Chris Kirk posted a bogey-free 7-under-par 63 in the morning wave during the opening round of the Sony Open in Hawaii and it wasn’t until a little before sunset that Zach Johnson caught him.
Johnson, who won the tournament at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu four years ago, sank a five-foot birdie putt on the final hole to cap his own bogey-free 63.
“I had absolutely no expectations because I was sick at home and got here four or five days after I planned to be here,” said the 41-year-old Johnson, who has won 12 times on the PGA Tour, including the 2007 Masters and the 2015 Open Championship at St. Andrews. “I started to find some rhythm the last few days, just stuck with it, and it bled into today.
“I still feel my best golf is in front of me. I’m hitting the ball longer than I ever have, and although that might be technology, it’s nice. The young bucks out here now are awesome and they make me want to keep getting better.”
Kirk (pictured), who has won four times on the PGA Tour but not since the 2015 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, was playing for the first time since he tied for fourth in the RSM Classic in November thanks to a first-round 63 and picked up right where he left off.
He birdied six of the last 10 holes and played the back nine in 5-under 30.
“I’ve played golf long enough to know you don’t know what to expect after you’ve had time off, so I had no real expectations,” said Kirk, who finished one stroke behind Jimmy Walker in the 2014 Sony Open.
“I like this course and I’ve played well here. Some days, you just feel it and so you just go with it. I felt loose and was able to put together a good round.”
Left-hander Brian Harman, who finished third last week in the Sentry Tournament of Champions on Maui, birdied two of the last three holes to shoot 64 and is tied for third with Taylor Gooch, Vaughn Taylor and Kyle Stanley, who sank a 41-foot eagle putt on the ninth hole.
Matt Every birdied the last three holes to card a 65 and is tied for seventh with Tom Hoge, Peter Malnati and Daisuke Kataoka of Japan.
Defending champion Justin Thomas holed a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 18 and is tied for 20th at 67, while second-ranked Jordan Spieth took a quadruple-bogey 8 on the eighth hole and is tied for 63rd at 69.
For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.