The first round of play at the Sony Open is complete, and the same player who led at the last iteration of this tournament leads again after 18 holes of play this year. Kevin Na followed his win at Waialae Country Club in 2021 with a 61 in Round 1 on Thursday and leads Russell Henley (no surprise) and Jim Furyk (big surprise!) by one stroke early in the event.
Let’s take a look at his first round and a great first day in Honolulu.
Na was unusually good from tee to green Thursday and did the bulk of his work there. He hit all 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens en route to his 61, which means he didn’t even have to putt that well at all. After making seven 3s on the front nine and going out in 29, if he’d made anything the rest of the way, he would have had a chance at the magic number.
“I played unbelievably well,” Na said. “I did everything well today and my iron play was amazing. My distance control has been great. And I tell you what, I had a chance for a 59. I gave it all I could. I’m a little disappointed my putts didn’t fall, some of the good putts that I hit didn’t fall. But it’s still a good round.”
It’s a great round, and now Na is set up to be the fifth player in history to go back to back at this event — Jimmy Walker, Ernie Els, Corey Pavin and Hubert Green are the other four. He’s also going to be running in putts if he’s still up there on Sunday afternoon.
T2: Jim Furyk, Russell Henley (-8)
T4: Kevin Chappell, Patton Kizzire, Michael Thompson, Seamus Power (-7)
T8: Tyler Duncan, J.T. Poston, Ryan Palmer, Matt Kuchar, Corey Conners, Jason Kokrak, Adam Svensson, Haotong Li (-6)
Furyk is the headliner here — and we’ll talk about him in a minute — but Conners is the most dangerous guy on this list behind Na. He hit it great (no surprise there) and didn’t get much out of his putter (also not a surprise, although he has often putted well over the course of his career at Waialae). He’ll put some fear into the top of this board if he makes a run on Friday or Saturday.
At 51, Furyk is trying to win this tournament 26 years after he won it when it was called the United Airlines Hawaiian Open. His run is probably unsustainable — he led the field in putting and made an ace — but if he’s anywhere near the lead on Saturday evening, he’s automatically the No. 1 storyline on Sunday (especially considering he’s won just once over the last 12 years).
Shot of the day
Furyk has made so many aces in competitive events, he said he can’t even remember where the last one was.
“I’ve made 11 of them and most of them have been tournament,” he said. “I have to think about it. I don’t know when the last one in competition was, but I made some at Colonial, Memorial, Pebble Beach, AT&T, I made one at Monterey Peninsula, U.S. Open at Winged Foot. That was a practice round. Made a bunch in tournaments, but the last one, I’m not sure”
Now his answer can be: “At the 2022 Sony Open.”
Quote of the day
We go back to Furyk for this one as well.
Reporter: “Do you realize [Collin] Morikawa wasn’t born when you won here? Do you feel good about that?”
Furyk: “Well … doesn’t thrill me. Played a practice round with a guy that called me ‘sir’ and later on he asked me what I liked most about the Champions Tour, and I said, ‘No one calls me sir.’ He said his dad would be angry with him if he didn’t.”
One thing I loved today
It’s apparently facial hair season after Erik van Rooyen rocked a mustache from the 1600s last week, and Michael Thompson — clean-cut Michael Thompson! — was out at Waialae on Thursday looking like Tom Hanks at the end of Castaway.
Great day/bad day
The No. 1 amateur in the world — Keita Nakajima — shot 3 under and is T40 alongside Webb Simpson after Round 1. He’s been tearing up the Japan Golf Tour and finished inside the top 30 at the Zozo Championship last fall when Hideki Matsuyama went on to win. The 21-year-old will also be playing the Masters in April after winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur recently, and his play at PGA Tour events continues to impress. It would be pretty cool if he made the cut on Friday evening.
I loved this from Sean Martin on Furyk. He ranked 142nd in the field on Thursday in distance off the tee. A hundred and forty-second!
New odds and pick
- Kevin Na: 4-1
- Russell Henley: 13/2
- Seamus Power: 12-1
- Corey Conners: 14-1
- Jason Kokrak: 18-1
- Patton Kizzire: 22-1
I’m sticking with my pre-tournament pick here of Conners. He had a great Round 1 and is in the perfect position to make a move over the next few days. Nothing spectacular happened on Thursday, he just played very normal Corey Conners golf in which he gained nearly four strokes on the field from tee to green and put himself on the first page of the leaderboard. He might not win, but I’d be surprised now if he finished anywhere outside the top 10 on Sunday.