Practice? Who needs practice?
Judging by the first-round scores at the Sony Open in Hawaii yesterday, sometimes it’s not required for success on the golf course.
With the Waialae practice facility and most courses throughout the island closed due to torrential downpours earlier in the week, the pros improvised.
Stuart Appleby practiced on the lanai of his hotel room when the pro-am was canceled and Thursday’s first round postponed until yesterday. He leads the tournament after shooting a 64, including an eagle on No. 16, a par 4.
Nate Smith played in the water; he went surfing and fishing. The rookie fired a 65 yesterday morning, and at the end of the day found himself in a nine-man logjam a stroke behind Appleby.
Steve Marino was part of that group at 5 under. He rode the storm out swinging his sticks inside his room.
Like just about everybody else, it did take him a while to get going. But once he did …
"I was pretty solid on the front, but didn’t make putts," said Marino, who was even after the front nine.
Marino got into the local spirit of hanging loose. He didn’t let much bother him, including some long waits in stifling heat. Of course, when you’re shooting 5 under, it’s a lot easier to deal with minor inconveniences. And a little bit of sweat was a fair trade for no wind.
"I was feeling good all day," he said. "A (birdie) putt on 10 gave me momentum."
He finished strong, with birdies on four of the last five holes.
Marino said something at the 18th tee that got his playing partners Ryuji Imada and Matt Jones smiling, even though they were both over par for the day. Then all three birdied to finish the round.
When Marino hit his second shot out of some nasty rough and onto the green, there was very little applause. A marshal quickly said, "good shot."
Wrong. It’s a great shot, and it set him up for a long eagle putt, which he came close to sinking.
Waialae was quiet yesterday. It was as if the crowd feared the rain would return if they cheered too loud. The absence of a charismatic local player such as Michelle Wie or Tadd Fujikawa obviously contributed to the low decibel level.
Marino knows how loud Waialae can get; in 2007 he was grouped with Wie.
"Yeah, maybe it was a little quiet today," he said. "But on the weekend it will be good. It’s always good for the weekend here."
Matt Kuchar was also happy to be among the mob at 5 under. But, other than an eagle on No. 9, he described his round as, "Not a whole lot of excitement out there."
The same could be said of the overall vibe on the course, and hopefully that changes over the weekend as the pack out front likely thins to two or three.
There is something that would really spice things up and pump up the galleries. But it’s a long shot. John Daly, who shot 2 under yesterday, would have to post a great score today to climb into contention.
He’s not a local phenom. His best golf is long behind him.
But the man can certainly draw a crowd.
And with the threat of more rain for tomorrow’s final two rounds, this tournament needs something to pump some life into it.