Vijay Singh had his best opening round in more than three years, good enough for a five-way share of the lead today in the Sony Open.
And it was just enough to beat players in his own age group.
Singh, who turns 53 next month and could be the oldest PGA Tour winner in history with a victory at Waialae, narrowly missed an 8-foot eagle putt on his final hole and still posted his best score in 19 years playing the Sony Open.
Brandt Snedeker and Kevin Kisner caught him in the afternoon. Snedeker holed out a long chip for eagle on the short par-4 10th and made two birdies late on the back nine. Kisner got up-and-down from a bunker for a birdie on the par-5 18th.
Ricky Barnes, winless in 205 starts on the PGA Tour as a pro, and Morgan Hoffmann also shot 63 in the morning.
Zach Johnson, Charles Howell III and Si Woo Kim were one shot out of the lead.
Even so, it was difficult to ignore the performance of the seniors in the opening round.
Fred Funk, who turns 60 this summer, made a late bid for the lead until a bogey on the 16th hole. He wound up with a 65. Davis Love III, who won the Wyndham Champion last August at age 51, birdied the last hole for a 66.
Singh, Funk and Love are sticking around next week for the Champions Tour season opener on the Big Island. It will be three straight weeks in paradise for Love, who opened his new year on Kapalua in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
Jerry Kelly is nearly in that group at age 49. He shot 65 in the morning and saw Funk headed to the first tee in the afternoon.
“He says, ‘Hey, for the old guys, play good.’ I go, ‘What did you shoot?’ He said 5 (under),” Funk said.
Kelly told him that was two shots behind Singh.
“Yeah, the old guys are showing they can do it,” Funk said.
So can the younger set.
Snedeker started his year at Kapalua with a new golf ball and a new driver, found something in his setup over the weekend and closed with 65-67 to tie for third. Kisner played in the final group on Saturday, found a slight glitch in his swing caused by wind and figured it out over the last two days.
Kisner won the final PGA Tour event of 2015 and finished ninth at Kapalua despite his 71-71 weekend. And he’s right back in the mix.
“I really didn’t work on much on offseason,” Kisner said. “We stayed with our plan, and the game has been great. I was striping it today, and that’s what you need to do at this place.”
Snedeker wouldn’t know. He hasn’t been to Waialae in eight years and left with a bad taste in his mouth. That was in 2008, when the PGA Tour started a policy that when more than 78 players made the cut, the cut would be closest number of players to 70. It later was changed to a Saturday cut to help trim the field.
“I’m glad I came back,” he said. “It’s a good golf course for me.”
Singh won the Sony Open in 2005 when he was No. 1 in the world, a year after the former Masters and PGA champion turned in a nine-win season on the PGA Tour. But he hasn’t won since the Deutsche Bank Championship in 2008, which effectively wrapped up the FedEx Cup.
The big Fijian has been around long enough to realize that a good start is nothing more than that.
“I’ve been playing really well,” he said. “I just haven’t produced the scores. I feel I’m playing well, and see what the next three days bring.”
It helped to hole some long putts, and Singh knocked in a 50-footer for birdie on his third hole. He added a pair of 20-foot birdie putts and a 30-foot birdie putt. More than a good day on the greens, and some solid scrambling at the start, was a book.
He said his body feels better than it has in years, which certainly helps. But he found a book that he has carried with him for the last 20 years that he began reading.
“I haven’t read it for the last 10 years,” he said. “So I picked it up yesterday and started reading a few things that I’ve been doing, and it’s just a different mindset. Golf swing has been the same (so) become a lot more aggressive this year. That’s the plan, to attack the golf course instead of just trying to put it in the fairway and trying to make a good swing.”
The name of the book?
“I can’t tell you,” he said. “I’d have to kill you.”
Yes, he laughed.
Jimmy Walker opened with a 69 in his bid to win the Sony Open for the third straight year.