AP Golf Writer
POSTED: 01:57 p.m. HST, Jan 11, 2014
Benji Weatherley, more comfortable in the surf than as a PGA Tour caddie, was back in his comfort zone moments after Adam Scott completed a 66 to pull within three shots of the lead at the Sony Open.
He was out of a brand new pair of sneakers and wearing flip-flops. He wore a T-shirt instead of a collar.
He was on his way to the bar at The Kahala to chill with 30 or so friends from the surf community -- champion Kelly Slater among them -- who had followed them along (or followed Weatherley) on another glorious day at Waialae.
"This is a blast man," Weatherley said as he headed for the door.
Scott is having just as much fun. They were at the North Shore earlier in the week where Scott went body surfing in 15-foot waves as his coach watched anxiously. And he's in contention at the Sony Open, three shots behind Brian Stuard, who has the 36-hole lead for the first time on the PGA Tour.
Make no mistake, though. This is Scott's job.
"He really trained up, and he's taking it serious," Scott said. "We're having a lot of fun, but he's taking it serious and he knows it's serious to me. And it's a fun opportunity I think for both of us."
Friday was fun for just about everyone.
It starts with Stuard, a 31-year-old from Michigan who recorded his fourth straight round of 5-under 65 -- two of them were on the weekend last year -- and is quietly making progress in his short PGA Tour career. He was at 10-under 130, finishing with a hybrid 3-iron to tap-in range for an eagle.
Stuard was runner-up in his last tour start, last November in Mexico. He is trending in the right direction.
Marc Leishman of Australia (64) and Hideto Tanihara (65) were one shot behind, and will play with Stuard in the final group Saturday. The tee times were moved up more than two hours because of rain in the forecast.
Harris English played great on Thursday and shot 66. He hit the ball all over Waialae on Friday and shot 66.
He was two shots behind.
The fun came further down the leaderboard.
James Hahn, best known for his "Gangnam Style" moves after making birdie at the raucous 16th hole at the Phoenix Open last year, tried (and failed) for a chest-bump with his caddie after the rarest shot in golf -- an albatross -- when he holed out from 191 yards with a 6-iron on the par-5 ninth hole.
"That was a little spontaneous, but I forgot that -- I've got to be politically correct, right? -- but white men can't jump," said Hahn, a South Korean-born, Cal grad and funnyman on tour. "So I got a little air, he didn't. But it was fun. I don't think he knew I was going to chest-bump him. But that's just what I felt like at the time."
The big attraction was having Slater in the gallery for the final hour, even though he was there to watch a caddie.
And yes, Weatherley is acting the part. He even talked Scott out of a driver on the 18th hole, a par 5 with a fairway that bends to the left and is hard to hit when the grass is firm from being under sunshine all week. Scott found the fairway.
"He's really getting the hang of it," Scott said.
Scott took over from there, getting a break on the last hole when his ball was in a partial divot. Scott was able to take a free drop away from the grandstand, and while his chip came out strong, it banged against the bottom of the flagstick and stopped an inch from the hole for a tap-in birdie and a 66.
"It's the most fun you could ever have," he said. "I have no nerves because for one, he's so good it's embarrassing. Like every single shot is what you see on 'Sports Center,' especially that last one."
He said this during an interview with the Golf Channel.
Meanwhile, another good tournament was shaping up in Hawaii.
It was Stuard's seventh straight round in the 60s at Waialae dating to Stuard's first trip here 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."
Two dozen players were separated by five shots going into the weekend. John Daly struggled after opening with a 66, though he at least made the cut -- for now. Because 79 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut on Saturday.