HONOLULU – Canada’s Adam Svensson shot a career-best round of 9-under-par 61 on Thursday to claim the lead after the first round of the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Svensson, 25, put his second shot on the par-5 18th hole in the rough to the right of the green, but he was able to get up and down for birdie to move out of a tie for the lead with American Andrew Putnam. The 61 marked Svensson’s lowest career round on the PGA or Web.com Tours.
The Surrey, British Columbia, native turned pro in 2015 and is ranked 444th in the world. Svensson finished eighth in the Web.com Tour Championship, but he failed to finish better than a tie for 39th in five PGA events in the fall swing, including missing the cut in his final three.
The scoring on the short, par-70 Waialae Country Club course in Honolulu was particularly low in the afternoon wave when the winds died down, and Svensson will have plenty of challengers over the final three rounds.
Matt Kuchar is in solo third place after a 7-under 63 on Thursday, tying the lowest opening round of the 40-year-old’s career.
“I feel like I’ve just evolved into a better player,” Kuchar said. “This course is unique, we don’t play many like it. Reminds me a little bit of Hilton Head, a little bit of Colonial. It’s tight, it’s narrow, it’s flat, but man, it’s tricky.”
Fellow Americans Chez Reavie and Hudson Swafford along with Japan’s Shugo Imahira are tied for fourth place at 5 under.
Patton Kizzire and Justin Thomas, the past two event champions, are both at 3 under after posting 67s on Thursday. Thomas has now shot 68 or lower in nine consecutive rounds at Waialae.
Jordan Spieth, making his 2019 debut after failing to qualify for last week’s Tournament of Champions, struggled to a 3-over 73 and will need a strong Friday to avoid missing his second consecutive cut. Spieth made just 33 feet of putts while carding a lone birdie against four bogeys.
“It was kind of a test, I guess,” Spieth told reporters after the round. “It’s very unusual, I don’t feel like I’ve been in this situation before. But it’s OK … I felt like I was patient out there, and I still am.
“Like I said, it could take a while. I got pretty far off (my game), so I’m trying to backtrack significantly, but I need to get some tournament rounds to do it … even though it’s pretty humbling at the same time.”
He is tied with Australia’s Adam Scott, who is also making his 2019 debut.
By comparison, Putnam made 174 feet of putts, gaining 6.844 strokes on the field on the greens, according to PGATour.com.
“The putter was hot … it was getting a little ridiculous out there,” Putnam said. “The hole was very large and the ball was going in. It was fun.”
Peter Jung, the 16-year-old amateur who qualified for his first PGA Tour event by winning the Hawaiian qualifier, is last in the field by eight strokes after struggling to a 14-over 84.
–Field Level Media