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Stuard surges to the early lead at Sony Open

By Doug Ferguson

AP Golf Writer

POSTED:
LAST UPDATED: 03:58 p.m. HST, Jan 10, 2014


Brian Stuard had his fourth straight round of 65 at the Sony Open. Too bad it was only Friday.

Stuard completed his second round with a hybrid 3-iron into 2 feet for eagle on the par-5 ninth hole for a 5-under 65. That gave him a one-shot lead over Marc Leishman of Australia among those who played early on another gorgeous day off the shores of Oahu.

Stuard, a 31-year-old from Michigan who is in his third year on the PGA Tour, was at 10-under 130.

He had a 65-65 weekend at Waialae last year to tie for fifth, his best finish on tour besides the opposite-field events. This was his seventh straight round in the 60s at Waialae dating to his first trip in 2010.

"I think it's something to do with the greens," Stuard said. "I feel comfortable on the greens. I feel like I read them pretty well and I'm able to make putts."

That usually works anywhere, and in this case, it has put Stuard on a good spot regardless of how the other half of the field fared in the afternoon.

James Hahn already was off to a memorable start. He made an albatross 2 on the par-5 ninth hole, the first one at Waialae since Terry Mauney in 1978.

Masters champion Adam Scott and PGA champion Jason Dufner were among the late starters who faced breezy conditions on a course that was firm and fast after a full day of sunshine down from Waikiki.

Leishman also made an eagle on the ninth hole, but that was in the middle of his round. And it was part of a three-hole stretch he played in 4-under, and he made a 25-foot birdie putt on the 14th hole. It led to a 64 that put him in a good spot going into the weekend.

"They're the sort of things that really turn an average round into a good one, or a good one into a great one," Leishman said. "It was nice to shoot 6-under and get myself right in it."

Jason Kokrak had a 67 and was at 7-under 133, while rookie Hudson Swafford played bogey-free for a 64 and was in the group at 134 that included past Sony Open champion Jerry Kelly and Boo Weekley.

Kapalua winner Zach Johnson had a 67 and was at 135, reasonable position as he tries to become the first player since Ernie Els in 2003 to win both Hawaii events in the same year. The runner-up last week, Jordan Spieth, wasn't so fortunate.

Spieth was on the verge of getting to 2-under at the turn until missing a 4-foot birdie putt. On the next tee, he pulled it left and never found it along the out-of-bounds posts next to the driving range. That led to double bogey, and he never recovered. He shot 71, and the cut was likely to be at least 1-under.

"The funny thing is, I putted better this week than last week," Spieth said.

He also was amused -- not at the time, but after his round -- about the 18th. The three areas he wanted to improve this year were his long irons, his chipping and short putts. His long iron into the 18th came up just short of the green. His chip left him farther away than he wanted (4 feet), and the putt was pulled.

The iron wasn't all that bad. It took one hop into the edge of the rough by the green which killed the bounce toward the green.

No matter. He planned a day in the sun on Friday and Saturday, and then was headed home to get ready for Torrey Pines in two weeks. That will bring back some memories. A year ago, Spieth had to play a pre-qualifier in San Diego just to get into the Monday qualifier. He failed to get one of the spots, and then was given a sponsor's exemption.

Monday qualifiers are no longer part of his future.






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