5 Things: Rookies lead the way; DJ WDs at Sony
HONOLULU – File it under "kids being kids," but for a second straight day, playing competitors Russell Henley and Scott Langley stole the show at the Sony Open at Waialae Country Club.
One day after combining for 14 birdies and an eagle to shoot 15 under, the fearless 23-year-olds combined for 13 birdies and a combined 11 under.
Having watched Langley go bogey-free and shoot 62 Thursday and seize the lead, Henley stepped to the forefront on a warm, sun-splashed day on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. He did the bogey-free honors and with a second consecutive 63, the former University of Georgia standout jumped to 14-under 126, two clear of Langley, who ballooned to a 66.
OK, so we’re kidding with the “balloon” description, but seriously, what’s going on here? Not only are Henley and Langley rookies, but sitting there at 8-under 132 is Aussie Scott Gardiner, who is not only another first-year player, but he’s playing in his first-ever PGA Tour tournament.
These guys are good, no argument there. But let’s not forget the kids. They’re pretty good, too.
Not that they’re the entire story, however, because here are five other things you need to know about Round 2 of the Sony Open:
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WD FOR DJ: Dustin Johnson’s bid to duplicate Ernie Els' feat of winning on Maui and Oahu in back-to-back weeks never had a chance. The winner of last week’s Hyundai Tournament of Champions birdied the par-5 ninth, but told officials he was done.
“I feel like I’m coming down with whatever my caddie’s got,” Johnson said. “Just not feeling well.”
Having bogeyed three of his final six holes Thursday to shoot 70, Johnson again stumbled on Waialae’s front nine in Friday’s second round. He doubled the par-3 seventh, bogeyed the eighth, and even with a birdie at the ninth he waved the white towel.
On the bright side, Johnson was seen leaving with his girlfriend, Paulina Gretzky, who attracted almost as much photo attention as the PGA Tour winner.
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LOW STRESS DAY ON THE GREENS: There’s one way to make sure you take advantage of your scoring chances: Knock it close . . . very close.
Chris Kirk did that in brilliant style, his two best shots coming at the par 5s to close out each side. At the ninth, he slammed a 5-iron from 184 yards to 2 feet, and at the 18th he hit a 7-iron from 185 yards to 3 feet. The eagle putts were the highlights to Kirk’s round, but you have to do a little more to shoot a sizzling 8-under 62, and he certainly did that.
His birdie putts at the sixth (1 1/2 feet), eighth (7), 11th (15), and 16th (15) were also hit relatively close as he scripted a most intriguing round. It’s not as if he had a flawless ball-striking day, because he missed seven greens, but of the 11 he hit, Kirk converted the birdie/eagle rolls more than half the time. At 10 under, he trails by just four.
Since joining the Tour in 2011, Kirk has become accustomed to switching out caddies after two or three tournaments, but he has chosen to stick with veteran Scott Tway since last summer’s Colonial.
“It’s been really great for me, for my peace of mind,” Kirk said. “Just having somebody consistent. My slightly consistent play since he joined me is no surprise.”
To be fair, Kirk was hardly the only player taking advantage of the ninth, which at 506 yards is one of the shortest par 5s they will face this season, and the 18th, playing dead down wind. Everything about the hole – the dogleg left, the trees you can blow it over if you want to cut the corner, and the wind at your back – made Kirk smile.
“I tee it up as high as the tee allows me, sit back on my right side, and hit it hard as I want. It’s a fun tee shot.”
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HEY, I KNOW YOU: Amid the parade of peach-fuzz kids and rookies with fearless swings, there were some old familiar faces who can remember when tournaments like the Sony were small, cozy affairs.
Such as Russ Cochran and Fred Funk, for sure.
But also Bart Bryant and Wes Short Jr.
Now 50, Bryant concedes he’s here this week and committed to next week’s Humana Challenge, but after that will focus solely on the Champions Tour.
After laboring through pain in his left wrist for several seasons, Bryant in 2009 opted for surgery. It alleviated only part of the problem, so there was a second surgery and Bryant sat out 2010 and 2011. He returned for six tournaments last last season (“I played, but I probably shouldn’t have.”) and after backing up a 68 with a 76, he’s easily into the weekend here.
“I’m trying," Bryant said, "but it’s getting tougher."
Short can commiserate, though his medical problem is in another area. His back began giving him some pain in late 2006, the year after which he stunned the PGA Tour community by beating Jim Furyk in a Las Vegas playoff. It provided full status through 2007, but Short never felt as if he got to enjoy it.
He played just 12 times in 2007, sat out all of 2008, teed it up three times in 2009, and hasn’t competed on the PGA Tour since. Finally, he had had enough.
“I was in so much pain, just laying around the house, watching TV. But I wouldn’t watch golf; I missed it that much.”
Having done everything he could do around his Texas home, Short did what Fred Couples and NBA players Kobe Bryant and Andrew Bynum and Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez did: he went to Germany to have a treatment that is not approved in the United States.
“I love golf, but I couldn’t even play. Period. I told the doctors, I can live without competitive golf, but I want to be able to play two or three times a week with friends.”
While it didn’t translate into anything positive on the course – Short shot 74-69 and missed the cut in his first start since withdrawing from the Buick Invitational in February 2009 – the Texan had a smile on his face.
“I didn’t play well, but I can’t it’s because of the back,” he said. “I’m loving life.”
Similarly, Bryant is happy with his current health, and he also doesn’t have any regrets for all the seasons when his schedule was interrupted by medical woes.
“It forced me to be home with my family,” he said. “Every time I look back, it was where I needed to be.”
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MAN OF HIS WORD: Here is what he said before this year’s Sony Open: “I’m just going to go play golf”
Halfway home, Steve Marino has been true to his word, 69-67 getting him to 4 under and into the weekend of a tournament for the first time since the Farmers Insurance Classic last February.
Of course, health has been the issue.
It all started with meniscus surgery about 15 months ago, and while Marino thought his left knee was fine, it wasn’t. That became very evident at last year’s Sony Open when Marino couldn’t squat down to read putts after the first nine holes of the pro-am.
He missed the cut here a year ago, played just five times, and called it a season. Oh, and he called the surgeon after missing the cut at the Travelers Championship in June.
“It just took a lot of time for it to heal and get better, and I ended up having to have another procedure done on it in August,” Marino said. “So then that put me out. I didn't touch a club for at least three months.”
He’s happy to be at Waialae Country Club, where he’s recorded three top 10s.
“I've had some good tournaments here, and I've always loved coming here,” Marino said. “It's kind of exciting to play the first tournament of the year, and I'm always kind of amped up for it. I don't know, it's kind of like Florida a little bit, so playing at home and coming here is not all that different.”
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RECORD-SETTING BULLDOG: It took Henley just two rounds as a PGA Tour member to get into the record books. A second consecutive 63 and 126 total enabled him to establish the 36-hole scoring mark for this tournament.
By two, no less.
Of the five players who shared the mark at 128, three went on to win the tournament: John Huston in 1998, Paul Azinger in 2000 and Brad Faxon in 2000. Davis Love III in 1994 eventually finished second to Brett Ogle, and John Cook in 2001 lost by one to Jerry Kelly.
The 63s are the lowest scores posted by Henley in his brief pro career, which already includes three Web.com Tour victories, the first of which came while he was an amateur.