Sang Moon Bae went out early and shot a 7-under 63 that stood up late to take the first-round lead of the Sony Open in Hawaii.
Playing last week on Maui, Bae round into form quite nicely on the tight fairways and small greens of Waialae Country Club, a stark contrast to the free flowing Plantation Course in Kapalua. He carded seven birdies and no bogeys to hold a one-shot advantage over Chris Kirk, who also took part in last week’s winners-only Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Kirk wasn’t as clean as Bae, already 2 over after six, but he managed an eagle and six birdies the rest of the way to leave him alone in second. Ryan Palmer, who won the Sony Open in 2010, fired a 5-under 65 after spending the week vacationing on Maui. He was joined by Brian Stuard, who also carded a 65, for a tie for third.
There were a host of golfers who opened with 4-under 66s, including John Daly and Retief Goosen. After the first day was done, 64 golfers were in the red and 86 shot even par or better. But none quite mastered it like Bae.
"I think I played very well last week, but really tough greens," Bae said of his tie for 21st in the field of 30 golfers. I mean, very hard to read. I couldn’t read right-to-left putts. This week the course is much shorter than last week (and the greens) so easy to read, and I can make good speed, too."
Kirk also preferred the more traditional flat course of Waialae. He finished tied for 16th on Maui.
"They’re both great golf courses, just kind of polar opposites," Kirk said. "I think I traditionally play better on sort of flatter, old-school type of courses like this one."I’m not really sure why. They tend to suit my game a little bit better.
Palmer believed his time vacationing on Maui was just the thing for him. He had been trying a little too hard of late and decided to be a little more free swinging. It proved to be just the ticket.
"I hit it good and made some putts early on over the front nine," Palmer said. "I just couldn’t get a birdie going on the back, and then found the hole on 17 (his best shot of the round), and a good birdie on 18."