-under 63 in the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club to share the top spot after Round 1 came somewhat as a surprise.
“I was not right getting on the plane to come here. I am one that likes to prepare,” Johnson said.
“I got here Friday, and I touched a golf club Saturday through Wednesday. Saturday was awful. It was about a three-hour session. It was at least two hours too many because I was not right.
“My legs were shot and my back hurt.”
Things progressed for Johnson with some normality returning on Wednesday but he still tempered his expectations in a course he’s had great success.
Johnson won the Sony Open in 2009 and has been inside the top 10 three of the last four years at Waialae.
“Probably (unexpected) more than expected,” he said of his start.
“But I've had many weeks where I'm rested from a mental standpoint, certainly a physical standpoint, where I play great.
“I remember a couple of times I've had a couple ski trips and I come back the next week, didn't even touch a club, and I start preparing on the golf course, and I play great. I don't necessarily win, but I play great. I know it can happen.”
Johnson’s last win was the 2015 Open Championship at St Andrews but his fall showed a 13th win might not be far off.
In three starts he finished no lower that 23rd leaving him currently 45th in the FedExCup.
Zach Johnson extended highlights | Round 1 | Sony Open
CALL OF THE DAY
KIRK EYES PUTTING REDEMPTION: Four-time PGA TOUR winner Chris Kirk has rid himself of some lazy behavior as he eyes a return to his best golf. And it might be working as he opened the Sony Open with a 7-under 63 to share the lead.
Kirk has pinpointed his putting as the biggest key if he is to return to his winning ways with the last of his four wins coming at the 2015 DEAN & DELUCA at Colonial.
His T4 finish at Sea Island last November was his first top five PGA TOUR finish since being runner-up at the Sanderson Farms Championship in October 2016.
Last season Kirk played well in the fall, with three top 10s, before failing to do so again. It added up to a 92nd-place finish in the FedExCup.
“The real reason I didn't play well last year is I've had my worst putting year I had since I've been on TOUR,” he said bluntly after being ranked 125th in Strokes Gained: Putting.
“I actually hit it fine, but I'm not somebody that's going to overpower a golf course ever. My game is hit fairways, hit irons close, and make some putts. To have a year like that where I really struggled putting made it very difficult mentally and difficult in every possible way that it could.”
As such Kirk has reverted to using the putting drills that helped him at his best a few years ago, forcing himself to do them post round regardless of his scores. He ranked 17th in the field in the opening round.
“I had a great day today, and I'm about to go do it. It takes about 5 or 10 minutes. It's laziness, I guess, not doing it consistently over the last couple of years,” he said.
“I'm hoping that will stay consistent this year, and if I putt consistently well, then I think I'll have a good year.”
HARMAN ALONG: Brian Harman kept his Hawaii vibes going after putting himself in contention again this week. A week after finishing runner-up behind Dustin Johnson’s exploits at the Sentry Tournament of Champions Harman notched an opening round 6-under 64 to share third place just one shot off the lead at Waialae. “I don't feel like I'm doing anything heroic or special,” Harman said. “I've been working pretty hard. My tee shots, I feel like I've kind of tightened up just a little bit. I think I only missed three, four greens maybe, which is pretty tough to do around here.”
KISNER PAYS OFF DEBT: Kevin Kisner cannot be accused of failing to deliver on his bets after the Georgia alum adorned an Alabama jersey on the 17th hole at Waialae Thursday. Kisner, a very proud Bulldog, lost his bet with Justin Thomas, a Crimson Tide alum, over the result of the National Championship football game this week. As such Kisner threw on the jersey as they walked from tee to green on the par-3, a hole he bogeyed. “I'm blaming that bogey on him. I would have never hit that bad of a shot if I wasn't thinking about that 'Bama jersey,” Kisner laughed. “No, it's all in good fun. We're going to do a lot of good with that and raise a bunch of money. We're going to raffle it off through my foundation, sell a bunch of raffle tickets, pick out a winner, and then give that money back to the children in our community. Justin is good enough to let me do it, and I'll get him back in the future.”
Justin Thomas – The defending champion and FedExCup winner shot a respectable 3-under 67 to be tied 20th, eight shots worse than his opening 59 a year ago.
Jordan Spieth – The former FedExCup champion and world No. 2 torpedoed a great round with a quadruple-bogey 8 on his penultimate hole. He settled for a 1-under 69 to share 65th.
Charles Howell III -- Posted a 3-under 67, his 16th consecutive round in the 60s at the Sony Open in Hawaii and 24th out of the last 25. He owns nine top-10 finishes in 16 starts at the Sony Open in Hawaii (T8-2017, T8-2014, T3-2013, T2-2012, T5-2010, 4-2009, T2-2007, T3-2005, T4-2002).
J.J. Henry – In his 500th start on the PGA TOUR Henry shot a 3-over 73.
Jimmy Walker – The two-time Sony Open winner – who continues his climb back from Lyme disease – struggled to a 4-over 74.
QUOTABLESI had a double from a fairway bunker, and I was in it and thought about it, and it was the first fairway bunker shot I've had in like two months.It’s Hawaii. How could I not be enjoying a beautiful walk with my incredible caddie and family and friends out here.It helps when you make a bunker shot and make a couple long ones.I didn't play or practice a ton when I was at home, and when I did, you're usually wearing a jacket or a sweater. So how your swing feels in 50 degrees or 45 degrees versus how it's going to feel in 80-some degrees here, is very different.It's definitely the best 'Kis' has ever looked in a jersey.
Low round: 7-under 63 – Chris Kirk and Zach Johnson each had seven birdies without any bogeys.
Longest drive: 382-yards – Harold Varner III drilled his tee shot on the par-4 first hole. He was unable to find the green on approach though and settled for a par.
Longest putt: 51 feet, three inches – Nicholas Lindheim made birdie on the par-4 10th, his opening hole. He made 148 feet, nine inches worth in his round.
Easiest hole: The par-5 18th played at almost a shot under par at 4.236 with eight eagles, 94 birdies and nothing over par.
Hardest hole: The par-3 11th played at 3.292 with just six birdies and 48 bogeys.
Justin Thomas and Kevin Kisner talk after Round 1 of Sony Open