Scott Langley made a rookie debut on the PGA Tour he won’t soon forget.
Russell Henley wasn’t too shabby, either.
Langley thrived on a penetrating ball flight and a pure putting stroke Thursday for an 8-under 62, giving him a one-shot lead over Henley in the first round of the Sony Open. Henley played in the same group as Langley, and they put on quite a show at Waialae Country Club.
Henley made five birdies on the back nine, holing 15-footers with confidence. But the Georgia grad couldn’t keep on the par-5 18th hole when his chip from short of the green came out hot and he had to settle for a two-putt par from 30 feet.
Langley, a former NCAA champion from Illinois, played bogey-free in a steady wind — nowhere near the gusts of Kapalua last week — and made a couple of long putts.
He holed from 55 feet across the green for eagle on the par-5 ninth, and then took the outright lead on the 16th when a fairway bunker shot landed on the front part of the green, and he rapped in a 30-footer for birdie.
His final birdie came on the 18th with a tough flop shot over a bunker that settled about 6 feet away. He made that for birdie, just like he made putts from similar length for par to keep his round intact.
Scott Piercy had a 66 in the morning, and Tim Clark matched that in the afternoon.
Dustin Johnson, trying to become the first player in 10 years to sweep the Hawaii swing after his win last week at windy Kapalua, finished with a pair of bogeys for a 70.
Langley was not entirely new to big-time golf. He qualified for two U.S. Opens and tied for low amateur — with Henley, no less — at Pebble Beach in 2010.
But considering the nerves he felt on the first tee, and going around this tight course without a bogey, he didn’t hesitate to call this round his best ever as a pro.
Adding to the dream day was being alongside Henley, one of his closest friends.
Henley also has a strong pedigree, having won on the Nationwide Tour as an amateur and twice more last year to earn his card.
As they walked up the 16th fairway late in the afternoon, the sun starting to slide toward the Pacific horizon and the skinny palms swaying in the wind, they couldn’t help but think back to one year ago.
They were playing in a Hooters Tour event in Florida, Henley missing the cut and Langley barely making it, both on the practice range trying to figure out how to get better. Considering how their debut went, they learned quickly.