Well, Justin Thomas did not shoot a 59 in the first round of the Sony Open this year like he did last year, but he was part of the show from Day 1 in Honolulu. Thomas shot a 3-under 67 on Thursday to get within four of the lead shared by Chris Kirk and Zach Johnson, but he also partook in the most fun moment of the day with Kevin Kisner (see below).
This year’s first round lacked the explosiveness of last year, but the leaderboard is still fairly loaded with great ball-strikers and sneaky young talent. It’s setting up to be another low-scoring event for the weekend with the potential of a little star power to boot.
Here are five takeaways from Round 1 of the Sony Open.
1. Jordan Spieth wasto a great round: The good news is that Spieth made eight birdies on Thursday. The bad news is that he made three bogeys. The really bad news is that he also had a quadruple bogey. Spieth somehow shot a 69 with (despite?) those eight birdies, which is very hard to accomplish. He’s T62 after 18 holes, and he’ll bounce back on the weekend, but that quad may have knocked him out of contention from winning the event.
It’s been almost 8 months since Spieth’s last quad. pic.twitter.com/0x7nGiJ1Gy
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 12, 2018
Jordan Spieth: 1st player since Vijay in 1996 to make 8+ birdies in a round at Waialae and record a score of 69 or higher.
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) January 11, 2018
2. Title game bets paid: Kisner and Thomas went to the 17th hole on Thursday knowing what was about to go down. Based on a bet the two made last week on the College Football Playoff National Championship between Thomas’ Alabama Crimson Tide and Kisner’s Georgia Bulldogs, the loser had to don the jersey of the opposing team.
That means it was Kisner rocking a No. 16 Tide uni, which Thomas told him fit great. The entire thing was light-hearted, fun and good for everyone as Kisner noted after the round that he is auctioning the jersey off for charity (and that their playing partner, and Auburn alum, Jason Dufner will likely not be the high bidder).
.@K_Kisner is a good sport. 😂🏈
The @AlabamaFTBL jersey fits! pic.twitter.com/oSmrIctcfu
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) January 12, 2018
I pay my bets and I will wear this jersey on 17 @SonyOpenHawaii today. I will also get @JustinThomas34 to sign it and I will raffle it off to benefit @KizFoundation as well as a @FootballUGA jersey signed by both. We will send out the link tomorrow! pic.twitter.com/5oEYwSNHHs
— Kevin Kisner (@K_Kisner) January 11, 2018
3. Zach Johnson’s surprise: Co-leader Johnson said after his 7-under 63 that he was pretty surprised by the bogey-free round. He’d been sick over Christmas and New Year’s, and unable to practice like he normally would. He even got to Hawaii a few days later than he wanted to. He hit the ball beautifully, though, and took advantage of one of the few courses on the PGA Tour where distance isn’t at a premium. I have a feeling he’s going to be a tough out the rest of the week.
4. Brian Harman might be for real: I don’t mean for real as in “hey, he’s a really good pro.” I mean he might be, like, “going to be on the Ryder Cup team” for real. Harman shot a 6-under 64 and trails the leaders by just one. This on the heels of him playing in the final pairing with Dustin Johnson at last week’s Sentry Tournament of Champions.
He had a sand save on No. 17 on Thursday that made my knees weak. No green to work with from bunker on the front edge. He hit it to about 12 feet and ran in the par putt like it wasn’t a big deal (it was). These are the little moments that get lost in a tournament which end up being the difference between holding trophies and holding plane tickets home at the end of a week.
5. Short game wins rounds: Tee-to-green performance wins events and makes careers, but your short game can make or break a round. Consider the difference between Thomas’ first round in 2017 when he shot 59 and his first round in 2018 when he shot 67. Thomas didn’t hit it much worse this year than he did last year. The biggest difference is that he didn’t make as many putts. Those putts will come, though, and as long as Thomas keeps stringing together bogey-free golf, he’ll likely be in this tournament until the very end once again.