Rookie Justin Thomas sank a 17-foot eagle putt on his final hole to cap a 9-under-par 61, tying Matt Kuchar and Webb Simpson for the lead midway through the Sony Open in Hawaii at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.
The 21-year-old Thomas, a former All-American at Alabama who earned his PGA Tour card by finishing fifth on the 2014 Web.com Tour money list, started on the back nine and carded six straight pars before reeling off three birdies in a row, then added four more on the front side ahead of his eagle.
“I’m excited,” said Thomas, who captured the 2014 Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship on the Web.com Tour. “It’s a position I haven’t been in before and I think that kind of comes with the territory being a rookie.
“I’m going to hopefully find myself in a lot of positions this year. … I’m just really excited about the opportunity.”
Kuchar, who has seven career victories on the PGA Tour, recorded seven birdies in a bogey-free 63, while first-round leader Simpson, the 2012 U.S. Open champion, followed his opening 62 with at 66 by making birdies on three on his last five holes.
Troy Merritt put up a bogey-free 66 and was two shots behind in a tie for fourth with Tim Clark of South Africa, who birdied two of his last three holes to shoot a second straight 65.
Russell Knox of Scotland had a bogey-free 65 and was another stroke back in a tie for sixth with Rory Sabbatini, who came in with a 67.
Defending champion Jimmy Walker totaled 66 for the second straight day and was four shots behind in a tie for eighth with Ryan Palmer (63), Robert Streb (69), Marc Leishman (62) of Australia, J.J. Henry (67) and Paul Casey (70) of England.