We have some variety atop the leaderboard at the first full field event of 2019 after 18 holes of the Sony Open (more on that in a minute). There aren’t a ton of big names hunting for the lead after Round 1, though, as guys like Jordan Spieth, Bubba Watson and Bryson DeChambeau struggled a little bit on Thursday (more on them in a minute, too). What we’re left with is a lack of experience at the top with big guns hunting from deep. On a gettable course like this one, that should make for a great final 54 holes.
First place — Adam Svensson (-9): Playing in just his 12th career PGA Tour event, the Canadian Svensson was flawless throughout and got to 8 under through 14 holes with a possible 59 in his sights. He cooled off late but birdied the last to pull one clear of Andrew Putnam (-8). Svensson took a while to get started, too, as he played the first four holes and the last four in just 1 under, which means he played the middle 10 in a a blazing 8 under par.
Last place — Peter Jung (+14): Jung is an amateur who qualified for this event at the end of last year. His 84 included five bogeys, three doubles and a triple. He shot a 44 on his back nine (the front nine on the course) and is eight back of second to last.
Other contenders — Andrew Putnam (-8), Matt Kuchar (-7), Chez Reavie (-5), Hudson Swafford (-5), Shugo Imahira (-5): I love seeing Imahira mixing it up on the same week.
Who had a great day? Matt Kuchar hit the ball beautifully and finished second in strokes gained from tee to green during his bogey-free 63. It comes on the back of a win in Mexico in the fall, which is his only top 10 anywhere in the world since last year’s Open Championship. He always has the look of somebody who doesn’t want to be anywhere else other than exactly where he is at that exact moment, and I guess if you’re dropping 63s in paradise with millions of dollars at stake, that’s probably true.
Who had a lousy day? Jordan Spieth’s first round of 2019 did not go how he probably envisioned. Spieth noted that he’d come into this event not having played much in the offseason, and it showed in a 3-over 73 that left him T123.
“I don’t feel like I’ve been in this situation before,” Spieth said. “It’s OK. I felt like I was patient out there and still am right now. Like I said, could take a while, but I got pretty far off and I’m trying to backtrack significantly. But I need to get some tournament rounds to do it, even though it’s humbling at the same.”
As for what the “situation” is?
“Like where you just have to accept that it’s not going to be great when you go out,” Spieth said. “Like, I’m over the ball and I’m uncomfortable. It’s going to happen in the course of a career. As long as I don’t let it get to me like I did a little bit last year, I’ll be able to get back on track sooner rather than later.”
Scorecard of the day: Ian Poulter’s even-par 35 with one par on the front nine delighted me. Look at this madness. He shot a 1-under 69 and finished right around what will end up being the cut line on Friday.
Shot of the day: Justin Thomas’ round was unraveling down the stretch with bogeys at Nos. 15, 16 and 17. After yanking his drive at the par-5 18th it looked as if the prohibitive favorite was staring at even par (or worse?) as a Round 1 score. So what did he do? He hit his second into a greenside bunker on the par-5 closing hole and sank than bunker shot for eagle to get it back to 3 under, five back of the lead. Of course.
Stat of the day: Davis Love III, age 54, clipped Jordan Spieth, age 25, by six strokes with a 3-under 67. Incredibly, he tied a Bryson DeChambeau-Jordan Spieth best ball as well. You know, two of the guys he was a vice captain for at the Ryder Cup four months ago.
What to watch on Day 2: Can any of the power players — Thomas (-3), Patrick Reed (-2), DeChambeau (-1), Bubba Watson (+1) or Spieth (+3) — make up any ground on the lead? Obviously Thomas and Reed are in a decent position, but it will be intriguing to see if a tournament that lacks a little juice at the top gets it in Round 2.