Two days into his PGA Tour career, Russell Henley was on his way to breaking a record.
Henley putted for birdie on every hole on his way to a second straight round of a 7-under 63, giving him a two-shot lead over fellow rookie Scott Langley among early starters Friday in the Sony Open. He was 14-under 126, which would break the 36-hole scoring record at this event by two shots.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Henley said.
In the first full-field event of the season, the rookies were leading the way. All they did on another windy, warm day along the shores of Oahu was trade places atop the leaderboard. Langley opened with a 62 and followed that with a 66. That typically would be enough to stay in the lead.
Langley said he tried to stay aggressive, and then he felt he had no choice. He birdied his last three holes to reach 128.
Unless anyone could catch them in the afternoon, they would play together a third straight time, in the last group going into the weekend. The college grads first were linked when they shared low amateur honors at Pebble Beach in the 2010 U.S. Open.
“It’s never easy to back up a really good round, I kind of got off to a little slower start,” Langley said. “But it was certainly nice to finish the way I did and kind of get back in it with Russ. He played so well, and I was just trying to keep pace as much as I can. To finish that way was really good.”
The previous 36-hole record at the Sony Open was 128 by five players, most recently John Cook in 2002.
Among the late starters was Scott Piercy, who opened with a 64 and already was at 10 under for the tournament as he headed to his back nine.
Dustin Johnson won’t get a chance to match Ernie Els as the only players to sweep the two Hawaii events. Johnson, who won last week at Kapalua, withdrew after playing nine holes because of the flu.
Chris Kirk made a pair of tap-in eagles — a 5-iron into the wind to 3 feet on the ninth, a 7-iron with the wind to 2 feet on the 18th — for a 62 that put him at 10-under 130 along with Tim Clark, who had a 66.
Pat Perez, working on his new attitude of seeing silver linings instead of black clouds, ran off three straight birdies early in his round for a 63 and was another shot back.
Henley took over the lead for the first time with a shot into 8 feet to a front pin on No. 2, his 11th hole of the day. With birdies on the fifth and sixth holes, it looked as though he might pull away when he stretched his lead to four shots.
Langley came to life with a 7-iron and a 20-foot birdie putt on the seventh, then a sand wedge into the par-4 eighth and more work than he wanted on the par-5 ninth, when he got up-and-down for birdie from near the hospitality tent to the right of the green.
“This feels like a Monday qualifier,” Langley said of the low scores, not to mention the company he has been keeping. Langley and Henley were born two weeks apart.
They became friends after Pebble Beach when they flew together to Royal Portrush for the Palmer Cup, and they helped each other on the practice range when their games were in need of repair.
The difference was their road to the PGA Tour.
Henley won a Nationwide Tour event while still at Georgia, and then he won twice on that tour last year to easily finish among the top 25 on the money list.
Langley, a former NCAA champion from Illinois, went through a bad patch last year when he finished last in the second stage of Q-school and had no status. He kicked around the smaller tours, tried a few Monday qualifiers, and then made his way through Q-school and earned his card with two shots to spare.
They’re neck-and-neck going into the weekend, both hopeful they ride their momentum.
The surprise might be Clark, who was runner-up at the Sony Open two years ago until he suffered a mysterious elbow injury that cost him a year of trying to figure out what was wrong and how to get better. He is close to healthy now, and it’s starting to show.
“Obviously, I’ve still got to take care of myself and look after it,” Clark said. “But at least coming out to the golf course, I feel like I’m pretty much 100 percent.”